Summer doesn’t official start for a few more weeks so there’s still time to do some spring cleaning.
And while there are various theories about how “spring cleaning” came about, I like the biological explanation of why we get the urge to refresh and organize our lives this time of year. According to How Stuff Works, the limited sunlight we are exposed to in winter causes our brains to produce more melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. With the longer, brighter days of spring, we wake up from our melatonin-induced stupor and feel like cleaning.
Here are some tips from the folks at Taste of Home magazine:
▪ Check the expiration date on bottled and canned goods. Even though canned goods are still OK to use past this date, toss them if they show any signs of damage or leaking. For items close to their expiration date, use them. This includes those half-used packages of flour, dry milk, or bottled sauces.
▪ Don’t toss baking soda, even if it has gone beyond its expiration date. Buy a new one for baking and use the old box to clean your sink or refrigerator. Freshen a drain with 1 or 2 tablespoons of baking soda and about a fourth-cup of vinegar. Baking soda is also good to help scrub off burned food from pans. Sprinkle it on the blackened parts, cover with water and simmer on the stove for a few minutes before scrubbing.
▪ Pack pastas, grains, dried beans and rice in airtight food containers. Besides making you feel super organized, storage containers help maintain the freshness of your food.
▪ Sniff out and toss old oils, especially if they have passed their “Best By” dates. Rancid oils might smell like crayons or old nuts, some experts say. As always, if in doubt, throw it out.
▪ Move nuts to the freezer as the weather warms. This keeps them fresh longer and allows you to take out just what you need for cooking or eating. Toasted nuts can be frozen, as well.
▪ When you buy a new spice, write the date on the bottom of the container. Believe it or not, experts say we should keep spices for no more than 18 months if we want to preserve the flavor and freshness.
▪ Get the crystals out of your freezer. Toss everything with ice crystals or freezer burn. Then take an inventory of what’s left before you restock. Hint: It might be a good time to eat up what you have before piling in more.
▪ Follow the first in, first out rule. In your pantry as well as refrigerator, stock new food purchases behind the older ones; and use up older items first.
▪ What to do with food odds and ends that need to be used up soon? Plug them into online recipe programs to get a list of recipes that use these foods.