• Lisa Magnuson

Purge the Pantry

It's springtime again, the days are getting longer, the birds are making nests, and soon our winter coats will be hung up for the season.

Where did this whole "spring cleaning" thing begin anyway? I had to look it up because I wasn't sure why it has become a popular custom in today's world. According to the always informative Google search, it likely began years ago as a way to clean up the winter months mess. Houses were heated by fires and soot and grime collected throughout the home during the cold winter months when the fire was always burning and the doors were shut tight to keep out the damp. There are also several cultures including Jewish, Iranian and Chinese that ritualistically clean their home in preparation for passover for the former, and the new year for the latter two.

The additional hours of daylight, start kicking our human brains into "get off the couch and clean those dirty windows" mode too. Our winter hibernation hormones start fading and the extra daylight helps motivate us to be more active.

This is a great time to take stock of what you have in your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer and purge some items. It's not unlike those pants you have in your drawer, you know, the pair you might one day wear if you lose those last 5 pounds; if it's been over a year it's probably not going to get used. The same goes for most of your pantry food and dry goods. If you haven't used it in the past 1-2 years (or sooner depending on the expiration date) you probably won't need it. Plus it will be old and not taste as fresh, or work as well (think baking soda, baking powder, etc).

Then there is the other category of food, that isn't old but doesn't support your "healthy lifestyle" goals. These are commonly called "trigger' foods; you reach for them when you are bored, stressed, or just lazy. 99% of the time they are processed and packaged foods that have very low nutrient content and can be highly addictive once you start noshing on them. If you look at that package and think, "if I eat this I will be angry at myself' or "if I eat this I will feel guilty", it needs to go. And you can avoid the guilty feelings about throwing away unopened products; there are plenty of local food banks that will happily take your unexpired food items. In fact, here is a useful website by Northwest Harvest which lets you pick your city and finds drop off locations near you. Easy peasy.

Alrighty, now we know how this "tradition" started and why we feel the urge to clean this time of year. So go forth and seize this opportunity to make your kitchen a "guilt-free" zone of only good, goal supporting choices. While you're at it, go ahead and hang those "one size too small" jeans in your newly cleaned out pantry and see if they motivate you to reach for carrots instead of cookies too! It can't hurt.


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