I had 20 rubber spatulas. But the same 3 end up in the dishwasher time and again.

There were 17 wooden spoons. I rarely use wooden spoons.

How do I know?

I’ve been tyding up with Marie Kondo. The organizing phenom whose book and Netflix show are causing shortages on storage trays and overflowing trash bins.

How’d I get 20 rubber spatulas? Some were gifts, some were giveaways. My favorite, the snowman, I won at an office party. The good news is I’m down to five.

After getting rid of those and a food processor cover that was still in original packaging, herb strippers and cookie cutters, the drawer is organized and closes without things hanging up. That was one drawer.

Then I tackled my baking cabinet. One of the hazards of being a recipe developer is you try lots of different foods and bring food home when you travel.

So what do you keep and what do you toss? Of course, we want to eat safe food. If a food smells bad or has mold growing, throw it out.

Foods you don’t want to use beyond the Use-By date is baby formula and foods with a higher Listeriosis risk, such as deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, raw sprouts and soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk. Otherwise, here are some tips to help you decide what goes and what stays.

Generally, you don’t need to throw out food because the Best-By date has passed. Those dates are set by food manufacturers and have less to do with food safety but more about quality.

Unopened condiments, such as mustard and BBQ sauce, will fade over time with changes in flavor, texture or color, but are still safe to eat 8-12 months after the Sell-By date.

Oils become rancid over time so smell them to see if they have an off odor. If it does, it’s time to toss. Store oils in a dark cupboard away from heat or refrigerate for longer storage. Nuts are rich in oil, so can become rancid. Nuts are best stored airtight in the freezer or refrigerator.

Egg pasta may develop an off flavor after 18 months. Whole-wheat pasta has oils than can get rancid, but otherwise, pasta can be used 3 years after the Best-By date.

Sugar, salt and flour don’t really have a shelf life. If you have bugs or notice an off flavor, toss. Dried beans, lentils and split peas, honey, tea, cocoa, rice can last for years. Vinegar lasts indefinitely though the flavor may mellow. Unless they are bulging or dented, canned goods can last for years. Baking powder becomes less effective over time. So does baking soda, but it can still be used for cleaning. If you have questions, www.StillTasty.com is a website devoted to food safety and shelf life.

Moving forward, you are more likely to use food you see so store food so it’s visible. If your shelves are deep consider adding shelf racks, tiered racks or door storage.

Group similar items so they have a home. Before shopping, scan your shelves to see what you have on hand. After shopping, as you store food, bring older food to front of fridge and cupboards to avoid cabinet castaways because forgotten goes rotten.

I’m challenging you to use what you have or donate it. Food pantries will happily accept your extra food. I’m fridge foraging and freezer diving to menu plan. I made a cheeseboard for a neighborhood party. It felt good to use the food I had and even better to have more space in my cupboards. Can you make a cheeseboard for Friday dinner or Saturday potluck?

Use what you have to layer, mound and stack on a platter or cutting board.

  • Fresh or dried fruits, such as pomegranate seeds, apples, dates, dried pears or apricots
  • Jams or fruit butter, chutney, tomato relish, tapenade, roasted peppers
  • Sardines, smoked salmon, pickles, okra, olives, mustards
  • Nuts, crackers and bread sticks, and of course,
  • Cheese

You can see my cheeseboard on Instagram @JudyBarbe.

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Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website www.LiveBest.info for every day food solutions.


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