Spring Cleaning the Pantry

Towards the end of winter or in early spring I take a day to clear out my pantry. It is a great time to organize, use up the odds and ends and take stock of my stores.

I take everything off each shelf (usually one shelf at a time!). With a clean damp rag, I wipe down the shelf and check for broken packages or bugs.

Items that I find stale, expired, or damaged I toss out right away. To limit food waste learn a little more about how long items can be stored:  https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/shelf-stable-food-safety

If there are any signs of meal moths or any pantry pests, I check all the food and get rid of any that the pests have got into. To keep these bugs out of your pantry, a good clean up with soap and water and removing crumbs will do the trick. (https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/cereal-and-pantry-pests)

As I put the items back on the shelf I check for dates and place items that could expire soon towards the front – “use me first” foods.

I know myself and random foods wind up towards the back of the shelf, things I know I am never going to use. Maybe I had great plans to try and make something but lost interest. I give these away to family or donate the unopened ones as soon as possible.

I plan out a menu to use up the older items over the next week/s. Every time I do this there are those items that take more effort to use. I find early spring is perfect timing to use this stuff up before fresh veggies and summer foods are in season, because then I really do not want to be preparing pantry things.

At the end of this process I create a shopping list for the everyday items I noticed are in low supply

A new trick I gave a try this year is to check my spices. I found a great recipe to put my extra spices to use. https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/taco-seasoning-mix/

Taco Seasoning Mix


1/4 cup dried minced onion, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon crushed dried red pepper, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1 tablespoon ground cumin


  1. Combine all ingredients. Mix well.
  2. Place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly.
  3. Store in a cool, dry place for up to one year.
  4. Stir or shake well before each use.

Use this mixture instead of purchased taco seasoning mixes. Measure 2 tablespoons per pound of ground meat.

Makes the equivalent of 6 (1.25 ounce) packages.

Cheri Ramirez, Nutrition Educator

You can use your taco seasoning in place of the spices in this vegetable chili: