Spring cleaning your pantry: what you need to know

Time for a kitchen pantry makeover?

Could there be food hiding in your pantry/fridge that you didn’t know you had or where it came from?

Are there odd spices and herbs that have seen better days?

Do you have packaged foods with long ingredients lists?

Are there food products past their Use by or Best Before date?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, it’s likely that setting aside some time to sort through your kitchen cupboard and fridge will be time well spent. So where do you start…

Step 1: Out with the old
  • Go through each item and check the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates. This is important to make sure the food in your pantry is safe to eat. If the date has passed, it is best to discard the item
  • Check your fridge which often has long forgotten condiments and sauces that could be well past their prime
  • Throw out anything that is out of date, packaging that looks damaged and any dented cans
  • Remember to recycle packaging by discarding the food and recycling glass jars, cans or cardboard
  • Move items that are nearing the end of their shelf-life into a separate and area and aim to plan meals over the coming weeks to use them 
  • Check the expiry date on oils as these can go rancid over time
  • Spices and dried herbs lose their flavour and appeal with age and are best purchased in small quantities and used quickly.
Step 2: Get the balance right
The food you choose to keep in your house influences whether you make healthy choices or not. Whether your goal is to boost your energy, change poor eating habits, enhance performance or lose weight – it is important to check whether you need clear out foods that are high in added fat, salt and sugar  to make way for healthier items.

Top tips for stocking a healthy kitchen:

  • Choose items that resemble their natural state and have a short ingredients list. A product with a long list of ingredients is likely to be ultra processed and may have unhealthy amounts of added fat, salt and sugar as well as preservatives.
  • Remove processed snacks like chips, sweet and savoury flavoured biscuits and replace with whole food snack options like unsalted nuts, wholegrain crackers, natural yoghurt and fruit.
  • Always choose salt reduced alternatives for tinned foods, stocks and sauces.
  • Place healthy choices at eye-level in easy to reach places in your pantry and fridge.
  • Avoid stocking high sugar and fat foods especially if you find them hard to resist. Consider purchasing smaller portion sizes to cut down on the number of kilojoules consumed.
  • Take a look at the drinks you are keeping in your home. Soft drink, cordial and juice are all high in sugar. The best choice is water.
Step 3: Restock, Rotate, Label and Repeat
Here are some tips to keep your pantry in order once it has had a makeover:
  • Continue restocking with nutritious foods
  • Rotate items in your pantry so you are using the oldest products first
  • Keep blank labels and a marker close by to label opened items with the date opened and expiry date. Date and label freezer items as well
  • Store opened items in clear airtight containers to maintain freshness and allow you to easily see what is inside.
  • Schedule in another pantry clear out at the start of each new season to make sure a healthy and safe pantry is easy to maintain.
Places to go for more information:
  • Learn more about Use By and Best Before dates from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand
  • A great guide from the United States Food and Drug Administration on how long you can safely store foods in the fridge and freezer
  • Find out what fruit and vegetables are in season this month 
NAQ Nutrition

NAQ Nutrition is a not-for-profit, non-government organisation. We aim to shape the health and wellbeing of our community through informed food choices. Food is life. Food is you. 

Healthy Food Healthy Planet is NAQ Nutrition’s community meal planner and recipe website. It aims to provide people with simple, healthy recipes that are tasty and won’t break the bank.