If you’re anything like me, your kitchen is chock full of stuff you just don’t need. From the seldom used pantry ingredients to the innumerable packets of ketchup infiltrating every nook and cranny, there are plenty of things that need to be purged.
Whether it’s spring cleaning or your new year’s resolution, there’s no reason not to throw these things away today. Seriously, today — you don’t need the 10-year old cayenne pepper or the stack of takeout menus preventing you from opening your junk drawer.
Throw. It. Away. Now.
The seldom-used small appliances
Allow me to regale you with a list of the small appliances (all of which have been used approximately twice) that are now shoved in a cabinet in my garage.
- A juicer: Those solid couple days of juicing really paid for that $200 machine.
- A waffle maker: Don’t kid yourself — you’re just going to keep buying Eggos anyway.
- A waffle cone maker: Yes, that’s a whole different waffle contraption, and no, you do not need it.
- A mini deep fryer: It’s not as great as Paula Deen makes it seem, it’s a mess, and forgotten oil that you fried shrimp in three months ago is THE WORST.
- An espresso machine: I could’ve bought several years worth of fancy coffee shop drinks for that price.
The moral of the story? Stick with the basics — a blender, a food processor, a mixer. You’ll save a lot of money and a ton of storage space.
Alton Brown famously despises unitaskers (gadgets that do one thing, and one thing only) for good reason: They take up a bunch of space, and nine times out of 10, whatever job they’re doing could be performed with something you already have in your kitchen.
Take the GarlicZoom, for instance. According to its product description, "This mighty gadget allows you to mince garlic to your desired texture without dirtying cutting boards or knives with sticky garlic juice." But do you know what does get sticky with garlic juice? The insides of this tool. That pesky garlic juice will seep into every little crevice and I promise you will spend twice as long cleaning it as you would a knife and cutting board. Yes, I speak from experience, and yes, my GarlicZoom got donated to Goodwill.
The oil that’s been around too long
So you bought the 75 liter bottle of olive oil at Costco ("It was so cheap!" "I’m saving so much money!"). But chances are, unless you’re running a restaurant, you’re not going to put much of a dent in it before it goes bad.
Now’s the time to dig out all your bottles and do a smell test. One sniff (rancid oil is often described as smelling like crayons) and you’ll know if it’s gone rancid. Throw it out — your food will most definitely not benefit from cooking with it.
The cups, mugs, and glasses, oh my!
We all have that one cabinet crammed so full of coffee mugs and souvenir cups and commemorative wine glasses that just opening it is an act of bravery. At any moment those precarious stacks could come tumbling down. Time to purge. Pick a few of your favorites and get rid of the rest.
The forgotten spices
If you experiment with different kinds of recipes, you’ve probably amassed quite a collection of herbs and spices. The problem is, if you’re not using them quickly enough, they lose their potency and won’t give your dish the flavor you’re expecting. Most ground spices and dried herbs have a maximum shelf life of three years. (Since some flavors fade faster than others, it’s best to do a taste test once you hit the one-year mark.) To avoid waste, find a grocer that offers bulk bins and only buy small amounts of the ingredients you won’t use as often.
The cringe-worthy sponges
Bad news: A study has revealed that even if you microwave your dirty, bacteria-ridden sponge, it’s still dirty and bacteria-ridden. The most sure-fire way to ensure your sponge is not disgusting? Throw it away and start new.
The flavorless coffee
We’ve all been suckered into buying too many bags of coffee during the "buy two, get two" sales, but unless you drink A LOT of joe, your morning cup is probably lacking in taste. Unbelievably, coffee begins to go stale after just two weeks. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t still drink it, but coffee purists likely won’t be thrilled with a pot made from year-old grounds.
The avocado splitter/pitter/slicer
Here’s another unitasker you don’t need: The 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer. This handy tool splits, pits, and slices avocados. You know what else does that? A knife.
The rusty bakeware
Rusty baking sheets might be a food photographer’s dream prop, but you probably don’t want to use them for your cookies. Rust indicates that the non-stick coating on your bakeware is chipping or flaking, which could potentially contaminate your goodies. Play it safe and toss ’em.
The nuts in the back of the cabinet
So Pinterest made you jump on the homemade granola and trail mix bandwagon and you bought a whole bunch of nuts for the endeavor. And then you promptly jumped off the bandwagon because it’s way easier to buy trail mix and granola…
But those forgotten nuts have a short shelf life — just a few months when stored at room temperature, and up to a year stored in the freezer — and are probably rancid. You don’t want to eat rancid nuts. Time to toss!
The countless condiment packets
Do you have bottles of ketchup and mustard and relish in your refrigerator? Yes? Then stop hoarding the free condiments packets you get in the drive-thru. You don’t need them, and your stockpile is proof of that.
The bacteria-ridden plastic water bottles
As wasteful as it seems to toss water bottles after just one use, you really should. Unless, of course, you want a mouth full of bacteria and chemicals. According to a recent study, once the plastic starts to break down it can leach chemicals into your water. And in more horrifying news, your reused bottle could contain more bacteria than your toilet seat. Nope.
The mystery frozen food
It’s time to tackle the abyss we call our freezer. Foods that have been frozen for an eternity aren’t unsafe to eat, but the quality of the food will suffer dramatically (think flavor loss and texture change). FoodSafety.gov recommends a maximum freezing time of four to 12 months for fresh beef, chicken, and pork, and just one to six months for most leftovers. And the mystery meat? If it’s freezer-burned beyond recognition, definitely toss it.
The banana slicer
Another day, another unitasker. Meet the banana slicer, which according to its product description, allows you to "slice your banana with one quick motion." Imagine the time you will save each morning by not having to face the burden of slicing your banana with a knife.
The pile of takeout menus
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There’s this new-fangled invention called the internet where you can access restaurant websites from all over the world. So unless your favorite Chinese joint isn’t online, there’s no reason to hang on to all those take-out menus.
The ancient baking powder
Because baking powder loses its efficacy as it ages, you’re not doing your cakes any favors by using the old stuff. And since it’s recommended that you replace your baking powder every six months, the chances are pretty good that the can in your pantry is well past its use-by date. If you can’t remember when you bought it, test its freshness by mixing a couple teaspoons in hot water. If it fizzes immediately, it’s good. If it doesn’t, throw it out.
The cracked plastic food containers
By now we all know that we should be using plastic containers labeled "microwave safe" when reheating foods, but even those containers could be dangerous if they’re scratched, cracked, or if the color has changed. Once that top layer of protection gets damaged, your food can come into contact with the chemicals underneath, making it microwave safe no longer.
The vermouth that will ruin a martini
You know that bottle of vermouth you bought years ago during your martini phase, that’s now shoved in the back of the cabinet? It’s undrinkable. Vermouth, a fortified wine, needs to be refrigerated, and even then it only lasts about three months. But hey, it’s a good excuse to hit the liquor store, right?
The butter spreader
One more unitasker to toss: The butter spreader. Much like the amazing GarlicZoom, the 3-in-1 avocado slicer, and the extremely useful banana slicer, this butter spreading problem can be solved with one thing — a knife! Pro tip: DO NOT throw away your knives during this kitchen cleansing.
The grated Parmesan cheese
Definitely do not toss your wedges of Parm, but think twice about keeping the pre-grated stuff that contains cellulose, also known as wood pulp. Yep, even those labeled "100 percent Parmesan" might contain this cheese substitute. The good news is there’s an easy way to avoid it: grate your own. Easy, peasy.