Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Cleaning…for Kitchens, Part 1

RileyAdamsFoodBlogPostpic_thumb_thumb Yes, it’s happened—the spring cleaning bug has bitten me and all I can think about is cleaning.

I’d actually caught the bug a couple of weeks ago, but my urge to clean was stymied by a deadline and spring break. Now I’m playing catch-up with a vengeance, though!

So today, I thought I’d indulge myself with some cleaning tips for the part of the house that we cooks like spending lots of time in—our kitchens. I’ve found that sometimes I don’t know exactly when different foods need to be thrown out. Sometimes I err on the side of caution (which is probably a good thing to do, though) and throw out ingredients before they’re ready for the trash. After a little research on expiration dates, I thought I’d share my findings with you.

Clearing out the fridge and pantry….

Is it old? Should I toss it?

First of all, a little info about those food expiration dates. There’s ablog53 great article on WebMd about this…I’ll quote a little from it here.

“Sell by” date—you should purchase the product by this date: The "sell by" date is the last day the item is at its highest level of quality, but it will still be edible for some time after.

"Best if used by (or before)" date. This refers strictly to quality, not safety.

"Guaranteed fresh" date. This usually refers to bakery items. They will still be edible after the date, but will not be at peak freshness.

"Use by" date. This is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

How long are these foods okay to eat? Milk should be okay a week after the sell-by date. Eggs are all right for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home. Poultry and seafood should be cooked or frozen within a couple of days. Beef and pork should be cooked or frozen in 3-5 days. Butter

What about dry goods? Dry goods aren’t actually legislated as far as expiration dates. Most flours don’t expire, but if your flour has a higher fat content (like whole wheat flour) you should store it in the fridge if you haven’t used it up in 2 months from purchase.

Food Coloring? It doesn’t expire or lose its coloring ability.

The following are expirations based on storage from the date of purchase. If there is a use-by date, use that date instead. For a more expansive listing, check out this site by the Gourmet Sleuth. Or this site, Still Tasty, to find out particulars on specific foods (and for tips on storage to keep your foodsblog54 fresh longer.)

Cereals—2-3 months

White Rice—1 year

Corn meal (room temperature)—1 year

Soup mixes—1 year

Ground spices-6 months

Whole spices—1-2 years

Vanilla extract—2 years

Shelled nuts—4 months (Unshelled—6)

Organizing the Fridge and Pantry

If you’re like me, you keep a lot of food in the house. I never know when I’m going to play hostess to a houseful of hungry children.

But if you have a lot of food, it’s hard to keep organized. There’s only so much room! Here are some tips:

blog55 Consider a basket for the fridge for ready-made snacks. Here you can keep fruit, cut-up veggies in Ziplocks, and yogurts. The basket is easy to grab when you’re in a hurry!

Shelving: Could you use an extra shelf for your fridge. You can buy mini shelving at most home improvement or discount stores. One man even put a Lazy Susan in the fridge to help him find condiments and other items.


Use containers to keep food fresh.
Group like items in your pantry to help you find them
Consider adding shelving or a spice rack to hang over the back of the pantry door
Use lots of baggies—I live by Ziplocks!

If you’re more visual and are looking for more kitchen organizing ideas, go to YouTube and plug in “organize your kitchen” or “pantry” or “fridge” and see all the great videos that come up to inspire you!

Happy cleaning!

Delicious and Suspicious (July 6 2010) Riley Adams
Pretty is as Pretty Dies –Elizabeth Spann Craig


New April Contest!!!!


The first book in the Memphis Barbeque series, Delicious and Suspicious, will be released July 6. To celebrate its upcoming release, I’m throwing a giveaway! :)Are you interested in winning Williams-Sonoma’s Ultimate Grilling Rub Collection? It’s easy to enter! Just send an email to with

“Contest” in the subject line.

Grilling Rub   CollectionReally, really want to up your chances?You’ll get one extra entry if you follow us on Twitter, one extra if you subscribe to our posts (in the right hand sidebar under “Subscribe”), and one extra for becoming a follower (by clicking the “follow” button in the right hand column under our book covers and blog roll.) Just send us an extra email at and let us know what you’ve signed up for. If you’re already a follower or subscriber, let us know that, too!


  1. Thanks for the tips, Riley! The cleaning bug hasn't really bitten me yet, and it's overdue. I hope to have the time to tackle my kitchen next week during spring break from online classes.

  2. GReat tips! My house is just begging for someone who can only think about cleaning.... care to pop on over? :)

  3. Spices are one thing I forget to check. There are certain spices we use all the time and others that are only use once or twice a year. Those are the ones to I don't think about checking until it's too late and I need them for a recipe. Great tips to follow. I'll have to print this out and keep it handy.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. FANTASTIC idea to post about this. Those food labels especially are sometimes a "mystery" to me :-) Thank you for defining it all so succinctly. I love all of your tips. (The Lazy Susan is inspired!)

    Here are few of my fridge faves:
    * Cleaning spills in the fridge is important, not to win a Good Housekeeping award, but because they are a breeding ground for bacteria.
    * Milk and eggs should never be kept in the fridge door--the warmest part of the fridge.
    * Raw meat should always be securely wrapped. I am a zip lock queen, too, E. LOL!

    Cheers and looking forward to part 2!
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Love this post! I cleaned out my spices less than 3 months ago (what a mess they were!) but the rest of the kitchen is over due. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. What a bunch of terrific tips. Can't wait to tweet this!

  7. Thanks for the tips! I always have trouble with spices--keep or toss? :o)

  8. Awesome tips! I needed them all. Long live zip locks :)

  9. Shel--Spring break sounds like the perfect time to work it in. :)

    Jeanne--It's my current obsession! Believe me, I could do this all day! And then...after my obsession is spent--it'll be a whole year before I think of it again. :)

    Mason--I think we all have some ancient spices! I tossed out some that I couldn't even remember having bought!

    Cleo--Those labels ARE a mystery! :) I think the food industry almost *wants* them to be! And good tip about the milk on the door....because mine's there right now! I'll go run and switch it to the top shelf. Thanks!

    Julie--It makes me feel almost like I've done a kitchen renovation!

    Avery--Thanks Avery!

    Professor Stacy--I think I have a tendency to keep mine wayyy too long. :)

    Carol--What did we do without them???

  10. Fab tips! I'm the purging queen! :)

  11. Terrific tips! Getting things organized in the kitchen is so satisfying.

    Hearth Cricket

  12. Juju--Thanks! :) I like purging, too. My closet is next!!

    Cricket--Thanks so much for dropping by! Yes, after I've organized, I just want to stand back and admire my handiwork!

  13. Great tips, Elizabeth. I use a permanent marker to write on the lid or label the date that I open things so I'll know exactly how old something is.

  14. That's a great idea, Janel! That's exactly what I need to do because then I'll know when to toss it. Sometimes I'll open pasta sauce and put it in the fridge and not have any idea what date I'd originally opened it!

  15. When you're done at Jeanne's house, come on over, Elizabeth! ; ) The brother of one of my friends became very sick after using an old condiment in her refrigerator door. So don't forget to check all those bottles that seem like they last forever!

    ~ Krista

  16. These are great resources! Thanks for sharing. I'm still waiting for the spring cleaning urge to hit me, but once it does, watch out!

  17. These are some good tips-that I have always wondered about.

  18. Fabulous, E! I love to throw things out
    and my frig seems to grow condiments like
    invasive weeds...I'm feeling inspired!

  19. Spice Rack
    Thanks for the nice tip! I believe having spice rack at home makes spices clean and organized.

  20. Hello, as everyone likes to know is the shelf life of our foods. We hate to waste food by throwing them out. I have studied shelf lives of foods. As yours are informative, there is one problem with ground spices. You say 6 months. Actually they are good for a year. As most of your plants produce only once a year. Therefor if you throw them out after six months. You most likely be buying the same crop as before. Therefor you will be paying double and not getting the next seasonal crops.

    Thank you,