Day 5: National Clutter Awareness Week: Decluttering Food Items

An interesting new take on decluttering. We are reaching way far back into that pantry, fridge and freezer!

Was this the final topic you thought I'd be sharing for this week's National Clutter Awareness Week? It's a pretty unique topic to be discussing. This isn't your average pantry organizing session. Today I am diving into some of the interesting ideas around food decluttering itself.


Steps to Declutter Food:

  1. You will definitely want to make sure you have prepared your space ahead of time. Food can leak or spill and you will want a blanket or other material covering your table and counter.

  2. Pull it all out! This might be the Professional Organizer in me, but taking everything out is one of the most exciting part... is that just me?

  3. You are going to want to sort according to a few things:

a. Expired food? (more on that below!)

b. Do you plan on using this item? You might have a lot of food, that you actually have no intention of actually using!

The Impacts of COVID and Our Food

Two years ago, the pandemic hit.... Do you remember going to the store and signs posted around saying "2 boxed of pasta per customer"?? Feels like so long ago right? But the reality is, the chances that those 2 boxes of pasta or 3-5 can goods you were limited in buying, are still sitting in your pantry!


What COVID did to us:

  • We over bought aka panic bought

  • Bought items we have no intention of using now that the shortage has decreased

Keep this in mind as you declutter your food. It might be hard to accept that you won't actually be using those items and you can't bring yourself to throw them out. Fine, I am going to challenge you and say that you have 1 week (which is a really long time!) to use any food you haven't consumed during the COVID pandemic. What I mean is, if you didn't eat it then, changes are, you're not about to eat it now.


Donating Food

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to tour a local donation center to learn more about what my clients can donate, what has value and what items they cannot accept. I was shocked to learn that expired food actually can be donated!


When you are cleaning out your pantry, call your local food bank to ask them if they will accept certain items past the sell by date. If they are non-government run, they might be able to. A similar sign as the one below was posted on their walls to help volunteers know which items they can take and which ones they cannot.


An example of a food pantry chart: https://momofftrack.com/2011/12/4340/

What's the difference between the dates?

  • “Sell by”: This is the last date when sellers (such as supermarkets and grocery stores) can have the item on their shelves. Manufacturers want consumers to receive the product at its optimal quality; therefore, food should still be of good quality for at least several days after a “sell by” date.

  • “Best by” or “best if used by”: This date is much more subjective, as it measures the last date at which the food will be at its tastiest (according to the manufacturer). This date is not related to food safety, only to taste.

  • “Use by”: Similar to a “best by” date, this is the last date when the manufacturer has determined food is at its peak quality. As with “best by”, this date is also not related to food safety, except in the case of infant formula.

  • “Expiration” or “EXP”: This is the date after which the manufacturer has decided the food should not be sold or eaten due to decline in quality.

  • “Packed on”: This is the date when the food was packaged. Pack dates are required by the USDA for certain foods, such as poultry, in case of an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Okay everyone. That wraps it up for me for my First Series of National Declutter Awareness Week. I hope all these tips, information, stories have given you the motivation to get decluttered so you don't have to come back and join me next year ;)


Happy Decluttering! Caitlin

P.S. If you want to take this further, here’s where you can sign up for a private consultation

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