Introducing the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge

Have you ever tried to put away groceries and realized you have no idea why there’s no room for anything in your pantry or your freezer? Or opened the cupboard to stare at a bunch of food and say “there’s nothing in here to eat!”

I’m ashamed to say that this happens to me a lot. For all that I write about how we use our CSA items (and we do), I too am guilty of the over-full pantry and freezer. We make a concerted effort to eat leftovers, and we rarely throw food out anymore. But part of that is because we have created a hoard in the freezer(s) and pantry.

I think it comes from a good place – the mentality of trying not to waste and to preserve and save food that’s perfectly good to eat. We’re good at eating up fresh food in the house because we know we’re racing the clock. But if it’s frozen or shelf stable? We’re actually pretty bad at that.

So I was thinking. Why not put it out in the open and make myself accountable to use this excess that I’ve accumulated? And the idea of the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge was born.

I went through my pantry, main freezer and chest freezers to determine what needed to be “cleaned out.” The things that have been sitting around for awhile, waiting for a use. I didn’t include things like baking items, spices, oils or staples that we use frequently, because they rotate in and out of the pantry on a regular basis. For cuts of meat that we use frequently (such as ground beef, steaks or venison), I left them off the list. Some freezer items were left off too, if they are used regularly – like homemade chicken broth or nuts.

I snapped some photos, but I’m embarrassed to say this is only part of it.

freezer items

pantry collage

The whole list is daunting. And it’s really embarrassing.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dreid cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio CIty pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

So there it is. Each week, I’m going to show you what we’ve “cleaned out” from the pantry and freezer, with the goal being to use several things each week. It will take us awhile to work through the excess, but I have a few goals for this personal challenge:

  • Room in my pantry for things we use, so that nothing takes unnecessary space or gets wasted
  • New recipes that push me out of my comfort zone (what the heck is a beef mock tender?)
  • A new appreciation for eating food that we have instead of just food that we want

I’ll report back on Mondays to talk about what we used during the week. (Though since I got this idea on Saturday, I’ve already used several things, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.) I’ll also post photos on Instagram (@nextgenhouse) under the hashtag #cleanoutchallenge.

Do you have a freezer or pantry that’s overflowing? Join me and clean it out!

  • Jeni B

    You are not alone…. now I have to go look in my pantry.