When was the last time you took stock and organized your kitchen? Now is a good time to do it. Start with the refrigerator, and then move on to the pantry and cabinet shelves. Finally, clean the entire room.

First, literally empty the refrigerator, one shelf at a time, then the doors. Use a cooler to keep food cold while you clean. Wipe down the shelves with a kitchen disinfectant spray, working from top to bottom, including the doors. Separate the food you took out of the fridge, check the dates, determine whether or not it should go back in (or on another shelf). Continue this process until everything has been emptied, checked, sorted, and put back.

Move open items to the front. If there are only a few tablespoons left in a jar, use them up in a day or two, or figure out a way to make it into a recipe. Take note of any cheese or cream cheese that is about to expire and plan a meal before it expires.

Staying organized can also help reduce food waste. Once you see what you have and what you can donate, you can plan a few meals with things that are ready to go.

Got a tray of leftover veggies or the bag of broccoli you never got around to cooking? Now is a good time to make a stir-fry or vegetable soup. Leftover fresh herbs? Mix them into an herb pesto for pasta. Keep cut tomatoes, peppers, onions or citrus in containers for produce that keeps them fresh longer. Do you have frozen cooked shrimp in the freezer? Chop it and make our sauce. If you have several open boxes of cereal, consider using a cereal container. These have airtight lids that help keep cereal fresh longer, reducing waste. If you overbought canned goods or other pantry ingredients, consider donating them to your food bank or church. Donate now while the “best buy” date is still valid.

Keep counters clear and clean

Sanitizing isn’t just for flu season, it’s important to keep your kitchen and home safe all year long. Once you’ve cleaned out your refrigerator and cabinets, wipe everything down. Use an all-purpose kitchen disinfectant spray (or bleach wipes) on all countertops and faucets, cabinet knobs/handles, and wipe down the outside of your cabinets with a damp cloth. Fill sink with hot, soapy water and clean off sticky or marked things (microwave turntable, utensils, toaster oven ‘crumb catcher’, coffee pot). Don’t forget to wipe down all appliances, including the top of the refrigerator or microwave, and to vacuum and mop the floor.

A clean kitchen keeps food safe, as does proper hand washing. Always remember to wash your hands frequently when handling and cooking food, and make sure your kids do the same (it’s always a good idea for your kids to wash their hands right after school).

Keep your kitchen sanitized and organized, and you’ll waste less food, too. A clean kitchen also helps prevent foodborne illness. That’s my idea of ​​eating clean!