Annual Kitchen Cleanup. Every January (or sometimes mid-December), I will go through my kitchen with a fine-toothed comb. It’s time to throw out anything I’m no longer using regularly or even annually. It’s also time to throw out expired ingredients. And it’s time to deep clean the kitchen itself.
This might sound like a lot of work. Instead of being overwhelmed, break up the tasks across several days or over a weekend and get your family to help out. Put on some lively music and break out some soft drinks to make the time go quickly. Afterwards, throw a pizza party with a pizza topping bar to thank them for their assistance.
Doesn’t that pizza look appetizing? What a treat after all of your hard work. So let’s get moving on that annual kitchen cleanup!
Where to start?
1. The first is easiest. Go through your refrigerator and freezer. Remove everything from your fridge and freezer and place the items on your countertops or your kitchen table. Wipe down the refrigerator and freezer shelving. I like to use microfiber cleaning cloths because they are reusable. Remove any drawers from the refrigerator and freezer, remove their items, and wipe out the drawers. As you begin to put the items back into the refrigerator and freezer, throw out all items that are past their expiration date and/or have begun to spoil. Wipe each item in case it’s sticky or gooey. You don’t want to stain what you just cleaned!
2. Now go through your kitchen cabinets and/or pantry and do the same with your dry storage items including canned goods. Throw out any items that are expired or past their prime. Check your flour, rice, grains, and pasta for evidence of pantry moths. Discard any infested items. Check each of your cans and jars for expiration dates as well and discard anything past its prime. If you have changed your eating habits, set aside any foods you are no longer eating. Give the unexpired foods to other family members or neighbors or friends.
3. Sort through your kitchen towels, oven mitts, aprons, potholders, cloth napkins, placemats and table linens. Discard anything that is overly stained and won’t respond to a stain remover. Donate any items that are still in good condition that you are no longer using. Replace anything that needs to be replaced.
4. Inspect all of your pots and pans to ensure they’re not losing their non-stick or ceramic coating (if non-stick) or aren’t losing their finish (if not non-stick) pitted or somehow stained. Most local refuse facilities will allow metal pans and pots to be dropped off for recycling. Also discard of any aluminum interior pans that you may have as they are not deemed to be healthy.
5. Do the same with your cake pans, baking sheets, cupcake pans, springform pans, cookie cutters, etc. Do your baking sheets and pans have stuff stuck to them? If a healthy scrubbing won’t clean off the gunk, then discard them. Do you really need 3 springform pans of the exact same size? Probably not unless you are a regular cheesecake baker! I do agree that having multiple baking sheets is great when it’s time to bake holiday cookies in bulk but otherwise get rid of what you’re not using.
6. Remove all of your dinner plates and drinkware from your cabinets. Clean each shelf and then wipe the bottoms of anything you are placing back into the cabinets. As you are placing items back into the cabinets, check each one for cracks or chips. Donate or discard those that you cannot use.
7. Go through your drinking glasses, wine glasses, cups and saucers, mugs, and any other associated drinkware. Donate anything you are not using and discard any broken or chipped items. Check out FreeCycle for local artists who are collecting cracked or chipped drinkware and dinnerware for art projects.
8. Use Cabinet Magic cleaner to clean your cabinet doors and fronts and make them sparkle! Other than Cabinet Magic (which I love), I won’t offer any other suggestions for cleaning products. Some people like the old school Windex and 409 cleaners. Others prefer safer organic cleaners. Clean your kitchen floor, even getting on hands and knees, to ensure you’ve gotten every spot. If your refrigerator is movable, pull it out and clean underneath. Also vacuum your refrigerator’s coils which are likely full of dust, lint, and pet hair (if you have pets). Clean underneath your range if it is raised off the floor or move it out from the wall. Clean your range hood and filters. Clean your microwave. Look underneath your kitchen cabinets that are above your countertops. Sometimes sticky stuff splatters there and you can clean it up.
9. Take a look at your kitchen appliances. Do you have multiple blenders or coffee grinders or toasters? You probably don’t need duplicate items unless you do a lot of cooking and baking.
10. Find spots for all the spices, oils, and vinegars that you have out on your countertops, or worse, on top of your stove. Most spices will keep better in the darkness of a cabinet. Oils can go rancid when kept in sunlight or on top of a warm stove. Vinegars will do better in the dark, too. You’ll also have more space on your countertops for food preparation.
11. Completely clear off your countertops. See if you can find places for at least some of the countertop appliances that are crowding your preparation space. While your countertops are uncluttered…clean them. If you have natural stone countertops, be sure to apply a sealer after you use an appropriate cleaning solution.
12. If you have a good set of kitchen knives, now is the time to get them sharpened. If you have a knife sharpener, you can sharpen them yourself. Otherwise, take them to a reputable knife sharpening company in your area.
13. Go through all of your kitchen drawers as well. Check your flatware to ensure it’s still in good condition. See if your steak knives need to be sharpened. Remove anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen. Having a “junk drawer” can be a great idea but it can also collect unneeded or unused items.
14. If you keep plastic wrap rolls, aluminum foil rolls and plastic storage and trash bags in your kitchen, go through those as well for duplicates and unneeded items.
15. Go through your cookbooks and donate or give away any that you are not using or are duplicative. Also organize any hand-written recipes into binders with plastic sleeve pages so you can keep sentimental dishes from Grandma or Aunt Bea.
16. If you use your kitchen counters as a catch-all area for mail such as bills and catalogs or even newspapers, make a pact with yourself and your family to go through the mail every day and put unwanted and already reviewed/read items into a recycling bin and set your bills aside on your desk for payment. I’ve found that it really helps to keep the clutter down.
That’s a starter list above for you. You’ll probably think of other things that need to be done as you are checking off the above activities.
As far as MY kitchen goes…here’s what happened in this year’s cleanup:
1. Donated 3 “mini muffin” pans that have never been used. I have a 6-muffin pan that I use all the time for the two of us. It makes 6 slightly oversized muffins instead of 12 smaller ones. We’ll usually eat two muffins and then take the other four for work breakfasts. The mini-muffin pans never really made sense. I did keep two “used” mini-muffin pans that are non-stick.
2. Donated a non-stick angel food cake pan. I bought this pan years ago and never used it. We just don’t eat a lot of cake and rarely do we eat angel food cake.
3. Donated two flexible silicone muffin pans. Well, one is really a popover pan. They never really did work well for us and tended to squash the muffins when we’d try to get them out of the supposedly “flexible” pans. Also they are hard to clean. Great idea but gimmicky if it doesn’t really work.
4. Set aside 10 Calphalon hard-anodized pans and two non-stick skillets for metal recycling. Most of these pans were bought by me and my husband in the early 1990s. We each had a “starter set” and then continued to add to our collections. We then got married and combined our sets. Now it’s time to get rid of those pans that have pits and chips and are losing their coating. The non-stick Calphalon pans were purchased 4 years ago and are no longer “non-stick” so we will replace them with others in the future. I bought a number of Vollrath and All-Clad stainless steel pans this past year in order to begin to replace our older Calphalon pans. And for a few years, we’ve collected Le Creuset pots and pans which are quite durable but also heavy. For Christmas last year, my husband bought me some fancy Mauviel copper pans that require a bit more care than the others. That’s really what started the older Calphalon purge…! No cabinet space to put all of this STUFF! I also donated some very old Corningware baking pieces in great condition that I had been given when I was first starting out on my own. We just don’t use them anymore and they were taking up cabinet space.
5. Turned 10 older kitchen towels with holes and frays into “rags” for the garage. Also donated two very old kitchen aprons in great condition that were cute but no longer my style.
6. Gave a FreeCycler three old white linen tablecloths with heavy coffee and tea stains on them. The tablecloths were a surprise inside the drawers of an old antique sideboard that I bought years ago. I never used them. The FreeCycler plans to use the tablecloths as props for high school plays. She says the stains won’t matter.
7. Having collected well over 100 coffee mugs with company logos over the past 20 years, my husband and I went through the whole lot. All were in great condition so I donated quite a few to our local Goodwill. We only kept a few mugs for ourselves.
8. Selected one of three coffee grinders to keep. Donated two of them. There is a small spice grinder that I can use for coffee in case my husband’s “fancy” grinder quits working.
9. Went through my cooking utensils and got rid of peeling and splintering wooden spoons and some old plastic serving spoons and ladles. Kept two veggie peelers and donated the other three. Also donated quite a few extraneous cooking tools that we’ve never used.
10. Cleared everything off my counters. With the exception of a toaster, espresso machine, and Kitchen Aid mixer, my countertops have only utensil crocks and a Wusthof knife block sitting on them now. Oh, and the occasional glass bowl of fresh fruit and wicker basket of onions, shallots, and garlic on my center island. It’s so easy for items to collect on the counters so try to be diligent in clearing out the clutter.
11. Cleaned the insides and outside of all of my kitchen cabinets, refrigerator/freezer, and vacuumed my fridge coils.
12. And of course, cleared out all the expired items in my pantry!
So…let me know how it went with YOUR annual kitchen cleanup! Leave a comment with your results and any tips and tricks that you use during your annual kitchen cleanup.
Get some microfiber reusable cleaning cloths from Amazon.com:
Order some fancy Mauviel copper pots and pans from Amazon.com (this is the set that I received for Christmas 2016):
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