Give Your Kitchen a Good Spring Cleaning
Flowers are budding, the sun is shining, the air is fresh and it’s time to give your kitchen that spring feeling, too.
The change in seasons is the perfect opportunity to clean and organize the cupboards and surfaces that you use regularly. Why not start the season off by creating a space that makes you smile as you cook?
Open Oven, Food-Friendly Fridge
Let’s face it: cleaning the oven and refrigerator are tasks no one enjoys. Why not get them out of the way first so you can move on to other, more pleasant tasks? Turn on some upbeat music and dive in.
Ovens are magnets for grime, but never fear: some elbow grease, good cleaning implements and a reliable cleanser will help you turn it from a black hole to a sparkling space. There’s no need for industrial strength chemicals; instead, try an eco-friendly mixture.
Mix equal parts bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and salt with enough vinegar to create a spreadable paste; add a few squeezes of lemon and voilà! You are ready to scrub away the grease and grunge with the aid of wire wool, a toothbrush, a sponge and a metal scraper.
Baking soda is alkaline and doesn’t scratch, so it is also suitable for cleaning chrome. Your stovetop and the exterior of your fridge are excellent targets. Remove the burners from your stove to clean up any grit that has escaped from cooked food and give the entire surface a once over.
Cleaning your refrigerator means first removing and reviewing its contents. Fridges are known repositories for miscellaneous bottles, jars of condiments and containers of leftover who-knows-what. Check the expiry dates on each product and discard those that are too old. Don’t mix two jars of the same item, because they may not expire on the same date.
Once you’ve sorted through your items, it’s time to wipe down the shelves and replace everything you’ve decided to keep.
Next, tackle the freezer. Emptying it and reviewing its contents allows you to discard those cartons with two spoonfuls of ice cream remaining or any items that have lingered long past their usefulness. Also, empty your ice cube trays and wash them with soap and water before refilling. Ice cubes left too long in the freezer absorb freezer smells – not the most appetizing addition to a cold drink!
Once again, emptying the food cupboards is your first order of business. Review all the cans, jars and packages and discard those that have expired. Even packaged goods have expiration dates, so check those, too.
Set aside unwanted items to donate to the local food bank. Wipe down jars and large containers, especially those containing oils, syrups and vinegars, since they are likely to have drips along the sides. Also wipe the shelves, of course!
Next, cast a critical eye over your herb and spice collection to see if they contents are still fresh and flavourful. The folks at McCormick, the herb and spice manufacturers, say dried herbs last for one to three years and spices remain fresh for two to four years. Are their colours faded? Crush a bit in your hand to see if they give off an aroma, or taste them. If not, it’s time to shop for replacements.
Staples such as rice, pasta and tea bags are also subject to loss of flavour; they taste best within two years of manufacture, so toss those that are too old. If you store them – or other dry goods – in mason jars or containers other than their packages, it’s useful to label them with an expiry date. A piece of masking tape and a pen are all you’ll need to stay on top of freshness.
While you are appraising and weeding out items, it’s also the perfect time to create a shopping list of the goods you’ll need to replace.
With your cupboards bare like those of Old Mother Hubbard of nursery rhyme fame, this is also a perfect time to think about organization. Consider your cooking habits and place items in the cupboard accordingly, with the rarely used items on higher shelves or at the back of cupboards.
Keep your frequently used ingredients close at hand. Use your kitchen storage space to the maximum, because it always seems to be at a premium. You can buy dividers for deep drawers or put airtight bins atop cupboards, for example.
Now that you’ve tackled one of the season’s most dreaded chores, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, put your feet up and relax with a cup of tea. Congratulations!