source: Simple Organized Living

Now that it’s officially summer, I am thankful that our weekly schedules have slowed down a bit.

We have almost no sporting events, committee meetings, school functions, etc., etc. It’s a wonderful change of pace and one that I look forward to every year.

One of the reasons I always look forward to our slower summer schedule is because it gives me a little extra time to go through our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and take stock of everything that has accumulated over the past 6 months.

I do this at least twice per year — once right before the holiday season and then again each summer. I often have a bit more time to plan and prepare dinner so I try to get creative and use up as much of our extra stockpile as possible.

Benefits of using up our stockpile:

  • It helps us significantly reduce our grocery bill for 2 or 3 weeks.
  • It gives me an opportunity to test my cooking abilities {which really are nothing special!}.
  • It forces us to try new foods that we might not have tried before.
  • It keeps our kitchen more organized and prevents wasted and expired food.

If you haven’t cleaned out your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer in a while, now might be just the time to do it.

Tips for cleaning out your pantry and freezer:

1. Decide what food you want to use up.

Start by going through your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry and write down the food items you want to use up. These could be items that are almost ready to expire, items that are starting to get freezer burn, or items that have just been taking up space for too long and need to be used up.

2. Get creative with your meal planning.

I had a box of stuffing mix, several cans of cream soups, and a few bags of chopped turkey in our freezer. So last week, I made a turkey and stuffing casserole… in the middle of June! It tasted like Thanksgiving all over again and was a really delicious meal.

I also had a handful of broken lasagna noodles in the pantry. So instead of making a traditional lasagna, I simply crunched up the rest of the noodles, boiled them like I would boil any small pasta, added the meat sauce, cottage cheese, and Italian seasoning and baked until heated through. It was definitely not photo-worthy, but it tasted delicious and I’m SO happy to be done with that box of crushed lasagna noodles!

Here are a few additional meal ideas:

  • Casseroles — seriously, you can put almost anything in a casserole and it will turn out great!
  • Pasta dishes — any pasta, any sauce, any meat, any spices.
  • Make your own pizza or sandwich night.
  • Mexican —  use up extra cans of beans, tomatoes, salsa, chips, tortillas, etc.
  • Pick your own dinner — a quick way to get rid of leftovers.
  • Soups and stews — great for extra broth, meat, and vegetables.
  • Smoothies — probably my favorite way to use up frozen fruit.

3. Create your shopping list.

Once you know what meals/recipes you want to make, then create your shopping list. The idea is to try and use mainly the food you already have, but there will probably still be a few ingredients you need to buy. So make your list… and enjoy a smaller grocery bill.

4. Stick to your meal plan.

During the week or two when you’re cooking from your stockpile, it can be VERY tempting to go out to eat or just make a frozen pizza — but that would defeat the purpose. It does take a little more time, effort, and planning to cook from your stockpile, but who knows, you might make something that will turn into a new family favorite!

5. Finish the job.

Once you’ve eaten down your freezer, fridge, and pantry stockpile — it’s a great time to wash out your refrigerator, defrost your freezer, and wipe down your pantry shelves {you might be surprised how dirty they are!}.

In just a week or two, your kitchen will feel less cluttered, more organized, and you’ll be ready to start stoking up all over again!

When was the last time you cleaned out your stockpile?

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