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Isn't it time for a pantry refresh!?

If I was helping you prepare a meal in your home, how easy would it be for me to find ingredients in your fridge...will I have to dig for them? Will I find two jars of the same food open and in different places? Will I open any leftovers and regret doing so after the toxic smells have penetrated my nasal passages? If we get an appetite before meal time, what are our snack options - will we be distracted by chips and dip or cookies?  I imagine I'm not evoking humbling feelings if you're nodding yes to most of these questions.  But I get it. Keeping the fridge, freezer and pantry organized and clean is a task that's easy to ignore when there are countless other exciting things you'd rather be doing. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, or you hold a rigorous corporate position, you're spending at minimum a quarter of your life working. That part's hard enough. Add on running errands, meal prepping, home projects you want to do, exercising (*hint hint*), and all other every day chores, there isn't much time for leisure activities. And that might be where the fridge and pantry overhaul fits in.... .................unless we prioritize.  If you don't have solid plans for the weekend yet, how about this terrific suggestion: schedule 2-4 hours (depending on how serious the situation as; maybe you only need one...or eight), to refresh all your food storage areas. You know, it's the tail end of winter and you're probably itching to get outside. So while there's one last stretch to tough it out with the indoor activities, I thought I'd encourage you to get this undesirable task out of the way now. Here's why all your food storage areas need to be refreshed:

>>Ease of access. Wouldn't it be great if you could open the fridge, freezer, or cupboards and easily find exactly what you need?! Who wants to dig around in the fridge and cupboards looking for something to eat when you're starving now? Keeping all food storage areas organized will minimize the stress involved with hunger and meal prepping. Take the time to keep like things in the same space. Use see-through containers rather than bags to store loose items. Label and date items as needed. >>Safety. Two words: expiration date. You know that food doesn't last forever, that's common sense. Bacteria exist literally everywhere and are responsible for food degradation. But it happens: you had good intentions. You figured you could use the remaining tomato paste, but it just kept getting pushed to the back of the fridge and you didn't actually plan out a dish to use that ingredient. Then the day came where you happened upon said tomato paste now turned 100% mold, and your impulse thought is **EW! Oh my God! I can't believe I let this happen!** Tomato paste is one example, and it's one of those extreme cases. But leftover dinner is comparable, and may be less obvious. Maybe that chicken looks okay, but if it's approaching a week old, it's a health risk. Refrigeration - and freezing - simply   s  l  o  w   bacterial growth. Neither of them stop it. So unless you want to risk diarrhea, vomiting, or other symptoms of food poisoning (which may be fatal), getting rid of the old stuff is imperative. The same goes for pantry items. Boxed and canned items might last a really long time, but they're not invincible, nor are you. Here's a general rule of thumb: throw away leftovers that are 5 days old; throw away food that has been frozen for greater than 3 months. And as the adage goes: when in doubt, just throw it out. >>Maintain a supportive environment. Do you keep certain foods stashed away for a rainy day? Are they supporting, or hindering your overall health goals? If you're keeping foods in your home that 1.) hinder your health goals, and 2.) are difficult for you to say No to in a moment of weakness, then it might be time to take a break. Before you do take a break, here are a few details to consider - and consider them honestly (remember, the truth can hurt. But you are strong and you'll survive): What is it you like about that food? When do you typically eat it? How much and how often do you eat it? Now for the final question: is that food in line with your standard of health? Ultimately, you make the call what to do with the foods you keep in your home!

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