Doing The Pantry Can-Can

pantryplayhousecancan

I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen pantry. Take a moment to let that statement sink in. Now you may commence with the “atta-Pegs,” because I deserve every one.

This strange urge to clean may have something to do with spring, but the immediate prompt was that I couldn’t find the confectioners’ sugar. I found mouse droppings instead. A few don’t faze me – mice are a fact of life out in the country. When you have so many droppings it looks like somebody spilled a box of Uncle Ben’s Brown & Wild Rice Medley, however, it’s time to act.

Our pantry is a 2-foot wide, 6-foot tall closet with pull-out shelves, and cleaning it was a monumental job. I took everything out.   All horizontal surfaces in my kitchen were buried in boxes, bottles, jars and cans.   I then scrubbed the pantry shelves and walls and took stock while it dried.

I learned some things about myself.

I seem to have Single Food Hoarder Syndrome. I first learned of this disorder years ago when we moved into a house that had belonged to my husband’s great aunts.  We unearthed 13 bags of marshmallows while cleaning the kitchen. Most were so fossilized they “thunked” when dropped on the floor.

I can imagine their shopping trips.

“Are you sure we have marshmallows? We can’t have our cocoa without marshmallows.” Aunt Margie asks, worriedly.

“Didn’t we buy some on our last trip, dear?” Aunt Gertrude asks, sweetly.

“Better safe than sorry.” Aunt Ellen says, firmly. Another bag of Jet-Puffed goodness goes into the cart.

Now I’m doing the same thing with:

  • baking cocoa – 3 tins
  • peanut butter – 5 jars
  • vinegar – 6 bottles
  • couscous – 8 boxes

My worst problem is with Jell-O gelatin and pudding mixes. I could build a playhouse with all the little, cardboard bricks I had stashed away.  If I could sell them back to the Jell-O Company, I’d raise enough money to cover Bill Cosby’s defense fund.

I inspected every container and tossed anything that bulged more than 1 centimeter, had mouse chew marks that went through the packaging or was more than 3 years past the x-date – less than that and it’s probably fine.

If you think this approach is gross, you’re probably younger than I am. Attitudes on expired food seem to be directly related to age. My 20-something kids would automatically dump a carton of milk that expired today.   Those who have been around the dairy case a few times, however, know that it’s all about the sniff test.

My 80-something parents take “it’s probably fine” to the extreme. Last time I was at their house I noticed that some stuff in their cupboard was produced the same year I was. I was super sneaky about tossing the worst offenders, but my Dad still caught me in the act.

“Hey, don’t throw that out; it’s fine.” Dad said about a can so misshapen it looked like a modern art sculpture.

“Dad, for goodness sake, this was packaged during the Khrushchev era!” I protested as we engaged in an unbecoming tug-of-war for it.

“Exactly!” He exclaimed triumphantly as he wrenched the can out of my hands. “Something designed to withstand the A- bomb is made to last.”  Back on the shelf it went.

I’m currently planning tonight’s dinner menu. We’re having salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing, couscous, and chocolate/peanut butter cookies with milk. Oh, and Jell-O. We’ll be having Jell-O at every meal for the foreseeable future.

 

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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74 Responses to Doing The Pantry Can-Can

  1. susielindau says:

    I need to clean mine!
    In our old house, we had a moth infestation. I think they got in through bags of rice. I tried everything and have always wondered if the people who moved in and remodeled the kitchen are rid of them. I keep my rice in the freezer, just in case!

    Liked by 1 person

    • pegoleg says:

      I can relate – we had a pantry moth infestation once. Ugh! They are practically impossible to get rid of because they lay those little eggs under the rims of canisters and everywhere.

      Like

  2. dmswriter says:

    I’m glad to learn I’m not the only one who thinks expiration dates are mere suggestions, not something to take seriously. Reminds me of an interview I did a few years ago for work. This family lived in a hugely swanky shack near the lake, and as the lady took me on a tour, she noticed her box of spaghetti was a month past its expiration date. (Don’t ask me why we were investigating this…) She proceeded to grab all the pasta boxes, check the dates, and -gasp! – found that all of them needed to be tossed. They went on the counter for the cleaning lady to dispose of.
    Being the Country Mouse that I am, it was another lifestyle of which I know nothing of…

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Sorting through the pasta while taking someone around seems an odd thing to do. I hope you offered to drop the spaghetti in the trash for her on your way out, then brought it home to eat?

      Congrats on your guest shot over at Nudge Wink. My hubby should PRAY I don’t adopt your suggestions or he would be on permanent Triple Secret Probation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dmswriter says:

        Ha! You read my mind, Peg – being half-Hollander, I had this fleeting thought that when her back was turned, I could shove the pasta boxes in my tote bag and make a run for it. That much pasta would have made too much noise, though. 😉

        Like

  3. SwittersB says:

    atta Peg!!! Ugh

    Like

  4. Averyanne says:

    I am laughing! And I might sue you for plagiarism, but I have been too busy doing battle with invading mice who are proclaiming squatter’s rights to have written my own sad tale! So, while the story is the same, the words, alas, are yours.
    Your explanation of age appropriate reactions to expiration dates is spot on. Aftery sweet mama passed, I threw out a truckload of food which had expired 20 yrs before, as well as some that was packaged before they even had expiration dates (a sure sign it must be okay). Her idea was that if it hadn’t exploded or been actually carried off by the mice (chew marks were fine), then it would do on a pinch, or at least sustain life in a famine.
    And… I have enough salt in my pantry to turn both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans sea green with envy!!
    Thanks for the laugh this morning!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      “sustain life in a famine” – exactly. I think in the back of my mind I figure, “what if the Big Bomb goes off? What if it’s End of Days? I’d be thrilled to have that 4-year-old can of corn.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lisaspiral says:

    This problem runs in my family as well. (And it’s often the mice that promote any kind of clean out!)

    Like

  6. Wow, I admire you! But then again, that amount of mouse droppings would motivate me as well. I’m getting better at not buying too many of that item that I use up so very slowly (jello). But there are a lot of things I need to go through in my pantry as well. For instance, I know there is a large bottle of coconut rum in there, but these days I almost never drink. And I doubt my local food pantry will take it. And my current friends hardly ever drink either. Oh well. One tip I learned if you ever need to see if any canned water still holds a good seal, is to hit the can on one end (with your hand) and listen for the slap of water inside. It should sound good and sharp. If it doesn’t, it’s lost the seal. Handy to know if you’re ever inspecting cans of water, say, in a ship’s lifeboat.

    Like

  7. Laughing Dragon says:

    Hahaha! Defense fun for Cosby! The expIration date related to age! I love this! One of my favorite posts ever.

    And we’ll written too.

    Like

  8. Lynn says:

    I guess as long as the jello doesn’t have chocolate sprinkles in it, no harm done. Hmmmmm….

    Like

  9. I’m still in denial over the contents of my pantry – I just shove new stuff in front and bemoan about the lack of available cupboard space.

    I did recently pitch an incredibly old bottle of Amber Mist at the behest of my kids – the thing has been in three different apartments.

    I was kinda waiting for intelligence to evolve.

    Like

  10. Doesn’t everyone have a single-food hoarding issue? It’s an issue not a problem, let’s get our terms right. Mine is rice cakes and vegetarian broth. I’m set in case all grocery stores close for renovations until 2017.

    Like

  11. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh no, now I’m feeling enormous pressure to clean out my pantry. But I’m pretty sure it won’t harbor as many food duplications as yours. That’s the only perk of a small pantry: Everything is visible to the eye.

    Funny post as always!

    Like

  12. lexiemom says:

    Since my children eat me out of house & home, nothing stays in our pantry longer than a few weeks. And marshmallows wouldn’t last the week, no matter how many bags I had. However, I do have the “expiration-dates-are-just-suggestions” syndrome when it comes to medications. Especially prescriptions for pain killers. I’m pretty sure that I have a bottle of oxycodone from when I pulled out my back 14 years ago that I keep in my bathroom medicine cabinet “just in case”.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Me too! I think I have that same bottle of “just in case” pain meds. The only problem is I think they get more potent with age, or is it less potent. Anyway, I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep them…and yet I do.

      Like

  13. This was absolutely hilarious! Is there one flavor or jello you seem to gravitate toward? I loved the Marshmallow dialogue!!

    Like

  14. Ata Peg! Pat tackles our small pantry once in a while and with kitchen reno in less than a month (maybe?) we will be boxing up all that stuff, too. But, the new plans call for a walk in, albeit small, pantry off the kitchen in what is now my study. Every day is an adventure in cleaning!!!

    Like

  15. Elyse says:

    I ended up spending Labor Day weekend doing mine. Good times, good times.

    But I am NOT coming to your house for dinner. No Jell-o for this girl EVAH!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      But I’ll put some pineapple in it, just for you. You can’t turn down an offer like that, can you?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Elyse says:

        Easily. After my first hospitalization in 1974, I cried every time I looked at Jell-o for five years. Now I don’t, but I still don’t eat it. It was a big deal for my son, who felt deprived. I bought him pre-packaged Jell-o and made him put it in his own lunchbox. The stuff still gives me the willies.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Al says:

    Like the song says…”Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, mice gotta eat from your pantry supply…….”

    Like

  17. k8edid says:

    Peg, our mail carriers collect canned goods and other non-perishables twice a year. You can hang a bag of groceries on your mail box post and they will take them to the food bank for you. Every time I get the notice that “this is the weekend” I scrounge around my pantry (no roll out shelves and no damned light) and see what I can unload…I mean donate! I always put the jello boxes in there. Of course, my postal carrier could just be taking the goods to her house…

    I need some teenagers around the house again. My boys (and their many friends who seemed to always end up at my house hungry and thirsty) never let food last. Once the boys and their friends carried groceries in for me and they were actually eating things from the bags. From the car to the kitchen. I kid you not.

    My husband is a fanatic about expiration dates. LIke everything else, he is wrong about that subject as well.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I don’t think the food pantry wants expired food, even though we might think it’s still good. But I could unload some Jell-O – great idea.
      How long does it take before you stop shopping and cooking for kids who are no longer there? I made a pan of brownies last weekend and I’m sick of them now.

      Like

  18. koehlerjoni says:

    This is funny. It reminds me of the time I was cleaning out my husband’s uncle’s house after his death. I found a bunch of old wire clothes hangars underneath a mouse nest and threw them into the trash because they were covered in mouse droppings. My mother-in-law, a Depression baby, came along behind me and pulled them out of the trash and carried them to her car, leaving a trail of mouse droppings in her wake. I shiver to think what we’d find in her pantry.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You hit the nail on the head – they’re Depression babies, like my dad, and don’t throw ANYthing away. I remember my grandma, Dad’s mom, making a salad out of celery leaves and saving the waxed paper lining from cereal boxes because it would be good to wrap sandwiches.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. rgemom says:

    Great read!!! I HATE cleaning out the pantry but it’s so awesome when it’s done and you can actually find stuff. We had four bags of brown sugar. I have no clue why.

    Like

  20. List of X says:

    The Khrushchev era canned food was made to withstand a nuclear blast. These foods can’t possibly expire.

    Like

  21. Single Food Hoarder Syndrome. Yes! I’m so glad that you’ve been diagnosed. That’s half the battle.
    My parents are afflicted with this illness. When I last visited I counted 7 jars of mustard and 10 cans of kidney beans. I think the only cure is to revoke their shopper’s club membership.

    Like

  22. This made me laugh as my kitchen cabinets are limited so the food there gets used/rotated through pretty quickly. As for my home canned items in the basement? I have to go down there often to remind myself what is down there other than the recently-added 40 quarts of lamb stock…

    Like

  23. Sandy Sue says:

    Oh, yes, the sniff test! My grandma had no sense of smell, so I was her official sniffer. Now I can open the refrigerator and and find the Penicillin without even looking!

    Like

  24. I can’t eat Jell-O, it gives me the creeps. You know what Jell-O is made of? I’ll let Wikipedia tell you:

    Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish.

    mmm-mmm! Love me some pig connective tissue! Okay, fine I do miss the pudding pops….and pig is good, too. okay. But shouldn’t food not be fluorescent green and able to wiggle?

    My mom is also a depression-era baby and at last count she had about 10 jars of molasses in her cupboard because you just never know….

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I was gonna ask if you and the family were free for dinner tonight since I was serving my world-famous chateaubriand with lime Jell-O béarnaise. Damn.

      Like

  25. Nurse Kelly says:

    This was hilarious, Peg! I am sooo overdue with cleaning my pantry. I seriously don’t even know what’s lurking in there anymore. I’ve graduated from hoarding to doomsday prepping now (in my own mind) which sounds better, so it gives me even more reason to procrastinate. Nothing like surviving a disaster on expired food – really looking out for my family on this one!

    Like

  26. I think I cured myself of this problem once I became single. Now I have hardly anything at all in my pantry, nothing. It is rather bare, well except stuff left over from marriage. I suppose I should clean it out of that stuff one of these days. I am not inspired though, maybe I should be. I will consider it. As always you made me laugh well.

    Like

  27. thedailydish says:

    Hysterical as usual, down to the very last turd.

    Like

  28. You know, the other day, I was reading in the paper about Blue Bell ice cream giving people Listeria, I don’t know why this post reminded me of that. Oh well.

    I am more of a stuff-hoarder myself, not so much with the food though. I bet if I looked hard enough through my wardrobe, I could find a few scrunchies from the days of yore.

    Like

  29. Blogdramedy says:

    What?! No fried mice? You’re just taking the Mickey with this post. 😎

    Like

  30. I usually find lots of cans of baked beans when I clean out the kitchen cupboards. We don’t particularly like baked beans in our house, well, we like them less often than I buy them – they’re something that I buy fairly regularly because I always think they’re a staple, but we just don’t eat them very often. My worst thing is the freezer though, I freeze leftovers in ziplock bags thinking I’ll remember what they are, but I don’t, you’d think I would learn and write what they are on the bag, but I don’t. I just find frozen lumps that clearly have to be thrown away.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Yeah, I know what you mean. I haven’t even uncovered the chest freezer in the basement for more than a year. I thought it would inspire me to buy an entire side of beef and cut it up myself to save money. That didn’t happen.

      Like

  31. We tend to keep can goods for hurricane emergencies…and tend to forget about them. Found out not only will old tomato sauce explode, canned fruit will, too. (I’ll just stack the jello boxes up in front of the stain on the wall. Done.)

    Like

  32. Pingback: Food glorious food of the 1960s - Maddy at home

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