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Spring Pantry Spruce-Up: Making the Most of Those Bits and Pieces

I love a good spring cleaning and as you might imagine, much of my ardor is focused on the kitchen. We’re starting to see the buds of a new season (well, most of us – in like a lion, out like a lamb, remember), but it’s still pretty chilly overall, so now feels like perfect time to scrounge around in your cabinets and get cooking.

After an informal office poll, I found these five (handy) troublemakers at the top of our list. For a new start, clean out your pantry, make something delicious, then head to the store for a refresh.

Tiny amounts of grains, cornmeal or lentils

This feels silly, but when you’re baking or following a recipe, often small amounts of a grain or bean will be left when the dish has already hit the oven. Use these tiny portions in easy gratins or tuck cooked lentils into your favorite veggie burger recipe.

Indian-Spiced Veggie Burgers Cabbage and Cheddar Gratin

Too many canned tomatoes

This is not a problem for me, because I love having extra cans at the ready, but this is definitely an item many of us stock up on when a sale is happening. Put those cans to good use and clear a little space on your shelves.

Tomato Soup and Avocado Toasts Learn to Cook: Baked Pasta

Miniscule amounts of nuts and seeds

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a collector when it comes to nuts and seeds – they all have a home in my kitchen! – but that means I frequently have just a teaspoon of sesame seeds or a handful of walnut pieces left from some other project. Granolas and snack mixes are go-tos for this category.

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars "Everything Bagel" Nut and Seed Mix

Soy sauce

Remember when you bought that last bottle of soy sauce? No? That’s the problem! Or maybe my problem, I always seem to have multiple bottles of soy sauce, shoyu or tamari on hand. Let’s marinate something, shall we.

Peanutty Udon Noodle and Tofu Salad Gingery Garlicky Tempeh

Mystery bulk flours

I love the bulk section, but often I rely too heavily on my memory and astute sense of smell and forget to label everything I scoop up. A little extra mystery flour never hurt a pancake or muffin – plus, knowing me, the flour is probably whole wheat pastry flour, almond meal or quinoa flour, and that sounds delicious. (Note: these are also good spots for miniscule amounts of nuts and seeds.)

Whole Grain Pancakes with Chia and Flaxseeds Gluten-Free Morning Glory Muffins

What’s on your list of spring spruce-up targets? Do you have any helpful recipes or strategies to get you of the pantry cleaning hump? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Amie says …

I like the trail mix idea! I've done that with leftover cereal too. I also throw leftover nuts (and nut butters) into my homemade protein bar recipes.

z says …

I write the date I opened the containers on the lids or labels. Once a month we have mystery leftover nite with silly prizes for the most creative dishes. Each quarter its open the cabinets and see what we got. There is a posted list inside each door with the current inventory. (Chalkboard paint is your friend). Frig door has a working list of what's inside plus exp. dates. No need to open if ya know it's in there. This helps with meal prep and making the new groc. list.