Is a pantry purge wasteful?

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Having been raised by parents of the depression era, we were both taught not to be wasteful. So, when you take the first step of “Purging your pantry,” how do you avoid wasting all those high sodium, highly refined carbs, and saturated fat laden foods? We’ve all heard “waste not, want not.” Even without the element of guilt, there is the issue of budget. How affordable is it to throw out a bunch of your food and start over?

It might be appropriate to ask, “How affordable is it to keep your old lifestyle habits, and maybe wind up in the hospital again? Or worse?” When you arrive (or your loved one arrives) home from the hospital, your motivation will be at an all-time high. This is the time to tap into that motivation to start a new lifestyle. The fact that you spent $75 on frozen dinners the week before your heart attack is no excuse to put things off. Get rid of the worst offenders now and start fresh (both figuratively and literally).

Here are some options for getting things out of your kitchen without feeling like you’re being wasteful:

  • Ask a family member, neighbor or friend to help, and offer them the things you can no longer use.
  • Give the items that are unopened and still fresh to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Check expiration dates. It might be that some items are already past their sell-by date. Throwing them out might not feel as wasteful.
  • If all else fails, consider how “wasteful” it would be to waste this opportunity to change your life and get on a better track.

We might as well acknowledge that the other opportunity you will have to feel guilty about wastefulness will come, sooner or later, when you are buying fresh produce every week. Hopefully, you’ll plan carefully, use up the most perishable items early in the week and save things that keep well for later each week. But eventually, something is going to spoil in the back of your fridge, and probably will resemble a science fair experiment by the time you find it. Whether you bought too much or just forgot about it, it happens.

When that happens to us, we try to weigh together the whole picture. We’re managing an inventory of highly perishable but very healthy foods. The price of doing that might be that once in awhile, there is a surplus that doesn’t get used up. It happens to restaurant owners, it happens to publishers who print a few too many time-sensitive books that become outdated, and it will happen to you. You can partially mitigate that outcome by freezing things that can go into homemade broth. But when that too fails, remember that it’s part of eating fresh and healthy. There’s always next week.

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