Declutter your food choices

Níriel jokingly suggested that to complete last Friday’s mission she should eat all the ice cream in her house. It sounded like a good idea to me but then it got me thinking. Along with stuff decluttering one thing most people, in today’s Western culture, could stand to do is declutter their food choices. I know I have written about this before, and annoyed at least one person in the process, but it is worth repeating.

It isn’t aimed towards the idea that everyone ought to be thin, it is about having a healthy diet and an uncluttered pantry and fridge. And the best way I know of to avoid unhealthy foods is to not have stockpiles of it in your home. That isn’t to say you can’t have a little of it to indulge occasionally, but a weeks supply of chocolate bars, a fridge full of soda and a family sized packet of crisps to be gorged on everyday isn’t good for either the waistline, your body health or an efficient use of your pantry and fridge space. And, from experience, the older you get the more one should adhere to this line of thinking.

Ingredients like rice, pasta, potatoes, highly processed cereals, white flours, sugars, syrups… are all best used in moderation unless you are highly active people. Ingredients like this used to take up two shelves in a largish pantry in my home, now they take up one small drawer. Since a whole cake or a batch of cookies, for two people over fifty, should take longer to eat than the shelf life allows, I don’t bother to bake much these days. Therefore, when I do bake, I just purchase the ingredients I need, use them up and carry on as usual.

I know what sort of foods we particularly like and grocery shop for those kinds of ingredients. This doesn’t mean that I don’t experiment with recipes every now and again, it just means that I don’t go nuts buying all sorts of exotic ingredients that end up going out of date in my cupboard. If I do buy an ingredient that is a little different to usual, I will just buy what I need for the meal I am making or creatively use up any excess in another recipe soon after.

The kitchen is one of those areas in my home where I have boundaries for things, and what I stock must be contained within those boundaries. Having limits really does help one think twice about what to buy and what to leave on the shelf.

So what things do you have in the way of ingredients and or junk food in you home that you would be better not to stock or eat?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something from under a piece of furniture. Stuff on floors make them difficult to vacuum or sweep.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Great post, Colleen! I went about 95% grain free, sugar free, and processed foods free back in early 2013. My husband still eats ‘normal’ though. Even though he does, our pantry size needs is now half of what it used to be. It’s great! Grains, sugar, processed foods, so unhealthy for the human body, despite was conventional ‘wisdom’ / doctors / big Pharma tell us. 🙂

  2. Oh, I think this is a great post and very timely as I have been going through fridge, freezer, cupboards. Fortunately, neither hubby nor I are really into sweet treats. My true downfall is around Eastertime and the Butterfinger Eggs that come out in the stores. I love them! But I really cut it back this year and that’s a good thing. I don’t need to be eating sweets like that too much.

    Right before work this a.m. I was trying to do some food planning again. If I do meal planning, I seem to stick to the budget better. Also more healthy. And it is a great suggestion to buy those items you eat frequently. We really love Mexican food so we always have those ingredients on hand. We also eat a fair bit of Italian food too. Not that pasta is all that healthy for us, but we like it, and we use the herbs and tomatoes that I can every fall, which makes the meal delicious. 🙂

    When I grocery shop now, I really put some thought into my purchases. It is dumb to waste food and as a result, waste money and I have done plenty of that!

    Every now and then I get a raving craving for a Pepsi Cola. I buy the packs of the smaller 8 ounce cans, which seem just the right size as opposed to 12 oz, 16 oz, or 24 oz.

    • Hey there, Michelle … every now and then I get a raving craving (love your choice of words!) too, but for a … Coke! 😉

      • Just left the grocery store and I managed to NOT buy Pepsi! Last night hubby said he wants to lose weight and get in better shape. Ok, BuddyBoy. I’m on board!

    • Hi Michelle, just about every week I make a curry. In it a put lots of vegetables and we then don’t need rice (too many carbs). It is a great meal also in which to put all the left over vegetables from the week before. Any vegetable is good in a curry. As a result we rarely ever waste any vegetables. Gotta love that.

  3. I can’t keep ice cream in the house because it gets decluttered way too fast…and I’m also one of those people over fifty who has to watch the food choices

    • Same here Deanna, and we’re not even over 50 here. Back in the ‘good old days’ us twenty somethings kept it on hand, but it was too regular a treat.

      I do keep dark chocolate on hand – weirdly, I can’t gorge on it like I can milk chocolate. One square eaten slowly every now and then is more than enough.

      • Hi Snosie, like my comment about ice cream we also often have a small amount of dark gourmet chocolate on hand. We only even eat one square in a day. So it lasts a long time, we enjoy it all the more for it being rationed out and it doesn’t take up much room in the fridge or on our thighs.

    • In case you couldn’t tell, me too ^_^ Except I’m 23, I can get away with it (for now)…

    • Hi Deanna, we only ever buy the small gourmet tubs of ice cream these days. It cost more but we eat less of it and really really enjoy it. That is one of the best things about eating less, we buy good quality instead of bulk. I always think that food is far better enjoyed when you eat just enough to fill the spot but leaves you wanting more. Looking forward to the next time you eat it then is a wonderful thing. Overeating things can make you feel sick and put you off them for a long time.

  4. Oh my! This is such a good post. While we now have a pantry and refrigerator/freezer that are not packed with things that never get used, we do have things that we shouldn’t. I have to admit that both of us are bad at staying away from some things. We do pretty good then one of us gets sick and we fall back on “comfort food.”

    • I can’t imagine you being too naughty with your diet Deb. I work on the principle that if we don’t buy it we can’t eat it.

      • Right now we are both sick with the “coughing crud.” We don’t feel like eating at all but we know we have too. So we are eating more of the foods that are ot the best for us but don’t take much work energy and much thought. Just being able to stand and cook is too much right now.

  5. I am actually currently in the process of decluttering our freezer. The fridge and pantry (aka cupboards) recently had a like-wise clean up, so now it’s time for the freezer.

    Our plan for both pantry, fridge and freezer is to just buy what we need dinner each time – the supermarked is very close, so we shop almost every day. That is contridicting many of the tips i hear for saving money (buy in bulk when on sale, have a plan for the whole week and buy everything at ones, shop groceries as few times as possible to avoid being tempted to buy things you don’t need and/or are unhelthy.

    For us though it helps more to buy things as we need them. Quick in, quick out, the more you stuff into the basket, the more likely you are to add unintended things. By only buyng things as needed we also avoid wasting ingredients going bad while waiting to be used. And we need less pantry/fridge/freezer space. It might be a bit more expencive pr. item, but in the long run it saves us money too, and has worth-it benefits like less waste and less nedded space 🙂

    So far we have managed to empty the drawer with sun-lolli soda ice from last summer (I liked thouse alot, and though not directly healthy, it is just frozen ‘juice’, this helthyer then ice cream) and othet desserts as well as any leftovers that had stayed there for quit a while, and nedded to be eaten before going bad. Also some older packets of meat and veggies has been used up now.

    All that’s left now is some buns, another packet of meat, and some leftover ingredients for some kind of dessert. Everything else is so new and reguarly used up it’s not worth mentioning 🙂

  6. Ooh! I got mentioned! Yay! … This is probably my biggest piece of internet fame to date…

    I’m actually usually pretty good with this. Aside from some sabotaging by my mother (such as buying and opening four packets of biscuits and telling me off for letting them go soggy, which rather bafflingly happened a few weeks ago) I’m really rather good at not keeping endless nonsense. I do keep a small amount of chocolate – usually a single packet of something tasty. The more chocolate I have, the more I eat, so I prefer to keep a small amount. (Of course, mother is known to purchase lots of chocolate for me to “stock up”, but oh well…)

    Ah, the point is: Left to my own devices, I’m usually good at this. 😀

  7. oh yes. good post. absolute no gos are chocolate and soft drinks. I was known for my coca cola addictions when I was graduating school, I allow myself to buy them at work in small bottles – but they do not enter my home (tabwater instead)
    I just gave in to the fact that I eat all chocolate that I can get my hands on. So I dont buy it – and if I do, it is usually for the immediate craving. If I have this craving I need to wait for it to pass, or make a hot chocolate with milk, sugar and cacao (I always have cacao powder at home) or I need to go to the next kiosk and buy chocolate.
    I just today realized that I have a pack of flour that I havent touched in months. it is time for another use it up challenge: pancakes every weekend until the flour is gone… just like Niriel with her ice cream. (I got rid of THAT when I bought a fridge without a freezing compartment…)

    I have troubles with fresh food. I am not living in the same daily rhythm as two years ago, so I need to stop buying like two years ago. Since I started work and have a partner, I dont cook much at home. So there is no point in having fresh vegetables and fruits at home… except for potatoes, onions, garlic and apples – they are lasting. I need to be aware that now in summer it gets even worse.

    • I always find it curious that modern double income households often don’t cook much, especially when there are no children. Even when my husband and I were young newlyweds we still only ate out once a fortnight. Usually pay Thursday when I would drop in to do the grocery shopping on the way home I would pick up KFC on the way home. We both worked 8am to 5pm five days a week. I sometimes wonder if many young people these days have to work too hard to get ahead.

      • nah. I dont think I work too hard, actually I dont work full time and I do have a lot of spare time compared to a lot of my friends… I dont cook at home, because I am just plain lazy. cooking requires some sort of planning,which depends to some sort of a fixed schedule. I just LOVE my flexibility right now. There are times where I dont go home for days, because I sleep at my partners, and then there is no point for me to keep fresh food at home…
        Especially with spring and summer coming along, I am more likely to not go home after work, but meet with friends, or go to see a theater or film or whatever. If I am alone at home, I either eat cold (bread with stuff) or I make pasta with various sauces.

  8. I have 4 young adults in the house and 2 not so young adults in the house – food is a definately a big item on our budget.

    Ironically the times I feel my pantry looks really nice is when everyone is complaining there is no food.

    We took away the extra matching pair fridge and freezer that we had in the garage last year and it has been somewhat challenging at times but so far Im managing.

    • I am so glad you got rid of those other fridges Moni. I am proud of you for that. Generally if you are buying healthy food a second fridge isn’t necessary even with three young adults. That may mean shopping more often though, at least for fresh food (milk, veggies, fruit, bread). And I know you once felt the need to avoid trips to the grocery store in order to do better a sticking to a budget. How is that working for you?

      • Colleen – I miss the extra freezer more than the extra fridge, but not the full five drawers, just an extra two drawers would do the job to hold bread and meat when it’s on special, but we do manage. Yes I do find myself going to the supermarket a lot more often and yes it’s impacting on the budget at the moment but I’ve slipped on meal planning lately which doesn’t help.

  9. Wonderful post. I grew up with depression era parents, and grew up believing if the fridge wasn’t bulging with food, the household was in poor shape. Nothing was wasted, of course, but there were only three of us. It took until my mid fifties, feeding 2 people, to realize it’s ok to see the refrigerator shelves(easy to clean when nothing is there) and two cabinets I use to store dry goods are stocked with staples, not junk(alright, my spice cabinet is a little out of control). We cook very basic food, much from scratch, in small amounts. My tiny freezer is a little full, but I buy on sale, divide and freeze. We can always whip up something simple with what I have. Tiny amounts of leftovers go to the dogs mixed with their dry food. Most people I know have food stacked all over the tops of their refrigerator and cabinets(mostly junk). Feels good to open a door in my kitchen and be able to grab some meat, a veggie and maybe a starch quickly, without a lot of thinking or waste. Food bill also slashed and nutritional content immensely improved. Price a true pound of of potato chips, u’ll be amazed at how much per pound it actually costs.

    • Hi NF, I remember when I was a kid that there as always a corner store not far away and the milk was delivered. We also had a fish monger and a fruit and veg truck that would call to a street on a weekly basis. We therefore didn’t need to keep a lot of those fresh foods in stock because they came to us. We also fished a lot. My parents did have a chest freezer for keeping mean that they could buy in bulk. I do however remember eating out way through the freezer, for some reason at one point, and finding about half a dozen chicken. So I guess the chest freezer wasn’t an efficient way of storing either. My parents now live on their own, of course, but their fridge and freezer are always full to overflowing. Old habits die hard.

      • When we move, the chest freezer will remain behind and we will buy an upright. Aside from being ‘back-friendly’ the upright will change how we buy and store extra food. We’ll still be able to buy half a lamb but not half a bison (hooray for that! – I’m sick to death of it). I may have to rein in my exuberance for growing tomatoes but in bumper years I’ll just give away whatever I can’t cook or freeze.
        We cut cookies and chocolate from our diets some months ago. Hasn’t make a lick of difference in the width of my backside, but I don’t think either of us has missed them. Just habit. The kitchen cupboards are less crowded, that’s for sure.

  10. My family has converted to Paleo/Primal/Caveman diet. Other than very rare special occasions we aren’t eating anything processed and sugar/grains are completely off the menu. The result is much simpler shopping and a much simpler pantry. Veggies in any form, whole protein sources, natural fats and whole fruits (in that order) is all that we eat. Easy peasy and so beautiful! The hardest part was changing old habits about whats on the menu – the cooking itself is pretty simple. I can’t stress enough how much better we feel from head to toe! I’m not saying everyone can eat this way, (lets face it processed crap fills the hunger gap cheaply) but wow, I am sure glad I can!

    • Hi creativeme, that is the one thing that I find really irritating. That it is cheaper to eat rubbish food that isn’t good for you. I guess that over processing ingredients and adding preservatives make them less likely to perish than the fresh version. Therefore the fresh is more expensive to make up for loss. I still think that mostly we are just being taken advantage of.

  11. I completely agree with the points you make here Colleen. All the emotions and temptations that cause us to clutter up our homes apply very strongly in the kitchen. I rarely bake these days, although the idea of serving up a beautiful cake or batch of cookies has huge appeal to me, but I know that I would be the one eating almost all of it so it is easier just not to have it in the house. Sometimes if I come across a recipe I really want to try I’ll ask my husband to take it to work and put it in the break room to share, so that I get the enjoyment of making the item and just having one taste of it instead of unhealthy overindulgence. Part of the problem I think is that there is now so much choice in even the simplest things, so that having a few friends over for tea or coffee seems to involve buying several different kinds of milk, creamers, sweeteners in order to accommodate everyone’s tastes and dietary requirements.

    • Christine – my friends have the option of whatever I have in my pantry when they cone over for a coffee or tea, likewise when Im at their homes I have the option of whatever they have. I dont stock different sweeteners or milks for them. However if we meet up at a cafe, we all request exactly what we want.

      • I am with you on this Moni. Although I don’t know when the whole cafe thing became the deal here in Australia. Before we went to live in America in 2000 the habit was to run into someone you know and invite them over for a cuppa. Now it is send them a text message and ask if they want to meet at a cafe. I wonder what precipitated that change. Maybe it was that we met at primary school while dropping our kids off and it just seemed the thing to do to go to one another’s homes. Or maybe we just became coffee snobs. What do you think Moni?

        • Colleen – thinking back to coffee mornings, we all lived close, our kids went to the same school and if I recall correctly we were slowly transitioning back into the work force either a few mornings a week, or working school hours only or job sharing. We were all involved with school fundraisers, sports days or field trips, so we had plenty to discuss. These days, we still all have plenty to talk about, but we all work pretty much full time, I’m the only one with a kid at High School, the rest of kids are young adults doing their own thing. My friends and I all live far enough apart that we’d need to drive to see each other. So getting together needs some coordinating and often a cafe is more central and just easier because everyone can have what they want.

    • Gosh you are so right about catering for dietary “needs” just to have a few people over for a meal. The ridiculous thing often is that people will insist on low fat this and artificial sweeteners in their tea and coffee, but them be eating every other thing under the sun that isn’t good for them, and too much of it. It’s like ordering a Big Mac and a diet coke. Allergies are one thing but half arsed attempts to curb the calories is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

    • Hi Christine,

      If I was coming to your house for coffee or tea, I would bring my own sweetener or milk if I needed something special… and I would make it a point to let you know not to worry about it! Since I have a lot of dietary concerns, I would probably bring my own snack too… (We would discuss ahead of time so that you wouldn’t be offended that I brought my own stuff) <3

  12. I was at our local grocery store/supermarket today and had cranberry juice on my list. I was speaking with another customer in the same aisle and about my age. I said, “Too many choices. When I was growing up we had one brand of cranberry juice, Ocean Spray. Now, there are dozens of brands, and dozens of choices, low fat, no sugar, organic, with raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate, etc. Makes my head spin”. She agreed. Thank goodness, I don’t buy a lot of processed foods and enjoy our local farmers market, but in my life over 50 something mind, I can’t help but think that too many choices contribute to our cupboards and pantries full of unnecessary and unhealthy food items.

    • Hi Kimberley, I think you will find that there is less than 10% actually cranberry juice in your cranberry “juice”. I know because I went looking for some once in a bid to avoid constantly returning bouts of urinary tract infections. In order to get enough milligrams of actual cranberry into my system, to help my condition, I would have had to drink gallons of the stuff. I then found cranberry tablets instead. They do actually work by the way.

      • Colleen,
        Mahalo for the heads-up. I didn’t know that cranberry supplements are available for purchase.

    • Hi Colleen & 365’ers,
      Another great post!I have not posted in while, but always read comments and get inspired. We were doing great on the pantry food items for a while. I was eating a mainly primal diet as mentioned above, eliminating grains legumes and processed foods. I decided to try eating differently based on a comment from a yoga practitioner. I have found that my pantry is overflowing again and I do not feel as healthy. Different noodles, rice, 2 types of soba and wheat. There are only 2 of us and my husband is the cook. We do like to try new recipes, but many involve the same ingredients. I also noticed that there are 3 loaves of bread in the freezer. Why, when it takes us 6 months to go through a loaf!! The comments about too many choices so hit the mark, but as Colleen pointed out, looking at the ingredients will eliminate most of them for me. My pet peeve is that here in the US , it is often hard to find small items of anything without going to specific stores. I rarely bake, so I do not need to buy a humongous bag of flour, cornflour or sugar. Can I find a small bag or weigh out what I need? Not easily.
      We will be on a “use it up” challenge in this house, which may include using some of the items for potlucks, so I don’t have to eat them.
      I just came back from a trip and did what Colleen does. I eliminated clothing and items no longer needed at the end of my vacation. I did a trip that required me to travel with a small back pack for 5 days, so I sent my suitcase from one destination to another. I survived really well with the items I had for those 5 days. I came home with the intention to buy an even smaller suitcase for future travel. My backpacking trips always remind me that I like traveling light. It is so much easier and freeing, it just takes a little more planning. The only items I bought on the vacation were a pair of shoes (out of necessity) and a gift for a friend (consumable).
      Keep up the clutter busting and the posting:)

  13. Hi, Colleen. I really like how you use readers’ comments as a launch pad for blog posts.

    I so agree about having limits for things. There are no stockpiles of junk food at home although we do love ice cream and chocolate. I love a particular brand of ice cream, which I deem “worth the exercise” for the delicious pleasure. I also prefer my salads without the typical dressings, and either have them plain or with lime or lemon juice and pepper. We also decided not to buy a deep-fryer as we wanted to stick to healthy cooking methods at home.

    • Hi Nicole, I am glad you mentioned the deep frier. That is one kitchen gadget that I got rid of many many years ago now. The foods that you cook in them might be delicious but none of it is good for you.

      • One year for Christmas, my MIL gave us a deep fryer and no receipt to return. Hubby was excited, “Now we can make our own fries.” Absolutely not! That sucker went into the donation bin, right quick!

  14. Hi Colleen,

    as I took up baking as a profession (definitely NOT liking all this low-carb-talk – you make me a poor old lady! 😀 ), I do have quite some baking ingredients at hand (though I do bake a lot of whole-grain bread or gluten free sweets as well).
    There are several different flours, nuts etc etc. However, they are used, and I am rather positive that we generally are having a healthy diet, although we do eat carb (we’re also huge rice and potatoe fans here!). We also eat many veggies and fruit.
    In the last month I definitely indulged too often in unhealthy food-choices though. We had fast food-style food (like fries, fried chicken, burgers etc. ) about once to twice a week, which is definitely too often in my opinion! We are eating at home most of the time and we were too lazy for cooking and also somehow craving for that kind of unhealthy food. I should definitely go back to more healthy “fast foods” like veggie soups, salads and so on.

  15. I’m a keen cook, always have been. To cook for family and friends is the ultimate for me. To do so though I maintain a very sparse and organised fridge/freezers/pantry.
    The recent storms that hit the Hunter, Newcastle, Central Coast, Sydney areas wiped out my fridge/freezer stock. Do I really need a deep freezer when there is only 2 of us? For now the freezer in the garage remains off and if we don’t use it in 3 months time we will donate it.

  16. Such a great topic and so many good comments! I think I’ll stick with my motto “everything in moderation”. My husband absolutely loves a fried pork chop, but since decent chops can be a bit pricey I do not buy them often. So when I do it is a huge treat and he is very happy! I still fry chicken occasionally too, but take the skin off first. Both chops and chicken are drained well and patted down to remove excess oil. I really do think it is okay for us to enjoy eating a favorite now and again. I plan out menus so that I can incorporate left overs and our kitchen waste is minimal. I love to feed people and save those times for baking our favorites so there are others to share with! I like to spend the time I am preparing food for others using all my senses…how my kitchen smells…how much I enjoy chopping and sautéing…the texture of breads and density of cheeses…and then the expressions of “oh my gosh it tastes so good!” Like music to my ears! I work full-time and plan out my shopping trips so that I go to two stores and get the best prices on what is needed for the week. Not having to stress over “what will we have for dinner tonight” is a huge help and keeps us away from fast food or consuming junk food for supper. Thanks again for a great topic…happy and healthy eating to all!

  17. I’ll agree with the advice to simplify the pantry, fridge and freezer! I have a very small pantry in my kitchen and everything I use on a regular basis fits easily in my available space. I use as simple ingredients as possible relying on dry beans, whole grains and fresh produce whenever possible, supplementing with some frozen produce. Making my own soy or cashew milk may take a bit more time than buying it pre-made, but this way I have complete control of the ingredients and can make small batches that I’ll use up before they can spoil and only when I need it. Cashew milk is ridiculously easy to make! I also planted a few varieties of berries this year in my backyard so I can grow my own and avoid the higher cost of organic berries – with the added bonus of watching them grow! I’ve actually taken a similar tactic to yours in my baking and no longer keep sugar, chocolate chips, margarine, etc on hand at all times which helps me avoid unplanned baked goods in the house. I love to bake, but am limiting myself to whole grain breads for the most part these days. I even donated half my baking pans last week after sorting and choosing to keep only those I love. A simpler pantry also means less waste since what I have on hand are items I use regularly. The only drawback? I didn’t have much to donate when the post office collected food for the food bank recently!