How We Saved Money Spring Cleaning Our Kitchen

This couple cleaned up their kitchen and it paid off.

When we learned we were expecting a baby, my husband and I set about preparing our home, focusing first on outfitting our nursery, baby-proofing our living spaces and gathering all the tools, toys and equipment the experts said we would need. It turns out babies require a lot of stuff — go figure. Once we got that under control, there was another, perhaps less obvious room to tackle in preparation for parenthood: our kitchen.

Though our baby won’t be eating solid food for at least six months, our kitchen needs were about to intensify for a variety of reasons:

  • Babies are expensive, and we would be on a tighter budget, therefore needing to skip the takeout and eat in more often.
  • We would be extra tired and stressed and would need to have a well-stocked, well-outfitted kitchen to keep things as simple and easy as possible.
  • Friends and relatives would be stopping by to help with cooking, and having our kitchen setup be friendly and welcoming to them would make things easier for everyone.

Click to read more about how to feed your newborn without going broke.

These upcoming changes prompted me to take a deep dive into our little apartment kitchen and do as much as possible to get it ready. As I did so, I realized that the face-lift treatment I was giving it was not only a great idea for those about to have a baby, but for anyone who wants to set their kitchen up to save themselves time, energy, and money on food — and who doesn’t want to do that?

Throw Away Old Food

The first step in improving your kitchen is to get rid of anything that isn’t good anymore. This is often more obvious in the refrigerator, but dry goods and pantry items can often lurk in the corners of our cabinets for years, going bad and taking up space, before they get the boot. Go through it all and get rid of anything that has expired. Spices that are more than a year old should also be thrown out and replaced.

Replace Items That Don’t Work or You Don’t Use

The goal is to have everything in your kitchen be functional and purposeful, so take a comprehensive inventory of your cookware, and say goodbye to anything that isn’t useful. Discard anything that is broken, and sell or donate anything that you don’t use. Remember, most single-use tools like banana slicers and apple corers can easily be replaced by a good knife.

Stock Your Pantry

Make sure your pantry or cupboards are stocked with the nonperishable items you use most. Here’s a list of my pantry regulars.

  • unbleached all-purpose flour
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable or coconut oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper (ideally in a grinder)
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • white granulated sugar
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • assorted vinegars (balsamic, rice, sherry)
  • nut butters (almond and peanut)
  • mayonnaise
  • whole heads of garlic
  • dried pasta
  • cooking grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley)
  • dried beans (pinto, white, black)
  • coffee
  • assorted teas

More on Setting Your Family Up for Success: Best and Worst States for Families to Live a Richer Life

Make Friends With the Bulk Section

Not only are the foods sold in the bulk section significantly cheaper than their packaged counterparts (since with bulk goods, you are only paying for the product, not the packaging), but they’re also a great way to save money whether you need a lot or a little of a product. When you’re buying in larger quantities, it makes sense to buy in bulk, but the less-obvious money-saving attribute of bulk shopping is when you need just a little bit of something, you don’t have to waste money on an overpriced, smaller version of the item.

Commit to Grocery Shopping in Smaller Increments More Frequently

Though grocery shopping more often might seem antithetical to the idea of saving money, I promise you that shopping more frequently in smaller increments is an excellent way to save cash. When you shop for less food at a time, you are much less likely to over-purchase perishable food, which runs the risk of going bad before you use it. There’s nothing sadder than discovering rotten, untouched lettuce in your crisper or moldy, uneaten cheese in your deli drawer — you might as well have thrown your hard-earned dollars directly into the compost bin. Shopping in small increments makes it much more likely that you’ll actually eat what you buy, thereby lowering your overall grocery bill.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Since giving my kitchen the deep clean-out treatment, I’m finding that cooking is even more enjoyable than it was before, since the space is no longer crowded with items I don’t use, and my pantry and refrigerator only contain fresh, ready-to-eat foods. This makes it so much easier to pass up ordering dinner in favor of making something simple and tasty from scratch. All said, it’s a major kitchen win.

Click to read more about how one couple used credit card rewards to overhaul their kitchen.