Almost everybody moves at some point in their lives.
I’ve always been fascinated at how most humans, myself included, adapt our belongings to fill our living spaces. Everyone has a unique threshold for this, of course, but even a functional minimalist is likely to uncover forgotten junk and gems when packing up for a move.
As much of a hassle as moving can be, I’ve always appreciated how the experience of moving challenges me to evaluate which items I value, and those I don’t.
Preening during a move has greater utility than just space saving or exercising personal preference. It can also be a matter of health and hygiene.
Most cooking oils are expensive, and it can feel conflicting to toss out a mostly full bottle(s) you just discovered at the back of a tall cabinet.
Think twice before bringing old oil into a new home. Cooking oil has a shelf life, and it can be dangerous to consume once it has expired.
As an example of this, extra virgin olive oil has up to a 2 year shelf life from the month it was picked and pressed. Once you've opened a new bottle of olive oil, use it within 60 days.
Many people buy a bottle of fancy olive oil, use it sparingly, and then stash it away for a special occasion. Once you open it, the oil will never be as delicious as it is today.
Unfortunately, the downside of old oil isn’t only off-peak flavours. It is unhealthy too. The unsaturated fat in most cooking oils oxidizes with exposure to light, heat and oxygen. Oxidized fats can disrupt cellular function across trillions of cell membranes in the human body.
Pots and Pans
Take stock of your cookware when moving.
Some pots and pans are built for a lifetime, perhaps several lifetimes. For example, our kitchen uses a cast iron fry pan that is a century old and 3 generations deep.
We also use a PTFE-coated nonstick pan periodically, when we’re searching for a fast cleanup. Like most nonstick pans, we are 5 years in and this one is past ready for recycling.
If your cookware is warped, flaking or otherwise not performing properly then perhaps it’s time to trade up. Consider picking up a clad steel cookware set for the replacement. It will last a lifetime like cast iron while being more responsive and lighter weight like nonstick aluminum.
Your cutting boards weren’t meant to last forever.
They pick up nicks and grooves with regular use, and these cavities can become the perfect places for bacteria to grow like E. Coli or salmonella.
Even with regular cleaning, it’s smart to be aware of when a plastic, wood, or glass cutting board is past its prime.
Plastic cutting boards may be the easiest material to clean. You can toss them in the dishwasher. Unfortunately, they also groove out very easily and may require replacement in only a few months.
Wood cutting boards are more limited in how you can clean them, because several common cleaners will damage the wood. Unfortunately, porous wood boards also absorb liquids like juice from meats cut atop them. This means they can become fertile ground for bacteria growth.
Glass cutting boards may be the most durable and easiest to clean, but they will dull your knives quickly. They are also very loud.
Perhaps the best overall solution is to rotate plastic cutting boards for cutting meat, and a wood board for everything else. When the wood becomes cut and grooved, sand it down.
As you might expect, sponges are an incredible collection point for bacteria.
Virtually every person with a kitchen uses a sponge, dish cloth or bristled brush daily. Sponges are typically the most affordable option, and can be durable without disintegrating for much longer than you should actually use them.
Sponges are porous, which makes them effective at their primary job. This material property also creates an environment where liquids and food particles linger. Such an environment is fertile ground for bacteria to grow.
It’s good practice to replace your sponge periodically, with many cleanliness experts recommending as often as once per week. Others say that with an excellent sponge maintenance routine, which is a high bar, that you might consider replacing monthly.
You’ll get no judgement from me if you’re still using a sponge from last year. We’ve probably all been there before, and I certainly have on several occasions.
To level up your sponge cleanliness routine, be sure to rinse and remove any food debris after each use. Wring out the sponge in its entirety, and store in a place where the sponge can easily air dry.
When moving you should always take stock of your spoons, spatulas and other cooking utensils.
Similar to cutting boards - cuts, cracks and crevices can be a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. This is especially true with wooden or silicone spatulas, and any cooking utensils that fasten two materials at a loose or removable joint.
Cracks and joints are typically spaces that handwashing and even dishwashers can’t reach. Old oil and sauces may clog the gaps and become rancid. You can often pick up on this fact with a simple smell test. If something smells “off,” it probably is.
Wooden spoons will collect cuts and cracks, and silicone spatulas will sometimes melt or split. From a pure functionality standpoint it can be helpful to upgrade periodically as well.
If you’re not moving.
Even if you’re not moving, it’s smart to build a kitchen hygiene routine.
Nobody plans to accumulate rancid old oil, or to use a sponge until it has diminished to nearly nothing.
Still, we get busy, life continues to move onward, and one day you may realize that the back row of your cupboard is full of items that expired last year. It happens, and often we only discover when we are packaging up our lives for transit to a new abode.
Taking account of your cooking oil, pots and pans, cutting boards, sponges and spatulas is a great spot to begin. You can start today, and it will probably take less than 10 minutes to familiarize yourself if you need to make any of these changes.
Set a reminder in your calendar or phone to alert you again in 6-months. Make the robots do the work of remembering so you don’t have to.
Healthy living often starts with awareness. You may also find this practice has a positive impact on your health and the evolution of your personal preferences.
Whether you’re moving, or just cleaning up, I hope these tips have helped you find easy actionable ways to get started.
David Lewis is the founder of Kitchen Ambition, a place for home cooking enthusiasts to learn about the best cookware, culinary techniques, and ingredients.