Clean Out Your Pantry

admin November 4, 2011

Image by mullica

If you’re new to real food, you might have a pantry full of stuff that doesn’t really qualify as ” real food.”  It’s time to clean it out so that you can get started on your journey towards healthier foods!

What to Do With The Food

This depends on your food budget and what you can realistically handle.  There are a couple options:

  1. Gather up all the stuff that shouldn’t be there and kind of “set aside,” to be eaten but not replaced
  2. Donate to a food pantry and buy new, healthy foods

Don’t throw the food away.  I hate the idea of anyone eating it because it isn’t healthy, but it’s also wasteful to just throw away when people are starving, too.  Just make sure that you don’t buy more!!

The Clean Out

Okay, we’ll just get down to it.  I’m going to give you a big list of foods to get out of your pantry, as well as what you can replace them with.  This way you’re not left hanging and thinking, “Well, what can I buy and eat?”

  • White flour–> REPLACE with whole grain flour or wheat berries and grind fresh
  • White sugar –> REPLACE with sucanat
  • Honey –> REPLACE with raw honey
  • Maple “syrup” –> REPLACE with real maple syrup
  • Salt –> REPLACE with unrefined sea salt
  • Canned broth –> REPLACE with homemade chicken or beef stock
  • Boxed dinner meals –> REPLACE with brown rice pasta and organic spices
  • Canned soups –> REPLACE with fresh chicken or beef stock, organic vegetables
  • Canned pasta meals –> REPLACE with brown rice pasta, strained tomatoes in glass, organic spices
  • Boxed rice dishes –> REPLACE with brown rice, chicken or beef stock, organic spices
  • Jell-o –> REPLACE with high-quality gelatin and fresh-squeezed or organic fruit juice
  • Crackers –> REPLACE with homemade or organic crackers (with no trans fats or HFCS)
  • Granola bars –> REPLACE with Larabars or homemade granola bars
  • Cold cereal –> REPLACE with rolled oats
  • Microwave popcorn –> REPLACE with organic popping corn, coconut oil
  • Vegetable oil –> REPLACE with extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, pastured lard
  • White bread –> REPLACE with real sourdough or sprouted bread
  • Margarine –> REPLACE with real butter
  • Peanut butter –> REPLACE with natural peanut butter (no hydrogenated oils)
  • Fruit snacks –> REPLACE with dried fruit strips or homemade fruit leather
  • Gravy mixes –> REPLACE with homemade gravy ( recipe to come)
  • Velveeta –> REPLACE with raw cheddar cheese
  • Cornstarch –> REPLACE with arrowroot powder, or organic cornstarch
  • Snack cakes –> REPLACE with homemade muffins
  • Cookies –> REPLACE with homemade cookies
  • Canned vegetables –> REPLACE with frozen veggies
  • Soda — > REPLACE with kombucha or water kefir
  • Ketchup –> REPLACE with ketchup containing sugar instead of HFCS
  • Potato chips –> REPLACE with homemade chips, or chips fried in non-vegetable oil (rare treat)
  • Mayonnaise –> REPLACE with homemade mayonnaise or store-bought not containing soy
  • Sports drinks –> REPLACE with homemade electrolyte drink
  • Juice –> REPLACE with fresh-squeezed juices or herbal teas sweetened lightly with honey
  • Lemonade –> REPLACE with fresh-squeezed
  • Corn chips –> REPLACE with organic, plain corn chips
  • Lunchmeat –> REPLACE with organic no-nitrite meats, or home-sliced meats
  • Canned fruit –> REPLACE with frozen fruit, or canned in juice (not syrup) fruit
  • Salad dressing — REPLACE with homemade dressing, or use oil and vinegar
  • White vinegar –> REPLACE with raw apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Parmesan in a can –> REPLACE with freshly-grated parmesan
  • Baby carrots — REPLACE with whole organic carrots


  • Salsa
  • Baking chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Dried fruit
  • Mustard

How to Do It

Every time you run out of something on the “get rid of this” list, don’t replace it.  Instead, buy something better from the list above.  Choose just a few things to replace at a time or do all the easy things first (like swapping regular corn chips for organic, or regular ketchup for HFCS-free ketchup.  Hunt’s brand is HFCS-free.  And even Walmart has a store brand natural peanut butter now).

Are all of these substitutions “ideal?”  No.  But we’ll get to that much later.  For now, work on doing “better.”  I’ve linked to several brands of foods you can buy, as well as several recipes you can use to make your own at home.

If you have questions about any particular food item, whether you should get rid of it or not, and what to replace it with — ask!

Are you cleaning out your pantry?  What are you going to start with?

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  1. Thanks so much…this series is going to be great. I thought I was doing good replacing white pasta with whole wheat pasta but your list says brown rice pasta…so can you tell me why brown rice pasta is preferable?


  2. This is a great list to help people get started on the switch to real food! Thanks so much for the substitution ideas, too. My husband and I have been taking baby steps to eating better, and we have done some of these exchanges, but not all. It's hard when you are on a tight budget and have little ones in the house! 🙂 But we are trying, bit by bit, and this list is a good reminder of what else we need to work on replacing.


  3. I love the "slow" approach. Often times people go whole hog…..and they go nuts. 🙂

    I'm getting rid of the agave nectar in my cabinet. It's the only thing I have left. I bought it when I first started and was duped into it.


  4. Thank you for such a great list! I have been cleaning out my pantry for awhile now and am improving my family's food choices one item at a time…..eventually it all adds up! It's also nice to see that other people are interested in thier families health too! Keep up the great work….we appreciate it! I am going to try your homemade granola bars! 🙂


  5. This is a great list of easy steps! One question, though. Could you please explain what is wrong with white vinegar?


  6. Hi Tina,

    Brown rice pasta is preferable because brown rice is low in phytates and phytic acid, while wheat is much higher. Since the pasta isn't easy to soak and almost no one does it anyway, it's better to choose pasta that doesn't really "need" to be soaked (and yes, we'll talk about that issue more soon!).

    Hi Kate,

    There's nothing "wrong" with white vinegar, per se, but it doesn't contain any nutrients. It's highly distilled from other vinegars and basically stripped of anything good. The raw ACV or red wine vinegars contain a lot of beneficial properties and more flavor, which is why they're preferred.


  7. Great post! 2 years ago you would have found almost ALL these things in my pantry, but now I only count 7 or 8. It was gradual (and I still haven't given up white pasta!), but now we even make our own bread and our own ketchup! It's amazing how much you can change little by little.


  8. I would say keep your white vinegar – and use it to LITERALLY clean your pantry. It's a great cleaner! I spray it on my countertops (DON'T do this if you have marble though!) I also use it on windows & mirrors instead of the blue "windex" glass cleaner. You can also use it to clean & sanitize your sink drains: simply dump some baking soda in the drain, add white vinegar and watch it foam like crazy as it cleans and absorbs odors. Then just flush the drain with hot water and you are set!


  9. Great list for beginners to print and post as a check-off style list.


  10. Watch the Hunt’s ketchup – not all of it is HFCS free. I was going to buy ketchup the other day and was noticing the label change on the Hunt’s ketchup, so I looked at the ingredient list and guess what was in there HFCS.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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