So, you have just “inherited” a kitchen – now what?

It was the mysterious domain of a partner or parent who did all the cooking. Perhaps they didn’t let you into “their” kitchen before and certainly not when they were working the magic that they called cooking. Now it’s all yours and they didn’t leave a “how to” or “why?” food guide.

Priority 1 – Don’t starve to death

There is no point in saying don’t because you are going to do it anyway so – PANIC. Your first priority is to get some food so that that you don’t die of starvation. So look through the recycle bin for a leaflet from a local take-away. Go for a pizza because there are fewer choices than with Indian or Chinese and you don’t need the extra stress of making decisions right now.

While you are waiting for the Pizza to be delivered have a look around, open some cupboards, pick up some strange looking implements, examine some packages of food. Don’t get too involved or it will put you off your Pizza.

Now you know that you won’t starve.

Priority 2 – Don’t poison yourself

The next step is to ensure that you don’t accidentally poison yourself. First find a magnifying glass. Available at Boots and other stores for less than £10. You will need it to read the small print on food product labels – even if you don’t normally need glasses. I can hear you thinking “do I really need to spend up to £10 on this?” YES if you don’t want to poison yourself but there are other reasons that I’ll tell you about in later posts too. So just get one.

Now that you have your first kitchen tool it’s time to use it. Open each cupboard and take out every food item that you have inherited. (Just do one cupboard at a time because this will take longer than you think.) Now use your new kitchen tool to play hunt the “use by” date. It could be on the lid, around the rim, on the bottom of the label, or underneath the packet. It will be small. Some products will not have “use by” dates so put the too hard to find or don’t have use by dates on one side. You should now be convinced that the magnifying glass was a good investment.

You won’t like this but…

Divide the other products into two piles. Those that have not passed their “use by”date and those that have. You will be shocked that your “cook” had so many products past their “use by”date. They knew a lot about what was OK to use past the use by date but you don’t have that knowledge. This is going to be hard so prepare yourself for it. Throw away all the food items that are past their “use by” date. I know that you are thinking what a waste of money it can’t be right to throw this stuff away. It’s hard but you must do it.

Put the stuff that is not out of date back in the cupboards. If your cook isn’t coming back you may want to start grouping certain products together so they are easier for you to find next time. This may become essential because you will have forgotten where they were in first place.

Should it stay or should it go now?

So what about the stuff that you can’t find a “use by” date on? There are three tests available. Look – is it a funny colour, Smell – does it have a smell you don’t like? Final resort: Taste – to be used with care because you most probably don’t know what it’s meant to taste like. This might also apply to look and smell too. If in doubt throw it out.

Oops I almost forgot, go through the same process with things in the fridge. We’ll leave the freezer for another post.

Ok, now you have learnt how not to starve to death or poison yourself – time to look at Pots and pans and things you don’t recognise in your inherited kitchen

This will prepare you for the not insignificant challenge of actually going into a kitchen department on your own and actually buying the right things.