1. Aspirational Foods
Aspirational foods are foods that you buy with the hope that you'll magically turn into a person you're not. They're baking goods for the person who never bakes. They're gourmet spices for a frozen-food junkie. They're Tibetan goji berries with magical antioxidant qualities when you're fantasizing that one little food can serve all your nutritional needs. I'm all for adventure and experimentation, but if you're never going to canoe down the Rio Grande, there's no point in storing that boat in your garage. And if the goji berry moment has passed? Let it go.
2. Entertainment Foods
You read in some magazine once that every good hostess should always have a few key items on hand for spontaneous entertaining. Then you promptly went out and bought a jar of olives, several boxes of crackers, some quince paste or exotic honey and a few other obscure pantry items. It felt good to know that if you ran into someone on the street you could say, "Come on in for a glass of wine." You were so organized and ready! Yeah, that was four years and two apartments ago, and you've packed up and moved the margarita mix and salt from one pantry to the next. Let's face it, you're either antisocial, or when you entertain you always end up shopping for fresh ingredients. No matter how you slice it, those olives have got to go.
3. Security Foods
Do you eat healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but keep a secret stash of the junk food that you truly love in your pantry? You try to eat well, but sometimes you just want a good old box of macaroni and orange-powdered "cheese." Or a giant bag of potato chips. Maybe it just makes you feel better to know that should you suffer a major craving and require an instant chocolate fix, the pantry has a limitless supply of semisweet chocolate chips that you have no intention of using to make cookies.
You think these foods make you feel more secure—like you don't have to binge because you know you could have them whenever you want. But your mac 'n' cheese is deceiving you. It's not there for a rainy day. It's there to be eaten as dinner. Or a snack. Whenever you're disorganized and prone to reaching for the easiest fix. These aren't security foods. They are naughty foods (if they can even be called food), and they don't belong in your pantry. Bye-bye!
4. Emergency Clutter Foods
Yes, I know all those emergency preparedness checklists that they hand out at your local street fair have lists of all the nonperishable cans and jars of food and water that you should have on hand in case of global thermonuclear war. Here's all I have to say on the matter: Buying emergency foods is like buying insurance—you hope you never have to use them. All of your emergency supplies should be in an out-of-the-way place like the basement, the garage, a storage closet, or the far back of your pantry (if it's particularly large). The only exception to this is if you're organized enough to consume your emergency food supplies over time, rotating in fresher cans and jars. Hats off to you if you're actually pulling that off. You're one in a million. Now that you know how to shop, let's talk about a new way of eating.