Lifehacker's go-to food writer Mark Bittman offers a list of stale, uninspired (and expensive) pantry items you might think about tossing for fresher cooking this year, and what to replace them with. For example:
OUT Bottled lemon juice.
IN Lemons. Try buying six at a time, then experiment; I never put lemon on something and regret it. (Scramble a couple of eggs in chicken stock, then finish with a lot of lemon, black pepper and dill; call this egg-lemon soup, or avgolemono.) Don't forget the zest: you can grate it and add it to many pan sauces, or hummus and other purées. And don't worry about reamers, squeezers or any of that junk; squeeze from one hand into the other and let your fingers filter out the pips.
All of Bittman's suggestions revolve around the idea of keeping only the true pantry essentials hanging around, and using the inexpensive tools of a home cook (oil, vinegar, onions, garlic, and, most often, your hands) to fill their place. Those in colder climates, of course, can't always depend on a wealth of fresh stuff all year round, but most of the fresher replacements for overpriced kitchen stockers are available to anyone. In general, though, it's a good time to run through and toss the spices and boxes that you can't remember buying; if you re-stock all at once, it's easier to remember when you next need to freshen up. Photo by box of lettuce.