Photo by betsyjean79
In the mad dash to finish packing, make sure nothing is forgotten, and get out the door, it can be easy to overlook some important aspects of travel preparation, including thorough cleaning of your home.
I usually try to thoroughly clean every room before I leave, not only because it’s nice to come back to a clean house after vacation, but also because it allows me to ensure that I haven’t forgotten anything.
If you’re short on time, the one room you should never overlook is the kitchen. Here’s a short list of how I prepare my kitchen before I leave.
1. Plan ahead to avoid leaving a fully stocked freezer behind.
Because I stockpile meat, it’s not uncommon for me to have $40 or $50 worth of food in the freezer at any given time. I don’t like leaving this kind of investment behind when I’m leaving town. If the power went out while we were away, not only would we lose all that meat, but we’d come home to a stinky, unsanitary mess.
To avoid the unthinkable, I spend the weeks leading up to a vacation clearing out my meat stockpile. I stop buying bulk meat for a month or so before vacation, and start using it up in meals. Since we rarely leave town, this is relatively easy for us to do.
2. Clean out the refrigerator before you go.
Try to use as much of your food as possible to avoid waste, and leave your refrigerator free of perishable foods. We usually remove all leftovers and anything that will expire before we return. You don’t want to come home to a smelly refrigerator.
Condiments with a long shelf life like ketchup and mustard are fine to leave. Items like milk, cheese, and eggs should probably go depending on how long you’ll be gone. A power outage may be unlikely, but do you really want to risk having to clean up that kind of mess? Spoiled dairy can leave your refrigerator smelly forever.
3. Don’t leave unsealed food on the counters, in the pantry, or in the sink.
This is particularly important in the warm summer months. When we’re leaving town, we typically shut off the AC so we’re not paying to cool an empty apartment. If you’re going to do this, it’s essential that you completely clear your kitchen of any unsealed food items or fruit to avoid bugs.
Make sure items like sugar are sealed up in airtight containers. If you have open containers of crackers, cookies, bread, or other foods, you should eat them, take them with you, or throw them away before you leave. If it’s sealed airtight, it should be safe. Otherwise, don’t leave it in your kitchen.
Make sure all garbage cans and recycling bins are empty and clean. I also run my garbage disposal one last time and pour some bleach or other cleaning solution down it before I leave. I learned this lesson the hard way in college when I returned home after a weekend away to find a rotten piece of watermelon in the garbage disposal and a kitchen full of fruit flies. We didn’t get rid of them until fall when the weather cooled down. It was a nightmare.
4. Make sure all dishes are clean, dry, and put away.
Dirty dishes, standing water and warm temperatures can lead to mold and bacteria. Not to mention, nobody likes to come home to a sink full of dishes to put away or, worse, wash. I always do one last load of dishes the night before I leave, dry them, and put them away. I wash any last-minute dinner or breakfast dishes by hand, dry and put those away, too. Don’t leave any dishes, dirty or clean, in your dishwasher.
5. Unplug everything but the refrigerator and the oven.
Appliances like toaster ovens, blenders, and stand mixers are not only fire hazards when left plugged in unattended, they also drain extra energy. If you unplug everything before you go, your kitchen will be safer while you’re gone and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a lower electric bill upon your return.