I love the idea of a well-stocked pantry—a cupboard full of cans and jars, everything at my disposal. But the reality is that I've got cans of beans and vegetables that have been moving apartments with me for the last few years, that I know I will never eat. There is nothing wrong with this food, but for some reason I've decided these items are not worth eating, so I let them sit there, taking up space, feeding no one.

Last weekend, starving, refrigerator empty, but unwilling to leave the apartment on a cold day, my guy and I made a meal from the dusty things dwelling in his cupboard—stewed tomatoes, pinto beans, chipotle adobo peppers, Uncle Ben's rice—and some ugly frozen chicken thighs. It was delicious; I was so proud of our resourcefulness. Thinking smugly about that stew the next day, I suddenly felt sick as I remembered the day two years ago, when, desperately hungry, I made a box of couscous that had been haunting my life and cupboard forever. It tasted terrible, so I checked the box. Expiration date: August 1999. What a waste. The moral: Use it or lose it, preferably at one of our many local food banks. recommended