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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Sponges

​Plastic storage containers

Chipped cups and bowls​

​Ceramics that just don’t look right

​Old spices

Fresh spices

Old spices

​Herbs

Old herbs

Fresh herbs

Pantry items

​Canning jar lids

Ripped pot holders

​Sieves

​Unused appliances

Rusty pans

Plastic bags

Pickles

Condiment packets

Coffee

Expired OTC Meds

Prescription medications

Mystery bags of frozen food

Old utensils

For many of us, throwing things out seems wasteful. Let's be honest, though. There are some things in your kitchen that need to go. Here's a handy list of things to help you weed out expired products, space wasters and hazards to your health.

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All those little holes in your sponge are great places for bacteria to breed. To kill the bacteria, wet your sponge and put it in the microwave for 2 minutes. If your sponge has bits falling off or has food trapped in the scrubber you just can't get out, then don't bother. It's time to toss it.

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If your plastic containers are warped, then the lids won't seal properly. A poor seal can lead to freezer burn, spills and other problems. Put them in the recycling bin and buy some new containers.

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I know it's hard to let go of your favorite bowl or mug, but if it's chipped, you need to say adios. That broken area can cut your lip or fingers. Plus, if your bowl or cup is an antique, the paint may contain lead. You don't want little flakes of lead in your coffee or cereal.

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While we're talking about lead, take a good look at the old ceramic items in your kitchen. Ceramic bowls or cups that have a corroded glaze (it looks like the paint is coming off) or are covered with a dusty-looking or chalky gray residue after they have been washed may be glazed with lead. The lead can leach into your food, so stop using them ASAP.

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If you don't cook a lot, your spices may be past their prime. The older the seasoning, the less flavor it will give your recipes. The best indication of how good a spice might be is the sniff test. If the spice still smells strong, keep it. If you can hardly smell anything, toss it.

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Fresh spices are also typically vibrant in color and don't stick together in the jar.

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Old spices are often a washed-out color and clump up in the jar due to exposure to humidity.

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Use the sniff test on herbs, too. Also, look for faded or grayish colors, which could be another sign of herbs that are long past their sell-by date.

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For example, these herbs are past their prime. The color looks washed out, yellowed and dingy.

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These herbs, on the other hand, are fresh. They are a darker green and the color is less yellowed and dull.

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While you're clearing out your seasoning rack, head on over to your pantry. Here are 10 pantry items that you should purge.

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Do not reuse canning jar lids for canning. After one use, the seal will no longer work properly. You can use the used lids on items you'll just store in the fridge, but once they're rusty, it's time to toss them in the recycling bin.

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This should be obvious, but I've seen too many people with ripped pot holders in their kitchens. Eventually, these people end up with a nasty burn. Don't be like them! Get some new potholders that will properly protect your digits.

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If your sieves are rusty or have holes, toss them in the recycling. The rust can get into your food, and what's the point of pouring something through a sieve that has a big hole in it? Just let it go.

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It doesn't matter if it was a wedding gift or not. Box up any appliance you haven't used in a year and give it to charity. You'll enjoy the added space in your kitchen and someone else will enjoy your donation.

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Round up your rusty pans and add them to your recycling bin. Rust isn't good for your health, so say goodbye unless they're cast iron. Rusty cast iron can be fixed with these steps.

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No shame here. We all have had piles of plastic shopping bags under our sink. That mass of bags makes a snug home for bugs... and it's just a mess. It's time to put them in the recycling bin and move on to reusable bags.

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Who doesn't have a jar of pickles in the fridge that's been there since 2010? Pickles do go bad, though. Try to find the Use By date on the jar to see if they've expired. If you can't find it, then go by one simple rule: If you can't remember when you bought it, toss it.

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Let's be honest. Do you ever open your condiment packet drawer and get something out of it? If not, it's time to use that drawer for something else. If you do, it still might be time to cull the collection. If the packet is sticky, corroded or discolored, the contents may be expired. Throw it away.

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If you're an infrequent coffee drinker, you probably have a can of grounds or a bag of beans on your shelf that's been there a while. After three to six months coffee goes bad. If you can't remember how old it is, brew a cup. If it doesn't have a strong smell or tastes weak, that means it's old.

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A lot of folks have a cabinet in their kitchen dedicated to storing their medicines. Go through yours and toss anything that's expired. 

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Toss the prescription meds, too. Expired medication may not be as effective and can be potentially dangerous, according to the FDA.

When tossing medicine, check the label to see if there are specific disposal instructions. Also, black out or scratch off personal information on the label. If you live in the States, you can use the US Department of Justice website to find a collection location near you.

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If you don't know what it is or how long it's been there, don't take a chance. Toss it.

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If it's broken, melted a little or rusty, let it go. You'll be so much happier with a new spatula or whisk. 

Caption by / Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET
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