How To Organize Your Spices

Organizing your spices

 

What is the best way to keep and organize spice containers?  If you’ve bought cream of tarter three different times because you didn’t know you had any from the last time you made a meringue or the time before that from five years back, then organizing your spices in a way where you can easily find what you need, when you need it, will save you time and money.

 

The spice of life

I cook.  I cook A LOT.  By default that means I have a ton of spices and every time I try a new exotic recipe that means I buy another jar of something I’d never heard of.  For me, it’s fun to try new flavors, something that I may have experienced dining out, or a smell that brings memories of a faraway place, or something that I might only use once, but the dish was AMAZING and so worth it!

The downside to having a copious amount of spices is WHERE exactly do I keep them and HOW can I organize them so they’re easily reachable.  I’ve tried baskets and buckets and drawers and cabinets, but something inevitably gets stored way in the back that I forget I have.  Pumpkin spice.  I buy it every couple of years forgetting I already have some. Cream of tartar. The same.  And for some reason, I kept buying celery salt. Who needs 3 jars of marjoram?

Cruising down memory lane, this is the spice rack my mother had hanging on the kitchen wall. We mostly used garlic salt and Italian spices. We had a large family and spaghetti was cost-effective, could be made in large amounts, and would typically provide leftovers (a rare treat for lunch the next day).  Every Sunday throughout my childhood, my stepdad Tom made his version of spaghetti. Tomato-based sauce that simmered all day on the stovetop, filling the house with smells of oregano and garlic.  The recipe changed week to week, depending on what, or how many, vegetables he added and what type of pasta happened to strike his fancy.  For us, and the friends who would join us for Sunday dinner, this pasta and sauce feast (always served with garlic bread) became known as “Tom-Slop”.  Unappealing name, but a weekly meal in our household that brings back happy memories of friends and family coming together to share a meal.  To this day I run across friends from way back who remember Tom Slop Sunday!

The best type of organzing for you

Several things to keep in mind when making the commitment to organize.  And yes, it’s going to be a little bit of a pain to get things the way you want them.  Spring cleaning comes to mind, when you pull everything out, see the disaster you just created, and then having to put it all back.  The best part? The satisfaction and happiness that is all your hard work showing off.

  • Do you cook often, using various spices
  • Are pull-outs an option?
  • Do you purchase spices in jars, bags, in bulk, or large plastic containers?
  • Do you want your spices in a drawer, cabinet, cupboard, or on the counter?

The ABC’s of Organizing

Whichever location you choose, the easiest way to find your spices is to alphabetize them. I purchased a box of 25 glass spice jars from Amazon that came with over 600 labels!  Initially, it takes a little bit of time to move your spices, but well worth it the next time you’re searching for the cumin.  Get the kids involved and it’s a twofer – they practice their alphabet and you end up with an organized cupboard!

If alphabetizing gives you a headache, plan your organizing by the container size, or by how often you use certain spices.  S&P, garlic powder & Italian seasoning may always be in the front to grab easily. And shoved way to the back, you may never see your bottle of juniper berries again, and that’s OK.

Both cupboards on either side of my range hold all the culinary goodness, for easy access while I’m cooking and since I have A LOT of spices to organize, I purchased several items to help make my life easier.  The Container Store has everything anyone with OCD can appreciate and love.  Lazy Susan’s are always your friend and you can never go wrong with tiered step shelves.

My upper cabinets are pretty decent in size, so they hold a lot, but I was having trouble reaching the top shelf.  I installed 2 pull-down spice racks and they’ve made such a difference!  I no longer need a step stool to spice up our meals.  🙂

My other upper cabinet holds “spice-like” things.  Pantry essentials, if you will.  All the oils, kinds of vinegar, pouches, and powders.  I have a large tiered step organizer, clear plastic containers (easy to pull out to find what I need), and a couple of lazy Susan’s.  Nothing gets lost, and it’s a really clean look.  It makes me so happy to open these cupboards. Giddy, really. Because organized spaces make me exceptionally happy.

For me and the number of spices I have, it was critical that I could find what I needed when I needed it.  I kept spending money on things I already had because they were shoved somewhere way back in the cupboard.   When my husband and I moved in together, I purged a lot of what he had (I know spices keep almost forever, but I drew the line at things dated 1997).  After going through what was left, I decided to do a better job organizing it all.  When we designed our Forever Home kitchen from scratch, I made sure I’d have two full cabinets on either side of the range, for easy access.  We looked at putting in an over-the-door spice rack in the pantry but ultimately gave up the cupboard real estate to dedicate it to all the things that keep our meals varied and interesting.  Side note:  The first year my husband and I lived together I never repeated a meal twice!  Yeah…If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!

"Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go."

 

– Erma Bombeck

"Even just a few spices or ethnic condiments that you can keep in your pantry can turn your mundane dishes into a culinary masterpiece."

 

– Marcus Samuelsson

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

 

 Frank Herbert, Dune

“A good spice often deceives us into thinking that someone is a good cook.”

 

Mokokoma Mokhonoana

What spice can’t you live without?  Or what spice do you use regularly that most of us aren’t familiar with?  Are you a crazed spice hoarder like me? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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About The Author

Janet Danelia

Janet lives in Northern California with her husband, Matt. She has had a 20+ year career in the building industry where she developed a love for the alchemy of creating a home. Her favorite things are decorating, DIY projects, gardening, cooking, entertaining, and a love of everything Halloween. She quit her day job to blog and share her passion for all the things that make a House a Home.

HI! I'm Janet Danelia. I love everything having to do with home design (inside & out) and I have yet to meet a DIY project that I wasn't willing to tackle. I'd love to bring you along for the journey, where together we can make any house a HOME!

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