Monday, March 12, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


My mom always had the most disorganized spice cupboard. I am convinced it had (and probably still does) spices from the '70's. She's got at least two of everything. If not five. It's just a hodge-podge of randomness and it brings me anxiety any time I have to rummage through it.

If this sounds like you, it's time to do some spring cleaning. Contrary to popular belief, spices do have a shelf life and even if you possess a perfectly organized kitchen, a twice-yearly reassessment of your seasoning situation is smart.  You'll be amazed at how much faster meal prep goes after doing this.

To streamline your spices, follow these steps and you'll have it done in no time:

1) Gather all herbs and spices in one place. Empty your spice cabinets and spice racks. Grab seasonings from drawers, countertops, the fridge, or wherever else you've got them stashed. Gather everything on a clean table or countertop, so you can see what you've got and start to take stock.

2) Wipe down the cupcoard or drawer with  a warm, soapy rag. And tops of spice bottles/jars.

3) Divide and conquer - my favorite part!! First, get those jars in order. Group/sort cooking spices together, baking together. Next check for freshness. Use your senses: Are colors vibrant, or do herbs and spices look wan and washed out? Do herbs feel brittle and crumbly? Are spices still aromatic? Do the sniff test and if it's lost it's aroma or are expired, get rid of them. Next consolidate if you have open duplicate jars of fresh spices. Salvage the seasonings in near-empty bottles by making impromtu blends. And if you want to be uber organized and make your cabinet fabulously uniform, you can re-fill them into matching glass jars or bottles found at the Container Store and label them. How lovely does that look? This is a project in my next life.

4) Assess what you've got, and what you need. Which herbs and spices do you use most? Did you toss spices you like, and wish you'd used? Are your seasonings in useful form (I once got rid of some ancient ground oregano, because I only used fresh or dried leaves.) Next make a list of what you need. Are there recipes you pass over because you don't have the right seasonings? Have a favorite ethnic cuisine, but lack the spices to make it at home? Add them to your wish list. Not sure what's available, or what to do with certain seasonings? Check out this Herb & Spice Gallery for ideas.

5) Before putting them back, think about your storage needs. Do you want your spices out of sight, or on display? Where do you have room to store all or most of them? Did your old organizing system work or need an overhaul? Start by counting your spices: How many jars need storage? Are they uniformly sized? How many spices are on your wish list? Consider picking an organizer that can handle your collection as it grows. If you don't already have this, dedicate a storage space, and make sure it protects herbs and spices from light and heat (in other words, skip the windowsill or the drawer beneath your cooktop). Measure to make sure the space will hold your spices, and whichever organizer you choose.

6) No two cooks or kitchen are alike, so check out your organizing options. There are so many options and fabulous organizing systems out there now. Magnetic ones. Hanging. Traditional lazy susan or shelf option. I personally like the adjustable behind the door spice rack but my best advice is pick what works and functions best for you!


  1. what kind of jars are featured in the pic?

  2. Do you know where the Spice Rack in the first picture was bought from?