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You Couldn’t Possibly Be Outdated - Could You?

Author Lea Schneider, a columnist for What’s Cooking America, is a freelance writer and organizational expert whose organizing ideas have been published in many magazines including Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.

Getting organized is all about living simpler and making things easier. The bonus is it often leads to saving money. Lea Schneider's kitchen organizing columns tell you how to organize the many things that relate to kitchens, menus, meals, and special food events.

Check out all of Lea Schneider's helpful home and kitchen columns at Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.

Clearly you must be kidding - I can’t possibly be out-of-date:

While not necessarily a spring chicken, I do try to have my hair in a stylish cut. My hairdresser has promised she’ll never allow me to look as if I am wearing a well-sprayed football helmet.  I’ve shrugged on the latest in boyfriend sweaters, thus labeled and gifted to me by my New York City fashionista daughter. This is the same daughter who purged all the “mom” jeans out of my closet.

So how in the world can I be so out of date?

McCormick, the famous spice company caught me in the act. In ads they have been running in magazines, they ask “Do you know the signs of aging?”

Featuring familiar looking containers, the ads ask if you have any out-of-date spices in your cabinet. Being the Queen of Purge, I assured myself that I couldn’t possibly have out-of-date spices.

Boy, did I have out-of-date spices. I even had dreadfully-old-you-should-be-ashamed spices.

Here’s what to look for:

spice containers

This type of rectangle tin from McCormick, except for black pepper, is over 15 years old. If your McCormick glass jar label reads "Baltimore, Maryland," then the jar is over 15 years old.


Rectangle Metal Canisters:

If you have a McCormick rectangle metal canister, that is ANY spice except black pepper, then it is at least 15 years old, according the McCormick ad.

My sinfully old canister is Cream of Tartar. My true confession is that it is a meringue ingredient, something I have never mastered to my satisfaction, thus the reason behind my ignoring the aging canister of Cream of Tartar.

Glass Bottles:

If you have a glass bottle of McCormick spices and it says “Baltimore, Maryland,” then it is at least 15 years old.

My culprit is sage leaves. Now that I look at the bottle, let me clarify. Mine is Dalmatian Sage Leaves. I didn’t even know I owned something named Dalmatian Sage Leaves. My true confession in this case isn’t too bad. I love to garden and keep herb containers out-of-doors. If I want sage, I’ll grab fresh. That old sage? It is so old it pre-dates my interest in gardening!


Time to head to the spice cabinet for some organizing:

making a list of spices

As you weed out old spices, make a shopping list. Choose the smallest available spice amount sold so that you can use it up before it expires.

Remove any McCormick rectangle metal tins, except black pepper. All of those are at least 15 years old.

Remove any McCormick bottles that read “Baltimore, Maryland.” Those are at least 15 years old.

Examine bottoms of cans and bottles for sell-by dates and use-by dates. If it is past the use-by date, out it goes. If it is past the sell-by date, out it goes if it is over a year old.

Missing dates on cans? Missing labels? Ask yourself what you last made with that spice. If you can’t remember, then out it goes.

Anything in question: Open the container and smell the spice. See if it smells and looks fresh. If it doesn’t bring you that wonderful spicy scent, it isn’t going to add that wonderful flavor to your dish.

Time to Label:

labeling spice containers

Go green! Repurpose the expired jars. Use the clean jars to hold smaller amounts of spices that come are sold in tiny bags that don't seal. Label and add a date.

For the spices that you keep, grab a permanent marker and label them on the top 2/08. This will make it really easy the next time you clean the spice cabinet. Keep the marker in the spice cabinet to mark new purchases.

When replacing spices, you should buy the very tiniest of containers available. Unless it is something you use daily, like salt and black pepper, then you might not use it up while it is fresh and flavorful.

Next month, this organizing column will look at ways to organize those spices you do wish to keep. Until then, I’ll be busy pumping up my Reeboks and learning to do the Macarena. How dare anyone say I’m out-of-date!

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