Outdated Spices



You Could Not Possibly Be Outdated – Could You?


Clearly you must be kidding – I can’t possibly be out-of-date: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 will never allow me to look as if I am wearing a well-sprayed football helmet.  I have 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So how in the world can I be so out of date?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Featuring familiar looking containers, the ads ask if you have any out-of-date spices in your cabinet.  Being the Queen of Purge, I assured myself that I could not possibly have out-of-date spices.

Boy, did I have out-of-date spices.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 is what to look for:

Outdated SpicesThis type of rectangle tin from McCormick, except for black pepper, is over 15 years old.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 did not even know I owned something named Dalmatian Sage Leaves.  My true confession in this case is not too bad.  I love to garden and keep herb containers out-of-doors.  If I want sage, I will 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:

Outdated Spices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 does not bring you that wonderful spicy scent, it is not going to add that wonderful flavor to your dish.


Time to Label:

Outdated Spices

Go green!  Repurpose the expired jars.  Use the clean jars to hold smaller amounts of spices that come are sold in tiny bags that do not 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 will be busy pumping up my Reeboks and learning to do the Macarena.  How dare anyone say I am out-of-date!




Lea SchneiderAuthor 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.



Comments and Reviews

9 Responses to “Outdated Spices”

  1. Mike Evenhouse

    How old is the spice if the logo is green and price is 29 cents?

    • Linda Stradley

      Very definitely old enough to discard.

  2. bri

    While visually distinct and regional, McCormick does still sell Old Bay in the old rectangular tin format as well.

  3. Antoinette Perry

    I have a McCormick bottle of cloves that is a square bottle that is more than 50 years old and it still has the smell of regular cloves it had a red label paper label on it with a red cap and a clear bottle

  4. Rick

    It gets worse. It was actually in 1985, that all the core McCormick spice and herb products were moved to plastic bottles; according to a March 2017 McCormick press release that talked about going to plastic for their pepper.

  5. Dr H

    Y’know, throwing out old spices and buying the smallest sizes is exactly what the spice companies want you to do — makes them plenty of money. Sure, spices do lose potency over time, but let your nose and your tongue be the guide, and not the spice salesman — if the spice still smells good, and still tastes good, why replace it?

    As to McCormick going to all plastic bottles in 1985, nope. May be a regional think, but all the groceries here (Oregon) still carry full sets of McCormick spices in both their regular and “Gourmet” lines, in glass bottles. I know these aren’t old spices because some of them are blends newly released by McCormick, and glass bottles are still featured on their website.

  6. Chelie

    I threw out all the “new” spices in plastic bottles too, I think using plastic is a move in the wrong direction for any spice company. Glass or garden-fresh only for me.

  7. Eric

    Do NOT throw out your old spice jars. There is quite a collectors market for these bottles especially if the spices are in a sealed bottle. An empty green mccormick bottle with a gold band will easily sell for $5.00 on ebay. Multiply that by all the old jars in you cabinet and you can pick up some quick cash. I agree don’t use the old spices. Empty the bottle let it completely dry and refill it with new spices. These look very attractive in an old wooden spice rack.

  8. Victoria Wall

    Thank you Eric for calling out the value of these jars~ Bravo!!


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