How to Organize Herbs and Spices


Some Spicy Ideas


Last month found me out-of-sorts over being out-of-date.  I am still laughing and showing my friends my 15-year old spices.

When organizing anything, the first step is to clear out the clutter.  In the spice cabinet, that means getting rid of those out-of-date, old, yucky spices.  You would not eat 10-year old food so why would you add 10-year old spices to your pot?  If you missed out on how to detect if you have got some really old spices, check out last month’s column You Couldn’t Possibly Be Outdated. Could You?

Once those old spices are purged, just replace those you actually use.  Now you are ready to come up with a new organizing plan.  Do not plop them back in the same old cabinet to get pushed to the back and disappear. Instead, rethink that kitchen space and see what works for you.


How to Organize Herbs and Spices
Spice Cabinet Before
The use of step-organizers did not help this deep pantry made with shelves that do not move. It was impossible to see the jars in the back. Adding something that pulls out would not help as this shelf is about 5-feet off the ground making the back only accessible by use of a step-stool.
How to Organize Herbs and Spices
Spice Cabinet After
Most often, spices are up high.  But, choosing a low kitchen cabinet can work.  This is the same pantry as above however the lower shelves are pull-outs.  Now, the entire spice shelf comes out for easy access.  Since the cook now looks down on the bottles, adding labels to the tops makes this situation very workable.


Decide Where:

Spices should be easily accessible to the stove yet putting them over the stove is not ideal.  That means stretching over boiling pots or sizzling pans to reach that oregano.  Clearly, the danger involved in that move is not the kind of spice you want to add to your world.

Good options include adjacent cabinets, insides of cabinet doors or pantry door, in drawers and inside something set on the countertop.

Check to see if the space you picked is easily reachable and viewed without climbing up on anything.


Count How Many:

In cute kitchen shops or catalogs, we often see fun spice racks.  Based on the size of those, I have often wondered if normal people only have a dozen spices.  Perhaps, I am the weird one. (Do not ask my kids.  I do not want to know!)  Seriously, who only has 12 spices?  Count your containers.  You do need an idea before you purchase any organizing products.


Divide by Use:

Make storage and use simpler.  Divide by use.  Grab all the baking spices, such as vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, sprinkles and so on.  Put them with your baking supplies.

Do you have dry rubs, barbecue spices, grilling marinades and the like?  Create a container just for your outdoor cuisine.

If you have any spices you identify for special cooking or only for certain ethnic cuisines, separate them into their own basket.  Be sure to label all the containers.

It really is not best to buy in bulk, as spices need to be used when fresh, but if you already own some then they may require a different area.  If you have very large containers, fill a small one to keep with your spices and place the large bulk one in the back of your pantry.


Think About Pros and Cons:

There are multiple options for storing spices.  You can purchase spice racks, turntables, step organizers, drawer organizers, and ones that mount on the inside cabinet or pantry doors.

Spice racks: The pro is that they often look really cool.  The con is they did not hold much, take up counter space and typically you need to refill the special jars.

Turntables:  The pro is that they help you be able to find anything in the back of the cabinet.  The con is it is harder to alphabetize a spinning turntable and some spices do end up in the center of the wheel.

Step organizers:  The pro is that they do help you see items in the back rows.  The con is that it makes you reach even higher to reach the back rows.  You have to maneuver the item over several other rows of small containers so avalanches are a danger.

Drawer organizers:  The pro is that you can see everything easily.  The con is that often drawer space in a kitchen is at a premium.  If the drawer is not needed for other things, then go for it!

Cabinet or Pantry Door Mount: The pro is that the inside of the door is often an unused space.  These are especially handy in a too-small kitchen.  The con is that you must make permanent holes in the cabinet or pantry door.  This is not advised if you are a renter.  In addition, be very careful to not apply enough force in installation to crack the door or drill the screw through the back and out the front of the door face.

Outside the box:  Use something unusual or in a new way.  There are magnetic containers that sometimes are seen holding office supplies like paperclips.  They can stick to the side of your fridge or to a magnetic bulletin board.  The pro is that they are easily seen and in a tiny apartment, they free up cabinets for other things.  Pro is that you must refill the special containers and do your own labeling.  If you have a small child, it would be a tempting, messy toy!


Arranging the Goodies:

Organizing is supposed to make life easier and simpler.  The moment you find something makes you frustrated, it might not be the method right for you.

Alphabetize:  A popular choice – the pro is that you can always find something. The con is you must constantly be vigilant to put things back in the exact right spot.

Organize by use:  Place your daily used spices in the front. Alphabetize the rest.

Or, do as I do.  Just allow the spices to arrange themselves.  The ones I grab the most often naturally end up in the front.  The ones I seldom use naturally work their way to the back. It’s a no-fail method or organization!



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.



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