The kitchen spice situation is often an exotic little island of disorder. Fortunately, it’s one of the organizing tasks that doesn’t require heavy lifting or a lot of emotional decision making. There are some fun ways to manage your collection of these colorful, pungent ingredients. I get a petite thrill every time I open my spice drawer—it’s the jewelry box of the kitchen.
In a drawer: This is my favorite method of organizing spices. I do not use those special drawer inserts that lift up the bottles—they take up too much room. Lay the spice jars down, labels facing up. If you have a lot of spices and need to lay jars on top of one another, I prefer the cylindrical type so that you can spin them to see the label as they will inevitably get jostled out of label up position. This is one of the only instances I choose rounded over squared when it comes to containers.
On a wall: a wall spice rack or magnetized spice containers on the side of the fridge can be a great solution. I’ve had issues with the magnetized containers spilling if the lids don’t seal well. Also, they don’t look as sleek if you label them (part of the appeal is seeing the spice through the clear lid), but this storage method is very handy and a good look for a modern kitchen.
On a shelf: If you store spices on a shelf you will either need a lazy Susan-type holder so that you can spin it to find things in the back or a stair-step style cupboard insert that lifts the spices in the back so that you can see them. Both of these solutions take up a lot of room and yet don’t hold that many spices, so I’m not a fan of this method, but sometimes it’s the only space available.
In a container on a shelf: If you rarely cook, you might stick your few spices in a shoe box size or slightly larger container on a high shelf out of the way. Be sure to label the spices with the date purchased or check to see if they are pre-stamped with an expiration date so that you can refresh them as needed before the holidays or whenever you tend to get cooking.
Spice containers: If you buy your spices from bulk bins you will get them in little bags. I hate these little bags; they are messy to actually use as a spice container and they are sloppy to store. Transfer your bulk spices to jars. I save a few old spice jars (cylindrical glass) for the times I have to buy random spices that are in weird containers. Just make a new label to cover old one on your recycled jar.
I don’t know who thought of packaging organic spices in those teeny green cardboard boxes with the flimsy cellophane bag inside that explodes ground Nutmeg or whatever when you open it, but quel nightmare. I avoid buying them but sometimes it’s the only brand with the spice I’m requiring, so I just immediately transfer whatever contents haven’t exploded onto the counter into a jar.
Grilling rubs and marinating herbs are usually packaged in larger tins, bags and jars, so keep these in a separate location, like on a pantry shelf. Taco seasonings and other mixes packaged in single use bags stay neat and easy to locate if they are containerized in a basket or shoebox size bin in the pantry or a cupboard.
Whatever your storage method, you can organize your spices either alphabetically or by type, which is my new thing. I’m keeping all the green herby things together (like Basil), all the “sweet” spices together (like Cinnamon), all savory/Eastern together (like Turmeric) and all the chiles and peppers together (like Paprika). For me this is an easier way to find the Cardamom when I need it than to look for it between Caraway and Cayenne but more importantly, is a much easier system to maintain.