Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Spicy Situation

I have been meaning, for ages and ages, to organize the spices in our kitchen. We'd been storing the spices in one of the cabinets, on the top shelf, with the unfortunate result that it was very hard to find anything. You'd have to pull out a hundred little bottles to find the one you wanted.

And that had the unfortunate result of creating a lot of duplication -- because rather than pulling out all those bottles, Dave would just buy another one.

This came to a head on Thursday night, when I stir-fried some shrimp and wanted to use some of the key-lime spice I bought in Key West years ago. I had to practically empty the cabinet to locate it.

So yesterday morning, I got to work.

A few months ago, when the handyman came to do some minor repairs, he installed a little shelf along the top of the tiles on one of our kitchen walls. (It used to be a gaping open space -- the sad result of someone's home improvement project gone awry.)

I decided to line up our spices along this shelf. If they're more visible, perhaps Dave would be more likely to use them. (I'm sure I would be, though I rarely cook so I don't really have the opportunity.)

I knew from what little rummaging I'd done that we had several jars of some spices. But I didn't see quite how crazy things had become -- we have SIX containers of cinnamon! Three of oregano! Two nutmegs, two chili powders, two ground cloves, two gingers, two paprikas.

Some of those spices definitely came with us when we moved from the USA in 2011. For example, one of the jars of cinnamon is Shop-Rite brand, which is from New Jersey. And the McCormick spices are also all American, I'm pretty sure.

Dave has said we should throw out some of the older spices, but I think they're probably fine. After all, my mom had spices from the 1960s in her cabinets right up until she moved a couple of years ago. (I'm not sure she ever used them, though.)

I did throw away a jar of lemongrass sauce that expired in 2011. I don't think we even bought it -- I think someone gave it to us. And there are limits.


  1. I've had this problem with spices. I am always amazed when I look at the use by dates at how long I've had them. Not sure if they lose some of their efficacy over time?

  2. I have had a crazy left field idea for your spices. It goes like this... no duplicate jars on the little shelf! I know - it sounds mental. But the extra jars could be stored in their familiar cupboard - perhaps in a plastic takeaway box labelled "Duplicate Spices". Have a nice day!

  3. Do yourself and your taste buds a favor and get rid of all but the newest duplicates. Spices are best used when fresher. Just because you CAN keep them for decades, doesn't mean you should. I keep some of my spices in the freezer, especially my pickling ones that I only use year-to-year.

  4. What a timely post.....for me. I just went to my favorite spice store yesterday (Penzeys) and came home with six bottles of a variety of spices which is really sad because they didn't have what I went there for so all of the ones I bought were just impulse buys. I'm kind of in the same boat shelf-wise. I have all these spices on turn tables on the first two shelves of my kitchen cabinet. But, I'm so short that if I really have to dig into the second shelf, it takes a step stool. I really should figure out a different method of all of them.
    I dare anyone who likes to cook to go into a Penzeys store and come out empty handed. ;-)

  5. Sounds like we all have the same problems!

  6. I'm with Ms. Moon on this, I think spices should be tossed (at least a year or two after their Best By dates). We buy our spices in bulk at the co-op, so we buy pretty much what we will use in a couple of months. Then, we go buy more. Although, now that I think of it, the fenugreek we have in the cupboard may be way older than I like.

  7. I'm on your side of the fence - spices can be used for a long time. Or maybe that's only for those of us who have super-sensitive taste buds. We're still using a jug of cinnamon from 2004 and it's fine. Maybe it depends on the spice, though.

    If you get one of those vertical spice racks that rotates, you can pack a lot into a small space. Again, it depends! If your space is short, one of those won't fit.

  8. I'm sure the deep, dark hole of my spice cupboard looks just like that, maybe worse. God, do I need to follow your good example and clean it out! Maybe after the holidays....

  9. can you consolidate the multiple jars if they're all half used? we have a similar situation over here.

  10. I'm with Ms Moon - throw out the duplicates, only save the newest. Those spices in cans, McCormick, et al, are old when you buy them. Freshness really does make a difference in taste. And how much spice do you use at one time anyway?