Spices enhance our food’s taste and aroma, and add zest to our life experience. In this blog, discover how to organize your spice cabinet so that you can enjoy doing more of what you love in life.
My spice cabinet used to be a jumbled mess. If I had to get to that jar that was at the back of the cabinet, I would often knock over the two or three jars standing in front of it.
Secondly, I was buying more spices than I needed to because I couldn’t see all my spices or know that I already had it.
And, third, I was spending more money than I needed to. Spices are expensive, and it’s crazy that I was double-buying these spices that I already had. It was a lose, lose, lose situation, and I knew it was time to re-engineer my spice cabinet.
Save more, enjoy more
Spice cabinet organization makes a kitchen more efficient, since you can see and easily reach all the spices you have. Not only will you save money by not over-buying, but you’ll also delight in the joy of cooking.
With just five simple steps, you can create a spice storage supersystem that brings more joy to your kitchen – and your food. Just think of the delicious meals you are about to prepare!
5 Simple Steps to spice up your life
Much like organizing other storage spaces in your kitchen (which I cover in How to Organize Kitchen Drawers, How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets and How to Organize A Pantry), you’ll start out clearing and sorting spices. Then, spice organizing takes it a few steps further to create a very useful and convenient placement back in your cabinet.
Step 1: Take everything out!
I like to place everything on a large, empty countertop, where I can easily view and re-sort all bottles and containers.
Step 2: Sort & categorize
First, check each bottle for expiration dates, and throw out old spices. Spices don’t last forever. If it’s a whole spice, like a vanilla bean, cloves, or peppercorns – those can last 4 or 5 years. However, the ground spices have a much shorter life span. If you can’t find an expiration date, open it up, take a whiff, and if you still smell something packing a punch – great! – keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it, and treat yourself to a new spice. Replace spices you use often that have expired, and discard those you never use or only used once.
Next, place each bottle into one of six handy categories:
- Salts – We often have many salts that are easier to find in one place, whether it’s a flake or a rock salt, kosher salt, sea salt, or mineral salt.
- Peppers – Different peppers may include whole peppercorns, or grinded peppercorns in their grinder/shaker, as well as various fine-to-medium-ground black, red and white peppers. (not to be confused with cayenne, chili and similar peppers that best fit the savory spices category below)
- Seasoning mixtures – These mixes and rubs enhance soups, meats and fish. Having your Italian and Chinese 5-Spice blends, as well as steak, Cajun, Bay and other seasonings in one place, makes it easier to grab when marinating or finishing a dish.
- Savory spices – Here’s where you place herbs like basil, thyme, and oregano, as well as spices like turmeric, paprika, and chili powder that are used in cooking.
- Sweet spices – These include spices used for baking, such as ginger, allspice, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. You can place baking extracts, like vanilla and almond, here. But, since they are delicate, I separate them out below.
- Extracts – Vanilla, almond and other liquid extracts, when properly stored, can last for many years. It’s important to store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. That means keeping it away from sunlight as well as heat.
Step 3: Select, clean & measure your space
Where to Store Your Spices? When planning where to set up your spice storage, think about two things: proper storage conditions and how you’re going to use your spices.
Heat, humidity, air and sunlight all can break down the potency of spice flavors and aromas and shorten their shelf life. Although salts and some seasonings are more resilient to temperature changes, many spices are not. It’s best to store spices in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing spices in a cupboard directly above a stove or oven. Also, if your kitchen storage is along a wall that gets direct summer sunlight, ensure that the storage is well-insulated all year long.
Next, consider what’s going to work best for you going forward. For example, do you want to store your spices in a cabinet at eye level? In a drawer beneath your favorite counter space? It helps to situate our spices near a counter space where we prepare food. Some prefer spices stored within their kitchen island, where they do a lot of baking and prep cooking. I like to store my spices in a cabinet just to the right of my stove for visibility and easy accessibility. Choose an ideal place that works for your kitchen and cooking flow.
Clean & measure: Once you’ve selected your ideal storage space, grab a wet rag and wipe down your chosen cabinet, pantry shelf or drawer. Next, get a measuring tape, and measure the width, the depth and the height that you are going to allocate to your spices.
Step 4: Choose your spice organizing solution
Now visualize using the space and the organizing solutions that will help you.
If it’s a deep cabinet or a cabinet at eye-level, might a turntable help you access all your spices more easily? If it’s a lower, kitchen island cabinet, sometimes a spice rack can hang nicely on the inside cabinet door. For drawers, its dimensions and depth will help guide you to other, convenient options. Also, consider whether adding a shelf will help narrow the gap between other shelves, or if risers can add stackable shelf space.
With organizing spices, figure out how you’re going to see those spices that are in the back row of a shelf or tucked in a drawer. Here are a few of my favorite solutions:
Three-tiered shelf solution – The perfect organizing solution for being able to view all of your spices on a shelf at once is the three-tiered shelf solution. It’s like viewing a large choir of singers (in this case, your spices!) on multi-leveled risers. When installing the tiered shelf system, it conveniently expands to fit spaces of different sizes. It comes in many colors, such as white, bamboo and acrylic, to match your shelves, drawers and whatever vibe you have going on in your kitchen. Check them out here:
The turntable – There could not be a better invention known to man than the turntable. If you need to reach a spice at the back of that cabinet, simply turn the table around, and it comes right to you. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. They also come in a two-tier variety, which is great for maximizing vertical storage space, and for cabinets that are up high, where you can only reach spices at the front of the shelf.
- Bamboo (single)
- Bamboo (2-tier)
- Stainless Steel (single)
- Stainless Steel (2-tier)
- Acrylic (single)
- Acrylic (2-tier)
Drawer organizers: If your kitchen has a lot of drawers, and you’re able to dedicate the precious real estate of an entire drawer to spices, then go for it. There’s nothing better than to be able to open a drawer and see all those spice labels looking up at you. Here are a few solutions to help you do that:
- Expandable drawer organizers give you flexibility to fit drawers of different sizes. You can also save some space along the side for larger and oddly-shaped bottles and spice packets, while more uniform bottles set neatly in the organizer. Whether you choose an expandable or fixed-size organizer, it’s sloping style props spices up to be easily visible and accessible for grab-and-go use.
- Spice drawer liners are lightweight and customizable to fit the exact size of your drawer with a bed of columns on which to lay your spices. You cut the foam frame to the exact depth and width of your drawer. Then, you have your spices laying there, looking up at you, ready to spice up that next meal.
Ultimately, choose the best solution that removes the hunting and guesswork, and helps you stay focused on enjoying your cooking and entertaining.
Step 5: Put it all back in & organize!
Once you’ve obtained your favorite solution for displaying your spices, we’re ready to start putting those spices back in the cabinet. First, put your storage solution in place, and, if applicable, expand or adjust it to fit the space.
Next, (drumroll please) the exciting moment we’ve been waiting for, set up and implement your organization! Place your spices back in using these three principles:
- Frequency – For items that you’re going to use often, put them front and center so that you can access them. For items that only come out for special occasions, place them higher up and farther back. I place savory spices, which I use often to prepare meals, on my lower shelf. My sweet spices, used only when I bake or for a special breakfast, sit on the upper shelf. Overall, I have more savory spices, so I place the rubs and seasonings that I use on rare occasions at the very top, above the sweet spices. Since I use two-tiered turntables, I place spices that I use less often on the inside, with priority spices on the perimeter. With this set-up, I can always see and access everything, but what I use often is easily within reach.
- Zoning – Placing spices in sections by our pre-defined categories helps narrow your search before you even start looking. In my cabinet, I know where to look for my savory spices vs. my sweet spices, and, if I ever need a dry rub, I know I’ll find it up top.
- Beauty – Now that you’ve thrown out old spices, you’re likely left with a cleaner set of spice containers that you’ve laid out in a way that inspires you. For added beauty, you can decant your spices. Not only does using matching jars and labels offer a uniform style to your spice set-up, it can help keep spices fresher, longer. For decanting tips, watch my video on decanting spices.
With a few simple techniques, it is amazing how much more enjoyment you can get out of your kitchen – and your food! If you’d like to go over these steps and organize your spices with me, check out my video, Spice Cabinet Organization Ideas.
An organized spice cabinet is not only beautiful, but more functional and holds so much potential to bring more spice to your life. Bon appétit!