10 Tips for Taming Your Spice Cabinet and 5 Reasons Why It's Worth It
1. Pare down! To borrow from the KonMari method...know which spices "give you joy." To put it a different way, know which spices give you meals. If you have a jar of curry spice in the back that you used for one recipe two years when trying to get the [husband][kiddos] to be adventurous, it might be a good idea to keep it in a separate bin or with any other bulk buy items you have. I have trouble throwing away any type of spice that is still good on the off-chance that I will need it someday. Limited space is usually a factor in spice organization, so always make sure you give the prime real estate to the spices you use most.
2. Find a labeling solution that makes you smile! During the throes of nesting instincts while pregnant with my son, I decided to tackle my black-hole of a spice cabinet. I have used a variety of labels for food items over the years, but these are BY FAR my favorite. I love that the labels are washable and easy to use. The chalk marker has not worn off over time. Every time I open my spice cabinet to quickly grab some salt or vanilla, I see my lovely labels and fall in love with them all over again. This may seem like a lot of emotion over a spice cabinet, but well, blame nesting-instinct nostalgia.
3. Try to make EVERYTHING visible! This is a tough one in a lot of respects--especially with space limitations, but it is one of the most important components to a well-organized cabinet. When you can see everything you know approximately how much of a spice you have on hand and exactly where it is at any given moment. When I'm trying to cook with a wild toddler and clingy infant, time management can be the most important component to a successful meal.
4. Limit STACKING! When cooking something like lasagna or a curry where I'm using many different spices for one meal, I like to put all of the spices I need on the counter and return them to the cabinet as I finish with them. Make it easy to take a spice out the of the cabinet and put it back again without having to move too many other things. Limiting stacking means that I can disturb fewer other spices in the process of cooking. It also helps me start remember where each spice jar lives in the cabinet. This process makes clean up a BREEZE, and it ensures that when wild toddler or clingy infant inevitably interrupt meal prep, you won't accidentally double the amount of garlic powder in a dish an wind up with a lasagna that requires four teeth-brushing sessions following consumption.
5. Use glass jars! I love quilted jelly jars because they are about the same size as cans which allows you to use can storage solutions for your spices. In my spice cabinet, I have non-quilted ones because I found the same shape jars on clearance at Target. The quilted ones add an even more polished appearance and also work with the can organizers. I got two different sizes 8 oz and 4 oz and was easily able to fit all of my daily spices onto my organizer.
6. Find a organizer that fits your space! I originally bought two of these shelf style space savers, but the second one just barely (Grr..) did not fit. I ended up using the spare for my oils/cooking liquids cabinet, so it still worked out okay. There are a lot of different options on the web for this, but I love the ones I bought and have no regrets.
7. Be creative with spices that don't easily fit the mold! There are certain spices that don't easily fit with the jar organizing method. Being a Marylander, I cannot bring myself to store Old Bay in anything other than its original packaging--so I have it and some other "blends" and packets on one side of cabinet. This somewhat breaks my rule about stacking, but I can still see almost everything which is the main point. I decided to store my baking powder and vanilla in this cabinet because I had the room, and use those items frequently.
8. Don't skimp on salt! I break my pare down rule when it comes to salt. I like to have table salt in a shaker next to the pepper. (I keep these in my spice cabinet after an unfortunate toddler-related event) I have kosher salt in its original box, Sea Salt in a grinder, table salt in a Morton's-type cylinder, and a small amount of salt in its own jar. I'm sure this make my husband think I'm completely insane or will eventually have a serious blood pressure problem. Truthfully, I do use each of these type of salt regularly when I cook. The salt in the jar is most important when I'm baking because it provides easy access with a measuring spoon.
9. Look for alternatives to buying spices in the "spice section!" I try to buy certain things in larger quantities from Costco and keep the remainder in a plastic bin in the basement. This way I can continue to keep my cabinet organized, but not be forced to by spices in the small jar that tend to be the most expensive. Also, check the international food section of your super market to find significantly cheaper versions of everyday spices. I haven't noticed any difference in quality. Certain stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods also sell spices in bulk which can be very cost-effective.
10. Set aside enough time for this task! Leaving this halfway done will driveyou crazy when you are cooking. Honestly, doing this did not take that long, and I was able to get the bulk of the task done during a long toddler-nap. It is UNBELIEVABLY worth it and has saved me tons of time since.
WHY IS THIS WORTH IT???
1. QUICKER COOKING AND BAKING
2. HELPS YOU STAY ORGANIZED IN THE FUTURE
3. FEWER ERRORS WHILE COOKING
4. PROMOTES BUYING IN BULK
5. MAKES YOU SMILE WHEN YOU OPEN THE CABINET