Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to organize your spices.
When we moved last December, unpacking forced me to start from scratch with spice organization. It was refreshing.
You probably have nothing forcing you to do it right..except a Monday Mission. You know you have to do these, right? Totally required. So clear your kitchen table, and let’s get busy!
This is the final mission for Organizing in October, which I hope has inspired you to make some positive changes in the way your kitchen is set up.
I’ve captured my momentum so well from Andrea‘s visit when she helped me out with the rest of my kitchen organization that I completely finished unpacking and organizing our storage room (a bigger job that you’d think after 10 months living in a house!), and my central work station in the dining room has nearly finished its transformation from a pile of papers to a functional, inviting space.
Can you feel the peacefulness seeping out of my ears?
I know, I know…a Monday Mission on a Tuesday. Yesterday I had to post about that amazing eBook bundle sale!
Start from Scratch – Pull Everything Out!
This is how I started when it was time to organize spices:
It’s a lot easier to do this right if you (1) know what you have, including back up bulk spices, and (2) really commit to the process and let it spread out so you can see everything at once.
I ordered a new spice turner:
and made sure it fit in my cupboard and could turn:
It just barely fits front-to-back! This brand is fine, although everything with moving parts seems so inexpensively made nowadays compared to the old spice turner I have from my childhood.
I put ALL my spices out on the table:
Lots and Lots of Spices
Most likely, the more you cook from scratch, the more you’ll (1) use your spices regularly and (2) accrue a greater variety of spices.
I’m guessing there’s one more spicy trend in your kitchen – you’ve got your favorites, spice jars that get grabbed much more often than others.
My goal in organizing my own spices was to make them easy for me to grab and uber-efficient for baking and cooking tasks.
That meant my system had to:
- Keep everyday items lower and near the location they’ll be needed – stove, baking counter, or staging ground for lunches/meals.
- Incorporate a method to find what I needed – I have alphabetical and categories.
- Include storage for backup spices to refill the main jars.
I began by thinking about categories, since I knew all my spices wouldn’t fit on the same turn table, and they certainly don’t all need to be incredibly accessible.
As I learned when Andrea visited and talked about how she organizes her kitchen, everyone thinks differently. You’re going to have to look at your array of spices, think about the place(s) you want to store them and locations in the kitchen you use them, and figure out your own system.
Mine are like this –
Spices I use often
This pile includes both cooking and baking spices. I considered trying to split up and have cooking spices near the stove and baking spices near my mixer, but there were too many that would cross over anyway: dill, Italian seasoning, ginger, even onion powder, when ‘baking’ tasks include making homemade dressings.
The bulk bags are in this pile because I had a lot of jars that needed to be refilled or topped off while I had everything out. After doing that, the bulk spices go in another category in deeper storage.
spices I store in the refrigerator
I read once that chili powder and dried chilis should be kept in the fridge for best quality, so I do. I used to keep cumin in there as well, but I go through so much of it that I now have a jar of cumin and chili powder in the cupboard and the backups in the fridge.
One shot wonders
This pile includes spices that I use on only one thing, like St. Peter’s spicy fish seasoning or curry powder, as well as stuff I just don’t use often, like citric acid (for cheesemaking) and specialty blends like Jamaican Jerk and Balti.
They are destined for the top shelf of the spice cupboard.
I buy a lot of things in bulk, spices included. These are my backups.
the “I don’t know” pile
I wasn’t sure how space would play out on the new 2-tiered turn table, so I left some “middlers” to be portioned out when I saw what kind of space I had left. This photo appears to include beef bouillon (blue lid), which was thrown away.
Time to Alphabetize!
With this many spices, the only way I’d really be able to find things properly is by alphabetizing. I’d tried this before, but there were too many jars on a little turntable, stacked on top of each other, and too many that I used often mixed in with those I didn’t use often…so they got out of order quickly.
I can honestly say that in 10 months of hardcore cooking, my spices are still in alphabetical order.
Okay, they’re doing really well on the bottom rack, but the little guys on the top could use a bit of attention. I’ll do it this week while you all are clearing your tables!
Here are the “use often” spices, divided into tall and short for the turntable:
See all that stuff behind on the counters? They are clear today! Yesssss!
(Closeup, in case you wonder what I keep on hand…)
So gorgeous, so organized!
If you do put spices in the fridge, they need a small space in the door or a nice box or basket to keep them from rolling/sliding around everywhere in your fridge. Keep them easy to grab!
This was my initial organization of bulk backup spices. I’ve since changed to one small box for little bags and one large box for big bags and try my best to keep them in alphabetical order as well. They are stored in the basement on a shelf.
I’m already planning on Organizing in October being a yearly series, so bulk food storage and stocking up will be a video series next fall! If you’re a member of GNOWFGLINS eCourses, you might want to check out October’s thank you video – it’s step by step everything you need to know to truly purchase and store an entire year’s supply of food, all REAL traditional foods! Wardeh and her family are amazing! The video can be purchased a la carte, too.
One strategy I have tried and failed at is to keep a list of backup spices. I always forget to update it for some reason, so it works better for me to simply write a spice on my shopping list the second I pour off the last granule into the main jar. Then I buy a new backup and all is well.
I wonder if I would do better with something like the pantry list at Plan to Eat – it automatically updates your shopping list when you need something, so I would be hitting two birds with one stone. I think it would be just right if I had a smart phone and could access it that way. I have a dumb phone, so Plan to Eat (and the KS group with 16,000+ recipes!) is better for me as a place to store and find old and new favorite meals.
And last but not least, way up on the top shelf is another little turntable holding my “don’t use very often” spices.
For this place, I really should make a list of what’s up there and tape it to the inside of my cupboard door. The options don’t rotate very frequently, and I’ve had a few times when I was searching all over three different places for something because I couldn’t remember what category it was in.
Breaking the System
For efficiency’s sake, I totally go out of alphabetical order for one special group of spices: the pumpkin pie blends.
Especially this time of year, but really all through the calendar, I make a lot of recipes that call for the same 3-4 spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
- Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
- Grain-free Pumpkin Pancakes
- Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
- Grain-free Pumpkin Muffins (from Healthy Snacks to Go)
After getting them out one by one at least once a week and then taking at least a full minute just to get them back in the “right” place, I realized life would be easier if they lived next to each other like this:
My cinnamon is actually in two places, in a huge container next to this turntable and a small shaker container in our “breakfast cupboard.” (See the video of the breakfast cupboard and more HERE.)
I also discuss how I thought about baking supplies and spices, including the fact that salt, baking powder, and baking soda are also neighbors for the same reason, in the video at the end of the “Top 10 Do it Now Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen” post.
In case you don’t think like me at all – everyone can’t, the world would self-destruct I’m sure – here’s Andrea’s method of Organizing Spices and her Pantry Stockpile (warning! Not real food! *insert evil laugh here* That’s what I get to tackle when the tables are turned and I visit her kitchen!).