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Spice Cabinet Mayhem

My spice cabinet is out of control! What started as a corner of a cupboard has grown to ridiculous proportions, with spices taking over two shelves and overflowing onto the counter. They're a major PITA to search through.

I've researched spice rack ideas, but none seem large enough to hold the entire thing. Do any of you with unwieldy spice collections have a solution? This is an intense situation, so no option will go unconsidered.

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  1. I use about 4 of these Rubbermaid turntables - 3 singles and 1 double, as in this picture:

    http://www.rubbermaid.com/rubbermaid/...

    And I'm still overflowing onto my counter next to my microwave. I blame it on Penzey's opening a store near me. :-) Anyway - I then (very roughly) alpha-sort the spices and herbs.

    Other options: A drawer spice organizer:

    http://www.organizeit-online.com/imag...

    as well as many other ways to organize: http://www.organizeit-online.com/kitc...

    and http://www.containerstore.com/browse/...

    The wall/door mount versions are good if you have the appropriate space - such as a closet pantry door.

    ETA: I wanted to note that several of the turntables I use are for larger items - iodized salt, peppercorn bottles, molasses, corn syrup, some baking goods, etc. So not all are used for spices. I just keep all similar items in one cabinet.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Thanks! I've seen a lot of those, but some are new, too. I'll check them out.

    2. You should probably toss half of them out, I did. Some of the ones I tossed were pre 1980, no good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        Most of these are less than a year old...

      2. I used to have the same problem, I love herbs and spices. Once it got out of hand though I asked myself if I really needed all that stuff. I decided to keep it simple and buy in small quantities only what I needed for what I was planning to cook. I think this simple change made me a better cook. I no longer have a large inventory of spices and herbs on the shelf losing flavor by the day, but have fresh potent ones that are a joy to use.

        This approach may not work for everyone, but for me it works very well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Greyghost

          I wish there was a nice spice shop nearby, but around here there are mostly grocery stores selling by the bottle. I'd kill to be able to visit a spice shop everyday when I buy fresh food for dinner. :)

          1. re: morphone

            Do you have food co-ops? I find the freshness of herbs and spices at our local (Twin Cities) co-ops to be even better than Penzey's. Granted, there is not quite the variety of Penzey's but everything I purchase is far fresher thanks to high turnover. For some things I have to go to Penzey's (true Bay leaves for instance), but it irks me that so much of what I buy there goes to waste due to the quantity I have to purchase.

        2. Instead of having a spice cabinet, have a spice drawer. If you have an IKEA nearby, you can get drawer liners that keep the jars in place, and can even be stacked so you can store twice as many jars.

          What I find works better is to store the jars upright in the drawer with a label on the lid saying what it is and when I bought it (so I know when something should have been tossed two years ago).

          1. I hear you. My collection is taking over, as well. While I hope to find a solution to hold all of them, for now I have them grouped, which helps on the finding.

            The spices I use mostly for baking are on a carousel spice rack (gift from a friend). It holds 9 or so bottles; I use it for ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, lavendar, etc.)

            Indian spices Itumeric, garam masala, whole cinnmon, cardamom, coriander) are in baggies (i get them mostly at bilk places), but they are stuck together in one bin, so I usually pull out the whole thing (in an old fruit quart container) when I cook Indian.

            There's a similar setup for Asian spices like szechaun peppersorns and star anise.

            The other spices are on 2 turntables--one has stuff I use a lot, like herbes de provence and oregano. The other, higher up and less convenient, has stuff I don't use as much such as "singapore seasoning" and caraway seeds.

            It's not perfect, but I found organizing by type makes it easier for me to recall where the spices are. What I would like would be something like a mini card catalog to hold and organize them all.

            A friend of mine has three shelves of spices, she has each shelf as part if the alphabet, i.e. A-H for the top shelf.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dct

              That's not a bad idea - packing them in also keeps an minimal amount of air in the bags. I do like keeping them in glass though... why does this have to be so complicated? *whine* ;)

              1. re: dct

                I like your idea of separating the spices into their respective groups and I'm thinking of adopting it for my kitchen as I do a lot of Asian styles as well as French and Mediterranean. One question - do you find that this method causes any sort of transfer of flavour or aroma between spices? I am guess not, if they are in bags. Mine have always been in glass jars which take up much more room. Have you had any difficulty with any transfer or do you find the bags are enough protection? Thanks!

              2. Check out www.tablefare.com - friends of mine think they have invented the best spice storage ever, I haven't actually tried it buy maybe they are onto something.

                2 Replies
                1. re: babette feasts

                  That's a very cool idea! Not sure how I feel about plastic, though. Hrmm, might be a good tradeoff.

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    This looks like a nice system, but doesn't seem to be available anywhere yet.

                  2. Seconding one of LindaWhit's suggestions above. We struggled with this problem for years. Finally.......... a solution that worked.

                    Elpha makes a system (linked at http://www.containerstore.com/browse/... ) that was perfect for us.

                    A center-mounted bracket mounts vertically on the inside of any door think enough to take the screws (they come in longer lengths, but we were able to cut one down to size and make it work with wood blocks). There are six different basket sizes that attach to the bracket. Great quality, easy to install. The only issue is you need enough space when the door is closed so the racks fit. We spaced them in between shelves and pushed back items that would be in the way (no problem as the racks opened up tons of space in our crowded pantry where the shelves came all the way to the front). Eeven easierl on a standard closet door (hall closet, broom closet,etc.).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Midlife

                      I have some of those Elfa things as well - one is in our front hall closet, but several baskets are full of spices etc. that I don't use so often. I did discover that our doors are "deeper" (?) than most, so I had to get a "commercial" hook - but they had them.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        I had something similar to this when I lived in NJ - LOVED it - the pantry closet was nice and deep, and allowed canned goods and boxed goods to be stored there, along with larger spice/herb jars. I would dearly love something like this again if I ever move.

                      2. Spices/herbs I use frequently are kept in small quantities in a drawer away from heat and light. Larger quantities plus rarely used items are kept in the freezer. Not perfect, but at least there's a semblance of control & organization. lol

                        1. I purchased eight narrow shelves from the Container Store and hang them on the back of my kitchen closet, which I use as a pantry. The spices fit well and are in a single layer, so that I can see everything. If you get the kind that has an over the door mount, you will be able to lift off an entire shelf or move them around to accommodate various container hights. I can't believe it took me so many years to figure this one out!

                          1. First thing to do: Go through and chuck out the ones that are out of date, possibly merge duplicates.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Soop

                              I went the Alton Brown route, and store my spices in the small metal tins with the name of the spice and the date I purchased it written on them. AB uses velcro vertically down his shelf. I bought magnetic tins, and hung magnet strips down my shelves and cabinet.

                              1. re: jacobp

                                That's a good idea.

                                As an aside, you've reminded me; when I tossed some out-of-date spices, I kept and washed the jars that could be refilled, and used them to hold spices I get from the market (in plastic bags).

                                I find that if you live close enough, it's better to buy loose spices for things you rarely cook (I buy twice as much, just in case), and buy the big jars for the common things like paprika, chili powder etc.

                            2. Check out this site -- basically will give you an idea how old some of your spices are (I admit that I had some chervil that was made in Baltimore)

                              http://www.mccormick.com/Spices101/Ho...

                              Really like the baskets mounted to the back of the closet door. Here's how it works in my pantry.

                               
                              1. I keep my spices in a 3-drawer rolling cart from Target (photo below). The spices themselves are in old jam and peanut butter jars. The tops are labelled so I can look down and see what's what, and I made an alphabetical Master List that shows in which drawer each spice can be found.

                                I'm ecstatically happy with this solution! I roll the cart next to me when I'm cooking. That way the spices are close by, and the cart provides an extra surface for setting down a cookbook or other ingredients. I know the cart isn't stylish, but I think utility is more important than style in a kitchen.

                                 
                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Channa

                                  Hey, that's a great idea! And I can stick it in the closet, where it's cool and dark. SWEET!

                                2. I keep several dozen herbs and spices around, and jars / bottles / tins just take up too much space. I find zip-top sandwich bags to be much more efficient. I put the spices in bags, label the bags, and store them (in alphabetical order) in a box that's designed to hold 4x6 index cards or photos or whatever. The box lives in a cupboard above my prep area.

                                  (Note: I don't know how well this would work with ground spices; the bags might not isolate the flavors well enough. If you grind your own, this shouldn't be much of an issue.)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    You know, I hadn't actually thought to date my spices until you all mentioned it. Totally good call, and a complete "duh" moment.

                                    1. re: morphone

                                      Morphone-- Correct. dates are highly important (and I did not see where Alan said that). If i am at my MIL or SIL house I find that I can dump an entire jar of some of their sketchy spices into a recipe that calls for 1/2 teas. and still not be able to detect its even there! I keep my spices laying flat in a drawer (hopefully lable up) and all spices are date marked with a Sharpie pen when opened. Occasionally I replace anything remaining, after a year. Whole spices are probably OK for another year, but hey, they usually are gone by then.

                                      1. re: JRCann

                                        I didn't say it specifically (I think the response was supposed to be to the thread as a whole, not my post) but yes, dates are important.

                                        Some whole spices will last for years (why did i buy an entire pound of coriander seeds at the Indian market?) Others lose their potency more quickly. When in doubt, toast, grind, and smell. The nose knows.

                                  2. I put the individual spice containers in 2ft x 14in plastic containers that completely occupies a shelf. When I want the 'Indian' spice I just take out the whole plastic container and sort out which ones I want. It is far more convenient than trying to sort through individual tins and packets on a shelf. It is doubly useful because the big container goes on a high shelf that I can't see to the back of.

                                    1. I know the feeling. I have single cabinet dedicated to nothing but herbs and spices.

                                      And don't even get me started on my pantry.

                                      On a positive note, these are the things that make cooking on the fly possible. Just about any cuisine is doable without the need for major shopping except the protein and veg.

                                      1. This is a wonderful spice rack that fits in your cabinet, and everything is at your fingertips. I have the one that holds 18 spices, but now I see that they have a larger one which is even better. https://spicestack.com/index.php

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Mother of four

                                          That looks very interesting. I had to laugh watching the vid since I've had bottles falling all over at times when searching for that one spice. I think I would need a few of the large ones for a total of around $100+ :(

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            I really like mine, and will most likely get another small one, as they can go side by side in a cabinet. I think that they are well worth the price. I also have some magnetic ones that hang on a wall. Trust me, I have far too many spices, but when you need one you need it!!

                                          2. Just another idea... if you (or someone you know) is at all handy. I built this rack with some scrap wood I had. Pretty simple design. I like it b/c everything is accessible and it holds most of the spices I tend to use, as well as many liquids. Easy to see, easy to grab, easy to cook. I know the glass jars aren't recommended these days, but it's an evolution... maybe someday I'll get light-tight metal jars or something. But I cook a lot, so there's pretty quick turnover.

                                             
                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: The Loaf

                                              Will you marry me? ;-)

                                              That is absolutely WONDERFUL! I don't have the space right now, but it's brilliant if you do have the space on a wall away from the heat and light but close to your cooking space. Bravo!

                                            2. I've got two things going because I have a baking area and a basic cooking area.

                                              My baking area has this simple bin that sits on a shelf in the cab over the counter:
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...

                                              My cooking center is more complicated. I've got a nifty pull-out right next to the range. It's fitted with CD storage bins that holds my spices in alpha order. There are 54 jars in the bins. The shelves are labeled with what's in the bins. Miscellaneous things get squeezed in wherever. Large bags of the bulk spices I refill the jars with live in the pantry.
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...

                                              1. I've dedicated 2 kitchen drawers to spices. Most are in the small Penzeys jars and I've written the names on the lids with fine tip silver paint markers for easy ID from above. The drawer holds dozens this way. The second drawer hold the larger jars on their sides. The refill stock is in a cupboard in a plastic container with all the bags in it. Any small spice jars with corresponding bags get x's on their lids.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: kayakado

                                                  I *like* the idea of the "X". I think I'm going to have to adopt that system. Thanks!

                                                2. I keep mine in front-opening dollhouses, which are essentially small cabinets. I built them from kits, and they're roomy (pun!) and fun.

                                                  2 Replies