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Sep 20, 2011 11:18 AM

Spice strategy?

I moved out of the country for a time and got rid of almost everything ... especially anything edible.

We FINALLY have a home and I'll be moving the stuff out of storage into our house.

I'm not looking for a spice rack, only a stragegy for storing spices.

I've had all sorts of spice holders/racks over the years and the never worked well ... either they take up too much counter or shelf space ... you have to use specific bottles which eventuall get lost and sort of let the spices go stale. The one consistant on spice racks, etc was they eventually landed in a yard sale.

Buying spice racks is like dating ... fpr the most part they seem great in the beginning ... but get tiresome or have some sort of flaw with familiarity.

To repeat ... I'm not looking for a spice rack. I'm looking for a spice system.

Freeform spice bottles and bags all over ... eh ... kind of too disorganized for me.

I'm sort of thinking of just one of those photo boxes. My last strategy was just devoiting a drawer to spices, but there was always something that didn't fit and other stuff got thrown in.

Any ideas?

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  1. On Good Eats Alton Brown has his spices in tins that stick with velcro to the inside of his cabinets.

    4 Replies
    1. re: zfalcon

      There's a magnetic version of that system here. The tins of spices are on the inside of the doors of the pantry cabinets -- the coolest or at least evenest-temperature part of the kitchen here (on the only wall without a heating line).

      Got the idea from a mention in a 1990s book on chef's kitchens, and must have had plenty of company, because there's a little online business that specializes in it: That's where I got the magnetic strips that glue onto the cabinet doors and hold the tins. [twelve feet of 2-inch strips]. Knowing I needed a lot of tins, got elsewhere online a couple of little cases of square tins [two-inch and 1.5-inch]; so far am using about 25 of each. For labels, I write with a sharpie on a bit of masking tape.

      Backup supplies of some of the spices are in the freezer, in a shallow plastic container that holds labeled & dated plastic zip-lock bags, roughly alphabetically. In theory, there's a sheet somewhere in my kitchen binder that lists what's in there so I don't have to dig it out to see.

      Man, am I glad to be shed of rummaging through shoeboxes of jars... and jars generally.

      There are lots of other ways to rig a magnetic system. A good horizontal solution is a stainless baking sheet or two, on which stick tins [by means of magnetic strips glued to their bases]. It could live in a drawer, or on a shelf [cabinet or open; the tins keep the spices in the dark]. Would be a particularly good solution if the cool & dry conditions wanted for storage are at a distance from the prep area, because you can easily take the whole sheet to the prep area and back to its storage spot.

      1. re: ellabee

        I second - I bought my magnets and tins from them. I got a range of sizes and magnets for I think 18 or 25 spices along with named label stickers.

        I keep them stuck to my fridge. It looks cool and they are in a convenient place in my tiny kitchen. I thought about inside of my cabinets but I wasn't sure if that would hold everything in a place I could reach (I'm pretty short).

        1. re: zaydia

          It is great being able to survey them all at once.

          A note for other interested chowhounds (clearly not the OP): windowed tins are not as good as solid-lidded; the plastic won't stand up to the corrosive effect of some ground spices, and even for whole spices the lids are looser-fitting (a particular issue for vertical setups) and more air-permeable than the solid lids.

          But tins with windows are outstanding as a way to corral tacks, screws, washers, and the gazillion other little hardware/household items that clog drawers and toolboxes. The SO was impressed with the spices-on-doors reorganization, but even more pleased to have the windowed tins left over from my false start...

        2. re: ellabee

          I have a similar set-up but not as formalized. Ikea has magnetic knife racks and metal tins which are a larger size. I have found other smaller tins which are smaller which work out well. I will keep the custom magnetic spice rack in mind for when I buy a home.

      2. I've been using a small desktop filer, with pockets for each letter of the alphabet, for the spices (most of them) that I buy in bags. Every bag is dated w/ purchase date, then filed alphabetically. The stuff in jars (maybe 20 +) are in two places - 10 on a step shelf on my counter (stuff I use all the time, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, pepper, greek seasoning from Penzeys, seasoning salt, etc) the rest are on a shelf.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jeanmarieok

          Oh this is good. Yeah, I'm going to have to seriously condemplate this one. Except for cinamon and the occasional stupidly cheap bottle of spice I come across, I usually buy small quantites in bags. I like the dating ideas also.

          1. re: rworange

            It's not elegant, but it's working for me!!

          2. re: jeanmarieok

            We also buy spices in little bags (from our food coop) and pin them (pins above the twist-tie, of course) to a bulletin board in the kitchen, in alphabetical order. The few items which come in jars are in a traditional cabinet, but are much less overwhelming.

          3. I don't know if this is enough of an improvement on your previous drawer experience, but: I keep a spice drawer if at all possible in the given kitchen, and I make it a wide, shallow drawer. All the spices go into jars of the same size (transferred from their bags, etc. - I'm usually buying spices in bulk), and I stick labels on the jar lids so that when I pull open the drawer, I look down and can easily see the all the labels. I try to keep them in roughly alphabetical order so it's easy to locate one. The strength of a drawer over a rack is that it offers automatic protection from light.

            I've bought good, squat little spice jars that fit well in a drawer inexpensively from Ikea. My mother uses the same strategy, and her spices are all in decades-old small Cara Mia artichoke jars, also squat enough to fit in a shallow drawer.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Yeah, marking the tops is a good thought. THat was one of the fatal flaws of my spice drawer. I had them mostly alpabetic but Had to pull them out to be sure and inevitabley mixed them up.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I use a same system to yours, after redoing the kitchen I devoted one deep drawer to spices which I transfer to 5 oz bottles I picked up at Ikea for $2,99 for 4 and mark on easily removable blue painters tape I put on the tops. The drawer is still deep enough to comfortibly hold some of the larger spice containers too. after a while you sort of instinctively know where everything is and it makes for a seamless system.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  For overflow less-used spices a nice 1950's copper-looking stainless breadbox does the trick for me. It's huge and holds a lot of bottles, has easy access with some step-up inserts, and can be placed in a cooler area away from the stove. Spice aromas stay contained as well.

                  Roam through an antique mall for ideas.


                  I have the SpiceCare system from this company, and I quite like it. I have their original set which included more small jars, so I had to order extra medium and large jars, but their updated set has more of the larger sizes. It is super easy to use and reduces crazy spice jumble in the cupboard for spicy-cooks. I buy most of my spices in packets (like from the Indian grocer) and not usually in those McCormick bottles, so this system is most suitable for me and I would recommend it to other bulk spice/packet spice/ Asian-desi spice type cooks. It takes effort to set up by sticking all of your labels on and pouring your spices in, but after that, it really is an excellent and extremely efficient storage solution. I had a jumble of 99cents store bottles all at one level before that and getting one spice out involved digging. Now I just rotate my lazy susan and unlatch the spice I need, sometimes merely necessitating a move of the lazy susan to the counter top.

                  If you are more of a bottle person, I have seen other spice storage options, like the ones suggested in this thread in CH Cookware:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    Thanks. Been there. Bought it. It didn't work for me. I really don't want a spice rack or similar thingy for all the reasons I mentioned. I've read the cookeware threads on spice racks, etc. I seriously don't want another. Thanks for the thought thogh. This probably worked better than most but like the otheres went to the yard sale.

                  2. I know you say you don't want a spice rack, but my wall-mounted unit has worked for me in
                    three small kitchens, freeing up precious counter and cabinet space. It has a solid door, decorated with a spice chart, so it hides the mishmash of containers I use. Smaller
                    quantities of "bulk" spices can be rolled up right in their plastic bags and slipped into a
                    standard size spice jar. Really big items go into a wire basket on the pantry shelf.

                    Unfortunately, it was a wedding gift more than 40 years ago so I have no idea where
                    it came from or if it's still available but you might be able to find something similar or
                    even "customize" something like a wooden medicine cabinet.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ferventfoodie

                      While I like that idea of the spices rolled up in a bag and put in the jars, another thing is that I've never seen a really attractive spice rack.

                      They just seem kind of corny ... or bulky ... or in the way. And I know people will pull of a gazillion attractive-to-them spice rack photos. But to me ... no. They are just not my thing.

                      I guess the $100+ spice rack that I sold at the yard sale for $2 did it for me. It looked cool at first. It swiviled and twirled and almost danced on the counter. The finish faded. The lids got lost.

                      From the first spice rack I remember my mom getting with her stash of S&H green stamps (it fell abort) to the last expensive gourmet one ... I just don't like spice racks in the long run