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Sep 22, 2011 08:54 AM

Spice strategy revisited. Spice racks need NOT apply

I asked in this thread how people handled their spices if they did NOT use a spice rack.

That resulted in a gazillion spice rack and spice system construction suggestions.

My Chowhounds said go buy a spice rack . I said NO, NO, NO

I gave my reasons in the above thread. If I can't reuse something and hopefully not buy anything ... I do NOT want it.

Here's my strategy so far combining the FOUR posts that answered the question (so far over 20 did not) .

1. For bagged, bulk spices use an accordion desk file

2. For normal sized jars, put them in a kitchen drawer and slap a label on the top to easily see what is there. Alphabetize.

3. Use a bin for outsized bottles and big bags of things like dried peppers.

I have the file folders, bins and labels. If these don't work, then I can reuse them for other things. I have a foldable bookcase that I use for cookbooks. So the file folders and bins can go on a shelf. The whole thing next to the spice drawer so everything is together.

Another possible option is to use photo boxes instead of a drawer for normal sized spiced jars, then everything could go on the bookshelf. I have photo boxes.

I love that desk file idea. I have one with where you can insert index tabs, so I can write the spice name and alphabetize. If I overflow one folder, I can use another maybe having one folder for savory spices and others for sweet ones.

I can use the original spice jars for the others without having to buy special bottles wich inevitably lose their lids for various reasons.

Maybe this helps clarify what I'm looking for.. Anyway, any other ideas that do NOT involve a spice rack?

And ... if you have a GREAT spice rack, built-tn shelves or other kitchen remodel for spices, you just need to share with Chowhound, I'd ask you please to use this link which is about those.

If it involves a carpenter ... NOT what I'm looking for.

I'd like to keep this thread on topic and on the General Board as this is NOT about cookware. It is the anti-cookware topic. It is about organizing spices with NO cookware (i.e. spice rices).

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  1. I'm going to cut and past a new suggestion by meatn3 here because it really answers this question and provides some new Ideas. I like the binder thing too as that would actually fit in better on my bookshelf than the accordion file. Will need to try both. Here is that suggestion.

    Since you are re-establishing your pantry and prior posts indicate that cooking is not your primary pursuit of happiness, I'm suspecting most of your spices/herbs will be purchased in smallish quantities.

    If so, especially if they are in little zipbags, you might be able to use a loose leaf binder.
    Sheet protectors, zippered pencil bags, pocketed divider pages - all are options that could corral and organize the little bags.

    On the topic of little bags, I have quite a few sizes left from a stint selling gemstones. These are the handiest thing to have around. I use them constantly. Bead shops often sell them by the bundle at a good price.

    I'm glad you posted this. Spice organization is always tricky for me. I find I have to adapt my system to each new kitchen. Right now I'm mainly storing in drawers. I'm moving soon (knock on wood) to a place with few drawers, more cabinets so I'll need to revamp the system again. I'll be following this with interest!

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      If using small ziplock bags, they can be labeled with name and date and tacked by pushpin to the interior side of a cabinet door. Won't work for large quantities, obviously, and for spices like asfoetida that need special handling but otherwise would qualify as dark and orderly.

      We typically have kept one cabinet for spices, teas, and dry ingredients like baking powder. Somehow molasses and honey end up there as well and eventually there is a sticky mess gluing down the giant container of Canadian Steak Seasoning (no idea, this is one of the dangers of living in a household with other adults).

      1. re: BenKarlin

        You know, because I'm renting, I can't put pin holes in the cabinets, but I like this idea and am thinking about an adaptation. I have a corkboard and lots of pins. I could pin the small baggies to that ... alphabetically.

    2. Confusing request, rworange. You "finally" got a house, will be moving stuff out of storage. Sounded long term when I read that. But it's a rental so nothing permanent would work. In your profile (which I was curious about when I saw all the fuss here) you say you "don't cook", that was confusing too. Of course I see now that isn't literal. A system or strategy implies organization, but I think you're saying it doesn't matter if the spices are in 2 or 3 different places. Some in a cupboard, some in a box, some in a drawer, some in a binder, some in a file. That just sounds like a big "area for spices".. you've already got that, no one here can know your kitchen set-up. I simply use half of a cupboard shelf, half alphabetized, mostly memory of what the container looks like. (I call it a "spice cabinet") I think it would be a hassle to get spices into AND out of little plastic bags. Will you remember if the nacho-enhancer is in the file, or in a jar, or in a square tin? No need to own a spice rack, but you'll need a master list of some sort if you have a largeish number of spices to organize. How many containers do you need to keep track of?

      Sorry if I got pulled into the general slightly testy feeling of this thread.

      You want to know how those of us who *don't have spice racks* keep track of spices, right?

      3 Replies
      1. re: BangorDin

        Ok, I was going to report this, but you wrote

        " I simply use half of a cupboard shelf, half-ass alphabetized, mostly memory of what the container looks like"

        Well, wouldn't this topic be a help to you?

        First of all, I'm not re-bagging anything. I'm just labeling an index tab.

        I drop the plastic bag that was provided by the supermarket at the bulk bin into the accordion file folder and write an index tab.

        I've been considering the binder problem you mentioned. While I would just use one of those plastic pencil case inserts for binders and drop the already bagged spice in it, that means buying something and as you point out, might be a PITA to retrieve.

        I could just use binder sheets with pockets, but I am not sure that would fit little spice bags. Since I have lots of binders and binder pockets of this type I might try a few. I liked the book idea.

        How many spices does anyone have at any one time? I would say before I moved I tossed 30 - 40. So trying to remember where each is doesn't require an index. I know what I've bought in bulk (file folder), in a regular jar (spice drawer or photo box) or is over-sized like that huge bottle of pink Himalayan salt or bag of dried chili peppers. They are all in the same area, so if I goof up, I just look in one of the other things at my fingertips.

        How much I cook, my living situation, is pretty much irrlevant. The question is how to organize without a spice rack.

        My experience with Chowhound is that when people get the "why" or other details, rather than answering the question, they try to resolve the other situations which are not relevant.

        I'm looking for a better solution than you currently have ... which is what I've don in the past.

        This thread can be contentious or helpful. I hope it is the latter.

        1. re: rworange

          " I know what I've bought in bulk (file folder), in a regular jar (spice drawer or photo box) or is over-sized like that huge bottle of pink Himalayan salt or bag of dried chili peppers. They are all in the same area, so if I goof up, I just look in one of the other things at my fingertips. "

          OK, now you have a homemade, not decorative, free-form, multi-chambered, (and virtually free) spice rack.

          sorry about the objectional word I removed it.

          1. re: BangorDin

            DIdn't catch the word. Listen you called your kitchen cabinet a spice rack. If you want to call a kitchen drawer a spice rack, cool.

            Obviously the hints that are useful to me are useless to you ... like directing me to spices racks. I am not going to try to convince you of the the beauty of this to me. I am not going to try to foist what may work for me on you. That is the difference.

            I think you are not so unaware as to not understand what I'm asking. I've said it a number of times. There is a difference between buying buttles, buying a unit devoted for a single purposes or doing construction on a kitchen than asking how to organize spices.

            Call it what you will to make yourself happy. I hope you will let the disucssion continue to allow people with ideas along what I'm looking for. ANything else would be an attempt to hijack this thread and not helpful.

            I am not unaware that people in the other thread were tyring to be helpful. However after more than a half dozen responses from me that I didn't want spice rack info, either they weren't paying attention or just didn't care.

      2. I use a photo type box from Ikea and their glass spice bottles with no problems. I'm also not in the same boat as you with 90 spices (I think that's what you posted in your previous link). I love this system. It seems a lot easier and neater for me..

        1 Reply
        1. re: andieb

          I'm just starting over again so I currently have cinnamon. That's it. In the past at most I had 30-40 spices which I had collected over eight years.

          Some of this works metter for me because I'm less likely to toss the little baggy I used once on a whim ... I'm talking to you tarragon. I was just thinki8ng ... not another bag to add to the other mess so I tossed it.

        2. Just to tell you how I store my herbs and spices. No spice racks involved.

          I do have 5 small turntables, however: 4 on 2 shelves above the sink and 1 in a corner of a cabinet over a counter. Each turntable, which I have had for many years BTW, holds similar spices. Over the sink: paprikas and peppers on one, seasoning blends and ethnic spices on another, next spices used in baking, and the last dried herbs. In the cabinet: spices used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. I'm lucky to have a large walk-in pantry where I store my bags of dried chilies in a large straw basket. Everything is labeled appropriately. Everything is behind closed doors, neat and easily accessible. Works for me.

          I re-use glass spice jars of every description when making my own blends and save odd glass jars with their own covers for odds and ends. Never lost a cover because they're stored for later use with their covers as soon as they're washed and dried.

          I just couldn't/wouldn't deal with file folders and plastic bags.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            Ah, turntables, good idea -- a spice rack in the round and moveable to double the space. I have only seen (big) lazy susans -- are yours very small to fit over the sink on shelves?

            1. re: BangorDin

              Hi BangorDin... I would say each turntable is about 6 -7". They probably hold eight 1/2 cup size jars with duplicates in the middle of the circle of jars...IYKWIM. I'll measure the TT when I go downstairs to the kitchen.

              The trick is, of course, to make sure my husband returns the jars to their proper place. Last night I found the Aleppo pepper among the paprikas, At least it was on the same TT... but he's usually more careful. LOL

              1. re: Gio

                Straw baskets ... hmmm that might be so much more attractive than a bin for the over-sized stuff.

                Yeah, I gave the turntable thing a try a few years ago. Like you mention you have to remember to put things back in the right place and there were a number of reasons this never worked for me. That was the step prior to the spice drawer.

                I repurpose spice bottles and little jars as well. In addition to being earth-friendly, if I lose a lid ... doesn't matter. There's always another. Also, I can always find a jar that exactly contains the amount of spice I have.

                1. re: Gio

                  I was way off estimating the size of those lazy-susans... they're 12" in diameter. They each hold 10 -12 spice bottles, some larger than others.

              2. re: Gio

                I use mini zip bags as an alternative to the paper bags supplied at the food co-op where I buy bulk spices. I bring my own so I don't have to deal with the mess of pouring from the paper bags into something else once I get home.

                If it comes in a container, it stays in the container!

                Many of the spices in the ethnic section of the grocery are in plastic bags. Unfortunately they seem to rip and don't reseal. I transfer these to bottles (if I have one) or into the zip bags.

                1. re: meatn3

                  I'm kind of liking that and adapting it to the way I use spices. Someone mentioned craft or jewelry bags.Usually the bags at the bulk store are way bigger than the ounce I'm buying. Still, bringing my own little bag and filling it up directly at the store.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Think that was me on the other thread!

              3. I just revamped my spice cabinet. I don't use spice racks. I do a lot of indian cooking, and buy most of my spices in bulk/bags from the indian store and middle eastern market.

                I use a masala dabba for my commonly used indian spices, like this one. Mine's bigger, and has an all steel lid, no plastic insert:

                For others, I am slowly upgrading to the OXO Pop containers. The small ones are great for spices and the medium ones are good for dried chillis, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, etc. Since they stack, they take up little room, and I can see at a glance what's what.

                For the remainder of the masala dabba spices, I put a rubber band on the bag and put them all into one of the large OXO boxes that sits on my top shelf.