tips for tuesday
a spring clean for the spice cabinet

Speaking of spicing things up a bit.....

How's that spice cabinet looking?

Did I hear you groan?

Well, let's work on that.

In my own kitchen, the spice cabinet gets the heaviest traffic of any area, hands-down.  Whether it's an elaborate curry, or a simple bowl of soup, I'm reaching for some kind of something from that magical chest of flavor.

It's got to be mean, clean, lean--you get it.  Efficient.

A few tips to get you on your way to a magical chest of your own--

  • Clean off a big old flat surface, and gather every spice you have.
  • Cull through your jars, envelopes, cans, and packets, and discard out of date, out of flavor, out of oomph.  If you're hoping to give your dish a happy nudge, shouldn't you use spices that will do just that? Crumbly, brittle, faded, scent-less--they all go in the rubbish bin, please.  (Rubbish bin?  Perhaps I need to lay off the Downton Abbey for a while?)

Tip:  If your spice is a little less punchy than when originally purchased, you may save the bits by tossing into a spice blend of your own making, or, if whole, toasting in a dry skillet to release the remaining oils.

  • Found 3 bottles of coriander?  Now is the time to do a little experimenting.  Try your hand at spice blends.  Be sure to jot down what you've combined in case it turns out to be FABULOUS.  Label and date.
  • Consider using uniform bottles, tins, or packets to store spices, labeled and dated, and, if you're as persnickety as I am, either stored alphabetically, or in culinary groups; say all curry ingredients together, all creole favorites together, all curing spices together, etc...

Tip:  Shelf life varies for herbs and spices. According to 

  • Herbs-- 1-3 years; 
  • Ground spices-- 1-2 years; 
  • Whole spices 2-3 years; 
  • Extracts 4 years, except for vanilla which lasts forever; 
  • Seasoning blends 1-2 years. 

  • Store spices away from heat, light, and moisture. While that popular spice rack might be cute, it's not always the best place to store spices, especially if it's posted on the wall close to the stove.  Perhaps those neat magnetic-bottomed tins lined up on the side of the fridge will make a handy, and safe place for storage.  Or a close drawer, which has become a favored spot in my kitchen.  Try out a few schemes for storage and see which works best for you.
  • Consider purchasing small quantities of spices to take up less space, and maintain freshness.  Bulk availability has become more widespread, and you can find whole spices, which can be ground by hand with a mortar and pestle, or with a dedicated spice (or coffee) grinder, for even greater concentration, and conservation, of flavor.
And remember to enter the Cooking Planit Spice Giveaway!  You'll have scads of opportunities to win a comprehensive spice collection valued at over $100.  Read the details, here.


  1. I just wanted to say that YES, Maggies spices actually are in alphabetical order.

    1. And she appreciates it when they stay that way, too! lol

  2. I'm making major changes to my kitchen {major for a renter, anyway} and went through my old spices in December ~ I wish I would have thought to use some for experimenting! What a great idea!

    If you do buy large containers, some ground spices will keep twice as long if frozen in an AIRTIGHT container and fresh herbs can be frozen in butter or oil. {I use an ice cube tray then transfer them to double zipper bags.} I don't know if freezing seeds helps?

    Like you, I'm now keeping my spices in alphabetical order in drawers AWAY from the stove since heat and light make them degrade faster.

    Wonderful post, Maggie! Thank you.

    1. Hey, thanks for dropping by with your tips! I have been pureeing herbs and adding to oil, like pesto, and have been making those compound butters for a while, too. Herbs are so easy to grow here, I even have them in vases all around for air freshening.

      Thanks again for great advice!


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