Kitchen Organization #2: Spice racks: More about vertical space

Spices are weird. They are things that you absolutely need for certain things but usually aren’t things you use every day. In fact you may use a specific spice once or twice a year. Plus, they are strangely expensive, so you don’t want to just throw them out… even though they do lose potency after time. They are also a pretty awkward size/shape if you think about the standard shelf size and depth in most kitchens. Basically they are an organizational nightmare.

Here are some thoughts/tips about organizing spices. 
  • Try not to buy a spice for a recipe that you know you’ll only make once. See if a friend or neighbor can “lend” you a tablespoon. 
  • Consider getting rid of older spices. The conventional wisdom is that spices last about year. I would argue with that. They definitely lose potency but it’s not like they are good one day and bad the next. Just be aware that you may need to adjust and use a bit more in certain applications. Though most ground spices are candidates to be tossed without worry between 3 & 6 years.
  • For applicable spices, consider buying the whole spice instead of the ground spice. You will radically extend the shelf life when you store whole spices. Particularly nutmeg should be kept whole. It starts to loose its “oompf” very quickly. A whole nutmeg will last a very long time and it always at your fingertips with a quick grate on the microplane.* For other spices, like fennel seeds, a cheap coffee grinder will usually do the trick.
  • I really like having all my spices visible so I don’t have to rifle through them and make a mess. Plus as a “lazy” ADHDer, not having to go in and out of a drawer or cabinet is nice.
  • The the plastic shaker top off the bottle if you primarily use the spice for things that require measuring. It’s just another thing to get in your way.
  • Don’t necessarily group them alphabetically. That’s what I did when I first got a “tasteful rotating spice rack.” And, I never cooked with one spice. I’d have four out and then put them back in the wrong spaces and could never find anything. Now I group them by what I use them for: Dried herbs for pasta sauces etc., Baking spices, Pickling spices, Things I use very rarely, Hot spices, etc.

The spice racks are actually screwed to the outside of what was sold as a build in spice rack. (It’s clearly an old ironing board cabinet.) We ended up having to seal it off when we got blow in insulation, but I’ve always had the spice racks on the outside. Just easier.
* Microplane on Amazon:  Don’t get the curved ones. They just leave you with curved nutmeg, cheese, ginger, etc. which ends up wasting the product. 

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