Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Organizing My Spices


You'd think I'm crazy to get this much pleasure out of organizing my spices, but it's true! I'm giddy with satisfaction and pleasure at viewing all the little powders and dried things tucked away, each in their own matching jars. It has been a long time coming.

There are so many ways to handle the kitchen spices. When I was younger, spices mostly came in little tin boxes, red and white with the Schilling brand stamped on them. We had them stacked like tiny books in a lower kitchen cupboard. Their snap tops were plastic and had a scooping side and a shaker side. If you went back a little further in years, the tops were also tin, and they slid back and forth over an oval hole in the top of the can. This more ancient style resided in my grandmother's cupboard, who probably never heard of spices getting old and probably wouldn't have been able to bear to throw them away if she had. The tin boxes were great for keeping light out, good for keeping moisture out and easy to line up on a shelf. It was a drawback to not be able to see how much was left though, or to know what might be inside without actually reading the can.

Eventually, we went to keeping the spices in a shallow drawer, which worked very well. I used that method when I got my own house. Except by now, more and more spices were coming in an assortment of plastic bottles. I bought the bottles based on whether they would fit in my spice drawer. I laid the tall ones down, I Sharpied the names on the red lids of the small bottles and set them upright. Bulk spices started to become available. As I repurposed bottles, I had to cross out one name and write another. It sort of became a jumble with older ingredients at the back of the drawer where they weren't easily in view.

At my new house, I didn't have a drawer I could give over to the spices, so I used a basket in a lower cupboard. Finally, I'd had enough of that pile of old and new mismatched bottles piled up in the plastic basket and started looking for a new way. I looked through Amazon for glass spice bottles. I didn't want the staining and odor retention of plastic anymore.

When I came across Ball brand 4 oz jars with a standard size lid opening, something I had not known existed, I knew I'd found exactly what I wanted! They happened to be available at Walmart, and for only a little more than a dollar a jar. These came with a plastic lid with a snap shaker top incorporated, though I could have gotten some at Target with the regular style lids. The standard lid size was important to me, and I was vindicated when I saw that one of my plastic lids was broken, and I had to dig out a standard canning lid to cap my mulling spices. (I had dropped one of the boxes of four jars and suspect that was when it happened.)


I jumped in all the way and bought over two dozen of them. I wanted enough for all my herbs and spices. And I know where to get more!


These jars stack in my basket perfectly, and I keep them in the lower cupboard where light can't get to them.

I love to use canning jars for lots of things. In all their sizes and shapes they are good for left-overs, making tea, storing pantry ingredients, sending Kefir in someone's lunch kit, and now, finally, a size perfect for spices and herbs!



  1. This is such a great idea! My spices are in the drawer, but I've become sorta unhappy about it - there's just so many more spices that we use than when we were kids and so the drawer just isn't efficient. I have a couple of bulk spices that I keep up with what I think of my "liquid" spices (oils and vinegars etc) . But lately I'm finding that the line between spices, liquid spices, and some ingredients is becoming blurred. For example - sugar in a shaker spice container makes more sense because I use it to season sushi rice or enhance tomatoe sauces - not for measuring out in cups. Vanilla extract is more of a liquid spice. I feel like I need to rethink my entire flavoring organization.

  2. Don't take as long as I did to come up with a great system!