How to Store and Organize Your Herbs and Spices

posted by Andrea | 02/22/2011

My friend Kim of Art of Domestic Living sent me an email {several months ago} asking about good ideas for storing and organizing spices. She said… “I have been thinking about organizing my spices, can you give me a few ideas?”

I responded to her email with a few ideas… but I figured you might be interested as well.

How I Organize My Herbs and Spices:.

  • I have 2 small drawers, one for savory and one for sweet
  • I store them in the plastic/glass bottles they come in
  • I label the tops of the bottles so I know what they are — I keep them in semi-alphabetical order
  • If my spices don’t come in bottles, I buy these bottles from Bed Bath and Beyond

Here are a Few Other Ideas:

1. Square Tins  – Paper Mart

2. Turntables — Bed, Bath, and Beyond

3. Spice Shelf — Bed, Bath, and Beyond

4. Over the door Shoe Organizer — Target {hang on your pantry door and put spices in the pockets — I did this at our old house}

Before I go any further, I wanted to take 5 seconds to educate you on the difference between herbs and spices. I think it’s important to know…but if you aren’t interested, just skip down to the next heading :)

The Difference Between Herbs and Spices:

photo source

Do you use the terms “herbs” and “spices” interchangeably? I often catch myself mixing the two thing up! However, herbs and spices are completely different.

Herbs come from leaves and bulbs.

Spices come from from roots, flowers, and seeds.

Take cilantro and coriander as an example. They both come from the same plant but Cilantro {herb} is the leaf and Coriander {spice} is the seed.

Check out this website for more information about herbs and spices.

And now…the rest of the  post.

Storing Herbs and Spices:

photo source

Sometimes, I think  we can get so carried away with cute spice racks and fun organizing tools that we overlook the proper way to store our herbs and spices.

And since herbs and spices can be quite pricey, I try to keep mine fresh for as long as possible.

The best way to store your herbs and spices is in air-tight containers, away from direct light and heat. This means they should NOT be sitting out on your counter and they should NOT be near your stove.

It’s also best if they are not subject to fluctuating temperatures {like taking them in and out of the freezer}.

The Shelf Life of Herbs and Spices:

photo source

Yes, herbs and spices have a shelf life…but it is only because they lose their flavor over time. You rarely have to worry about herbs and spices “spoiling” or going rancid.

And contrary to the “6-month-rule” I’ve heard my entire life; I did some research and found out that herbs and spices stay fresh for much longer than I thought {if properly stored}.

  • Whole Spices — up to four years
  • Ground Spices — two – three years
  • Dried Herbs — one – three years

You can test your herbs and spices by crushing them between your fingers. If they still have a strong aroma, they are most likely fresh enough.

Now, aren’t you glad you kept reading!

How do you store and organize your spices?

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24 comments

  1. Kristen @ JoyfullyThriving

    02/22/2011

    I’ve started storing my spices in a drawer, too. I also leave all my spices in the jars in which I buy them. Recently, I’ve started buying my spices from a local Amish bulk store (obviously, it’s a perk of small town life in Indiana). It’s great because all the spices are much more reasonably priced than the grocery store, plus they are fresh and organic for amazing prices! Those circular containers stack great in my spice drawer, too.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Kristen,
    In our old house, our drawers were too shallow…so I couldn’t use drawers. So even though our “new” kitchen is pretty ugly, it does have deep drawers to accommodate my spices!!
    And if Amish spices are as good as their bred…I need to try them!

    [Reply]

    Kristen @ JoyfullyThriving Reply:

    My drawer is very shallow, but I’m trying to make it work! With a small gallery kitchen, every inch counts! And yes, Amish spices are great. When I can get a full 8 oz container of organic, fresh oregano for $1.02, I’ll take it!

    [Reply]

  2. Tweets that mention How to Store and Organize Your Herbs and Spices « Simple Organized Living -- Topsy.com

    02/22/2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jen Tankersley, sweetlifeaswife and Sandy Coughlin, Andrea Dekker. Andrea Dekker said: New Post: How to Store and Organize Your Herbs and Spices http://goo.gl/fb/Zqm6S [...]

  3. jodimichelle

    02/22/2011

    This comes at the perfect time! I was just about to spring major bucks on some jars online in order to finally gain control of my spice cabinet! It’s alphabetical but things just run amok in there – bags, jars, some way too big, some too small. Love this idea!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jodi,
    I know my jars could all be uniform and matching…but as long as they are all relatively the same size, I’m happy!

    I’m also super excited that they fit standing up…which saves me TONS of space! yay for ugly kitchens with deep drawers!

    [Reply]

  4. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles

    02/22/2011

    I have 2 wide drawers, not as high as yours, so my jars need to lay down. I have quite alot, and have them arranged alphabetically. It gets a little out of whack at times, but they are always generally in order. Our kitchen is not large, so this has come to be our best option, as I can readily see all the labels. I adore Penzey’s Spices and have been completely converting to that brand over the years. I like to buy in bulk, for cost effectiveness, and keep the bulk bags in a small tote in the pantry.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Brenda, I love Penzey’s Spices too! I got hooked on them a few years ago when i got some for free {big shocker!} Their cinnamon is THE best!

    [Reply]

  5. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead

    02/22/2011

    I have the spices I use most often in a drawer near my stove in little jars I bought at IKEA. It’s my most beloved space in my kitchen. Alphabetized with little labels on them. :)

    You can see a photo of them here: http://www.noordinaryhomestead.com/2010/08/capturing-the-kitchen-2.html

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Oh my word…your spices are SO organized — and pretty! They put my drawer of mis-matched spice bottles to shame!

    Thanks for sharing :)

    [Reply]

    Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead Reply:

    It’s one of my Monica traits (from Friends). When I’m organized, it’s a full out thing. If only the rest of my house was this nice and neat. ;)

    [Reply]

  6. Megan Camp

    02/22/2011

    I have matching clear glass jars that I used to buy individually at Walmart…can’t find them anymore. I labeled them and line them up alphabetically on a rack in my cupboard. We’re moving and I’m taking the rack with me. I LOVE it! I also have a number of other spices that don’t fit on the door so those are on a tiered rack in the cupboard. I have so many spices that I use frequently that I love the ones that are alphabetized. It definitely saves time hunting through all my spices for the right one. It’s so easy to put them back in the right spot as well.

    [Reply]

  7. Lisa

    02/22/2011

    I have 2 Kitchen ArtAuto Measure Carousel’s for my spices – herbs. I love them! I remember them being about $50 each 15 years ago when I bought them. They keep my cabinet clutter free. And I can just twist the dial to get 1/4t measured doses withour getting out any measuring spoons!

    :)
    Lisa

    [Reply]

  8. Kalyn

    02/22/2011

    I try to get down to Lancaster, PA at least once a year (a fave travel destination) and stock up on spices at a hard-to-find Amish grocery store. They are so cheap!

    [Reply]

  9. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime

    02/22/2011

    As others have mentioned, I buy my spices in bulk as they’re much cheaper that way. I have a spice drawer, too, and I love it! I use the 125 mL Mason jars to store them (they are half the size/height of a jelly jar and would fit in most drawers). Bernardin makes plastic lids for Mason jars, so I bought some of those as they’re a lot easier to get on and off than messing around with the 2-piece canning lids. Then I took my label maker and made labels for each herb/spice, which I put on the top of the lid (like you do) so I can easily see what’s what when I open the drawer. I use tons of herbs & spices when cooking so it saves me a LOT of time having them well organized!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Oh, I love your mason jar idea — and I have loads of those 125 mL jars too!

    Hmm…I feel a new organizing project coming on! Thanks for the inspiration Karen.

    [Reply]

  10. Betsy (Eco-novice)

    02/22/2011

    Your drawer method with labels on the lid is exactly what Cook’s Illustrated recommends. I would do that, if I had more drawers (I have only 3 total — silverware, utensils, measuring stuff). So mine are on the counter, even though they aren’t supposed to be. But it does make it easy to use them, and I go through most of them pretty fast. Thanks for all the great tips in this post — esp. those shelf life stats.

    [Reply]

  11. christi @ grey umbrella

    02/23/2011

    i store mine in a drawer, too, with all the tops labeled. it makes it so easy to grab when i’m cooking and baking. the ones i use the most are up front and the ones i use less often are in the back. i also keep them in a drawer that is accessible from the stove and counter but doesn’t get the heat of the oven and is at waist level so i’m not trying to read the names of them over my head!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like we have exactly the same system! I keep mine in a “waist level” drawer that’s very close to my stove but not too close.

    I do like your idea about keeping the most frequently used spices up front…although I’m not sure I could switch from my alphabetical ways just yet!

    [Reply]

  12. 'Becca

    02/24/2011

    I have stepped shelves exactly like your picture #3. In my cabinet, there’s enough space in front for one more row of bottles, so the front row is the seasonings we use most, and then the others are alphabetical on the steps.

    We shop at a food co-op that has bulk spices and herbs, and the prices are great! Another place to get bargains on some spices is Indian stores: They have half-pound bags of things like curry powder and coriander for a couple of dollars. If it’s too much, split with a friend!

    [Reply]

  13. Melissa

    12/12/2011

    I measured the area between my stove and fridge where I wanted a spice rack to go – couldn’t find one that would fit perfectly, so I built one myself from some cheap pieces of thin wood from Home Depot, stained it dark brown, added a couple pieces of decorative wood trim to pretty it up, and hung it on the wall. I made sure to measure the shelves so they would accommodate my favorite brand of spices – Spice Islands. Love their jars with the pretty labels and brown lids. Most of my spices, I buy Spice Islands unless it’s something I don’t use much of (like turmeric). The smallest shelf at the top holds small spice jars well. For spices I use a lot of regularly (garlic powder, parsley flakes, etc.) I refill the pretty Spice Islands jars using bulk ones purchased from Sam’s Club. I love it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — your spice rack sounds awesome! It sounds like you definitely got JUST what you wanted :)

    [Reply]

  14. pantry cabinet

    03/24/2012

    This comes at the perfect time! I was just about to spring major bucks on some jars online in order to finally gain control of my spice cabinet! It’s alphabetical but things just run amok in there – bags, jars, some way too big, some too small. Love this idea!!

    Original content from Simple Organized Living: http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/22/how-to-store-and-organize-your-herbs-and-spices/#ixzz1q29u43ub
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

    [Reply]

  15. captious

    04/29/2012

    Hi,

    I would love to buy those bed bath & beyond spice jars, but I’m not sure whether they will fit upright in my drawer, which is only 3.65 inches tall. Most spice jars are 3.75 inches tall. The bed bath & beyond website says their jars are 3.5 inches tall, but I’m not sure whether that is with or without the lid. Would you mind measuring one of yours and letting me know the total height?

    Thanks,
    captious

    [Reply]