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From bags of bulk spices to a super-organized spice rack

With matching spice bottles and a labeler, I took my spices from disorganized and frustrating to alphabetized and shining. In a fragrant hour or so, you can too.

Before: underused spice shelves and a heap of spices in bags

I have fancy spice racks that pull out on both sides of the stove. But unfortunately, they were just a bit too narrow to hold many common spice jars.

Once I found out what a great bargain bulk spices are, I bought nearly all of my spices in bulk. If I already had a jar that fit my spice rack, I'd fill it from the bulk bag. But for the most part, spices landed in this plastic shoe box that I kept in a drawer next to the stove.

bags of spices purchased in bulk heaped in a shoe box

barely used spice rack disorganized spice rack


What a waste of:

  • Space
  • Time hunting for the spices I needed
  • Money spent on spices I already had but couldn't find

Getting organized

I measured the spice racks carefully. One is slightly narrower than the other. Then I tracked down bottles that would fit. Surprisingly, these terrific spice jars from Crate and Barrel not only got some of the best reviews on the web, they were very reasonably priced at $16 for 8 with free shipping.

wash empty spice jars before filling

I ordered four boxes of jars. They came with labels on the bottom that peeled off very easily and didn't leave gunk behind. (Do peel these off before running the jars through the dishwasher or they will stick.) I ran the jars through the dishwasher and wiped off a little rust on the metal clamps as the reviewers suggested.

empty spice jar and labeler before and after

Then I made labels for all my "keeper" spices using my handy Brother P-Touch 1800 labeler.  Spices that didn't smell flavorful didn't make the cut. I also tossed ingredients I can't imagine using anymore: powdered garlic, garlic salt, and tubes of colored frosting. I did keep some dried basil; it brightens sauces in the winter when fresh basil is often limp and always expensive.

I emptied the spice racks, vacuumed them, and wiped them down with neutral cleaner. While the shelves dried, I arranged the labeled jars in alphabetical order. 

Creating a kitchen that invites others to cook. While arranging the spices, I was tempted to group like with like (Italian, India, baking ... ) rather than just going with alphabetical order. If I was always the only cook in my kitchen, that would have made sense. But I love it when my Taster makes me cookies. Why not encourage him by making it easy to find the cinnamon? And why not make it easy for guests to cook and help clean up?

two spice racks pull out on either side of stove

After: neat rows of spices that invite me and others to cook

See how much more inviting the spices look, from allspice to zatar? Notice that the labels are on the top and the front for easy reading from any angle. Bonus: it's easy to see at a glance what spices are running low. And smelling them all made me want to use some that I bought but then ignored. (Mmmm ... caraway seeds!)

organized spice rack with labeled jars in alphabetical order neat spice rack makes finding spices easy

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