How to Organize Your Spices…the Minimalist Way

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

How to organize your spices is part of our Healthy & Whole series to inspire a lifelong passion for home cooking and a sustainably healthy lifestyle. See the entire series here.

Back in January, we talked in our podcast episode Getting Minimalist in the Kitchen about our spice drawer. The episode focused on keeping only the essentials on hand, in order to stay organized and spend less energy worrying about too much stuff. After all, the minimalist mantra is “I am intentionally trying to live with only the things I really need.

In the episode, we admitted that much as we try to maintain an organized exterior (our kitchen, Exhibit A)…

Our kitchen

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

…inside those drawers it’s a different story (Exhibit B).

Before (January 2016)

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

Literally chaos (and not even the organized kind). Here we are in June, and the bad news is it’s taken us 6 months to take any action on our goal to have an organized “minimalist” spice drawer. But here’s the good news: we (read Alex) took the time to convert our chaos to an organized, minimalist spice drawer (Exhibit C)!

After (June 2016)

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

Just how did we do it? Here are a few tips for how to organize your spices (and purge the ones you don’t need!):

  1. Get motivated! The first step is to decide it’s time. When finding chili powder adds an extra 5 to 7 minutes to a recipe (I know it’s in here somewhere), your spices might be in need of some TLC. Also, you may need a family member or friend to help motivate you, or agree to tackle the project together. I must admit this project wasn’t tops on my priority list, but after Alex completed the transformation, my life has been exponentially better.
  2. Take stock. What spices do you use on a regular basis? Which do you use occasionally but as a special treat, and which do you never use? If you bought a special spice for one recipe and haven’t used it in the last 6 months, changes are won’t in the next 6 months.
  3. Purge. The shelf life of most spices is 8 months to 1 year (see this graphic for more), after which they start to lose their flavor and potency. Along with some very ancient spices, you may have one-offs you’ve never used (as mentioned above), or duplicates or triplicates of the same spice. Trash everything but the newest essentials. Just do it: your kitchen will thank you.
  4. Organize the survivors. We removed almost all of our spices from their original containers and repacked them into glass containers with tight lids (we purchased these containers; small canning jars also work and are a cheaper option). The only spices we kept in their original jars were specialty spices: for example, a specific type of curry powder. Clearly label the jars with their contents (and make sure to put back the tops on the correct jars!).
  5. Repack the minimalist way. Place the new beautiful spices jars into your space in the organized fashion of your choice, making sure that the most used spices are as accessible as possible. We have a large drawer set aside for spices, and the new spices fit the space perfectly. If you’re using a cabinet, consider using a lazy susan or small trays for easy storage.

Wondering what the most used spices are in our drawer?

  1. Cumin
  2. Smoked Paprika
  3. Garlic Powder
  4. Chili Powder
  5. Oregano
  6. Coriander
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Cardamom
  9. Turmeric
  10. Paprika
  11. Black Pepper
  12. Ginger
  13. Thyme
  14. Basil
  15. Chipotle Powder

Are your spices in need of organization? Let us know if this helps give you the motivation you need! What are your favorite spices? We’d love to hear.

*Don’t forget to listen to Getting Minimalist in the Kitchenwhere we also speak fellow minimalist The Faux Martha to hear all her tips on minimalist cooking and living.

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

10 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachel Kromdijk
    June 30, 2016 at 2:19 am

    That is very handy!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    June 30, 2016 at 2:33 am

    Love this. Where we live now we have a built-in vertical spice rack/mini pantry just below the stove. It’s awesome. The Swiss are organized. ;-) We will not have this when we move, obvs. So I’ll need to use your tips to figure out a good solution.

  • Reply
    Jessie | Kitschen Cat
    June 30, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Great motivation. I actually did an overhaul a few weeks ago and it seems like a small fix, but it really does help your cooking move along much more smoothly! :)

  • Reply
    Kari
    June 30, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I’ve totally tried this but then I am just left with a bunch of half empty remaining jars because they are all different sizes.
    Kari
    http://sweetteasweetie.com/fresh-mozzarella-cucumber-quinoa-salad/

  • Reply
    ayu
    July 1, 2016 at 3:35 am

    i love this, your article is very clean an i like that

  • Reply
    Allyson
    July 1, 2016 at 10:37 am

    We buy most of our spices in bulk, so they come in tiny bags. I’ve found it easiest to alphabetize the bags and keep everything in a small drawer. It’s not very pretty, but it works.

  • Reply
    Sara @ Cake Over Steak
    July 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve been meaning to do this! Actually, I’ve been meaning to approach my whole apartment in this way, but one step at a time. For those of us who are ball jar loyalists, I’ve been planning to grab myself a pack of these special lids they make specifically for herbs/spices:

    https://www.amazon.com/Ball-Herb-Shaker-Lids-Plastic/dp/B00LS9J5EY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1467824160&sr=8-2&keywords=ball+jar+spice+lid

  • Reply
    Denise J
    January 7, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Hi:
    Very helpful!
    My spices are in definite need of attention, ASAP. ;-)
    I love all spices in your list, but #2 and #9 are the same – paprika ……
    What spice is missing?
    Looking forward to your book!
    Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 14, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Great catch — haha! Just an accidental duplication. We’ve updated this accordingly…and added dried basil :) THANKS!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 14, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      And thank you for the kind comment about the book! Can’t wait to get it in your hands! :)

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