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)…
…inside those drawers it’s a different story (Exhibit B).
Before (January 2016)
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)
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!):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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?
- Smoked Paprika
- Garlic Powder
- Chili Powder
- Black Pepper
- 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.
About the Authors
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.
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.