Help me organise my spices and oils
February 2, 2016 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I like to cook so have a lot of spices and various bottles of stuff, but I have a tiny kitchen. I'm having trouble getting my head around how to organise it. Details (and photos of current mess) inside.

OK so I have lots of spices and also lots of bottles of various oils, vinegars, condiments etc.

I also have very limited counter space and cupboard space. First job is the spices. here is a photo of the current setup. I can probably consolidate/throw out some stuff but not much. I can also probably work out something for various odd sized packets/boxes so it's mainly the two layers of spice bottles I need to work out. I just can't get my head around if there's even a way to do this in that cupboard.

I've considered rack type things which effectively put steps in the cupboard but, while that makes stuff more visible it doesn't solve the lack of space issue.

I'm prepared to consider transferring to new containers/jars if that would help.

Another problem with assorted bottles: no photo but I currently have at least 10 assorted size bottles of various things just sitting on the counter looking messy. What do? I've considered some sort of wine rack type thing to at least organise them a bit but they're all different sizes. They're definitely not going to fit in a cupboard.

posted by Dext to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Do you think you'd be able to fit in a two tier lazy susan like this?

My mom put all her spice containers onto one of those when I was a kid. They rotate so that you can store things on the entire surface of the shelves and just spin it to access everything.
posted by foxfirefey at 5:02 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have spices in a few plastic boxes, shoebox size, the kind you buy in any discount dept store for storage. They are very loosely organized by type of cuisine, so I can reach for 'Indian' or 'cookies' and have what I need retrieved with just one box.

This eliminates: the need to get same-size spice containers, the need to store overflow of bulk-bought spices that don't all fit in the same-size containers, the problem of displaying them out in the open and then also exposing them to light, etc.

Oils and vinegars and so on are in a series of decorative wooden boxes from some sort of home decorating store, so the counter mess of bottles by the stove is at least contained. Giant bottles are sometimes stored under the sink while more modest quantities are decanted into nicer small bottles that stay out. Sort of like these -- thicker, taller, painted. I also considered a wine rack sort of fix, but so few were the right size.
posted by kmennie at 5:09 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I solved a similar issue by buying a small bathroom cabinet from IKEA and mounting it on the opposite wall. It comes out about four inches from the wall, so it's not large enough to impact the interior space, and it's got narrow shelves on the door and the cabinet body, which doubles the storage space and means everything is easily visible inside. My spices are easily accessible and, bonus, the cabinet smells amazing when you open it.

Unfortunately, IKEA discontinued the cabinet I bought right after I got it (always the way). It is similar to the GUNNERN but with storage on the door as well as the interior.
posted by pie ninja at 5:12 AM on February 2, 2016

Best answer: We have this, which I really like. The trick is that it fits into your shelf like a book so it saves space and it slides out so you can view a bunch of spices at once and pull out the one you want.
posted by like_neon at 5:13 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have the SwivelStore spice rack and it has helped a lot. The big square Archer Farms brand bottles do not fit in it though. I have a small, square transparent bin for the envelopes of spice mixes.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:14 AM on February 2, 2016

Yep, just what like_neon has. Same as the SwivelStore that I mentioned above.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:15 AM on February 2, 2016

Your shelf seems to have a lot of vertical space. I'd see if I could fit a double-decker lazy susan in there. Some sort of box/bin to corral the liquids might even fit in alongside it.
posted by sarajane at 5:18 AM on February 2, 2016

What about getting a wall mounted spice rack? They come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and even if they don't fit all of your spices it would go a long way towards freeing up shelf space while also giving you easy access to the ones you use most.
posted by fox problems at 5:31 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can also use the vertical space with a door clip system for the jarred items.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:42 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We had the same tiny kitchen problem for well over a year and I finally went with this: Spice Stack

OMG, I love it more than you would think one could love a storage item.
We have the big one, which holds 30 bottles and it does take up a chunk of counter space, but. OMG. You will never have that dreaded cupboard of horrors again. The counter space IMO is well worth it to have a contained, neat-looking box instead of a rack jammed full of crap.

I was stubborn about buying a $40 spice rack for a long time. I am a changed woman.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:52 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have magnetic cans similar to these which live on the front of the refrigerator. It's especially aesthetically pleasing if you have whole spices. Potential downside, they don't have labels -- but you could probably improvise a solution with masking tape on the sides of the cans or whatever.
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:01 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

For anyone without even that much space there are also transparent stacking pill organizers that can let you keep small amounts of several different spices in the same space one bottle would take up.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 AM on February 2, 2016

An old Smitten Kitchen post led me to these several years ago. (The little cans at the top of the page.) She ended up switching to a different system, but they've worked great for me. The bigger ones fit pretty much a whole standard spice jar, you could probably stack 'em 5 deep in that cabinet and save half your space. The 1-inch size comes with labels; I used a wax pencil on the others. They're remarkably airtight --- I find even spices I use rarely stay fresh for a long time -- and I've dropped them a ton and they stay closed.
posted by Diablevert at 6:28 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've added strong magnets to the inside of the lids and secured them with Sugru, and have the jars stuck to the fan above the stove. Made som stickers with content and stuck them to the bottom of the jars. Works reasonably well. Make sure to use darkish jars though - light degrades the quality.
posted by monocultured at 6:33 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our old kitchen was as small as a galley and we ended up buying a door-mounted spice rack from The Comtainer Store. If you have one bearby you might just go in and ask about their various kitchen storage solutions.
posted by Brittanie at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, since you asked about organizing, not just storage solutions, I organized mine alphabetically. That way if we had multiple bottles of the same spice it would all be together.
posted by Brittanie at 7:06 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding those door-mounted spice racks from the Container Store -- an added bonus for them is that you can get them to mount on a rack that just clips to the top and bottom of a door, so no need to put holes in walls or doors, and you can take it with you to a new home easily. Also, this is a month the elfa stuff is on sale, and one should never buy it otherwise.
posted by asperity at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2016

I do what tivalasvegas does. There are a couple of magnetic options out there, and they look kind of cool on my refrigerator--I've gotten several compliments. I have a couple mostly for show--I'll never use 4 ounces of turmeric, for instance, but it sure is pretty. I printed out labels, though they're hardly necessary if you know what you have.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you do this?
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2016

Best answer: I have spicyshelf to solve a similar space/patience constraint. It's good. Very customizable.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:11 AM on February 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I use the little metal spice jars, also. With labels from my label maker and stuck to the side of my fridge. For the small bottles on the countertop, I had a large old tray and put it on top of a lazy susan I bought at a thrift store. The lazy susans also come in plastic for less than $10, buy I picked this one up for a dollar or so. I use different kinds of containers for various stuff that I need every day. It's very functional and looks good.
posted by raisingsand at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2016

I had this problem and ended up doing wall-mounted spice racks. Frees up all the cabinet space and leaves you with really easy access and visibility. There are a number of pouches and things but mainly I have bottles in the racks, and then some "refill pouches" in a big bag in the pantry where I can go rummaging when I need more of something. (I buy my spices at the local Indian grocery where they are much cheaper, but they don't come in jars.)
posted by Lady Li at 8:41 AM on February 2, 2016

We have the Spice Stack nakedmolerats mentions above (actually, we have 2 of the 18 bottle version, with one stacked on top of the other, because we had a lot of vertical space), and they are wonderful!
posted by amarynth at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2016

I have a very small kitchen and a huge number of spices, and I keep the bulk of my spices in wooden boxes sorted by my usage patterns, tucked back into a blind corner in a cupboard, so I can pull the boxes out when I'm cooking. Being back in a dark corner also protects them from the light.

My other trick is that I keep them in different types of jars intentionally. I put labels on them, but for the most part, I don't need them because I know where specific spices are based on the general location and the size and shape of the bottle and can just reach back and grab what I need without taking everything out to read the labels. I buy almost all my spices in bulk, so I need to transfer them into jars anyway.

Another option is something like stackable masala dabba, which let you organize your spices in tins within tins. That way, you can organize spices according to what you most often use together and have them accessible and still protected from air and light. And if you like things to look neat and matchy, that would solve that. You could either buy them or make them yourself from cookie tins with smaller jars and/or tins to fit inside.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To add some points I missed: I have zero wall space as it's all covered by cabinets or outlets, my kitchen does not have a door (so door mounted options are out), using more counter space is a definite no, and my fridge is built into a cabinet so anything magnetic won't work.

I'll definitely be looking into lazy susan's, spicyshelf and the "N more cabinet organiser".

Thanks for all the ideas people, this should definitely help.
posted by Dext at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2016

I bought two of these over the summer. I put one in a cupboard—to hold the stuff I don't use all the time—and leave the other one out on the counter where I prep things to hold frequently used spices/seasonings. They're made of bamboo, so they look good (you can't see the seam much at all), and they're adjustable to the width you choose. I'm pretty happy with that purchase.
posted by heyho at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bought a bunch of small containers with clear tops, glued small neodymium magnets to the bottom, and filled them with my spices. Then, I got some flexible magnetic stripping, and glued strips to the inside of my kitchen cupboard doors. Very easy, very inexpensive, and nice to look at. And it created new space in my tiny studio kitchen.
posted by MrBobinski at 8:09 PM on February 2, 2016

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
A very late update, but I just wanted to say that I ended up going with a mix of nakedmolerats' suggestion here and fingersandtoes' suggestion here.

My cupboard now looks thus.

As for the assorted oils and other bottles, it turns out that my claim they'd never fit in a cupboard was maybe down to my own organisational skills more than actual topology and, following intervention from my partner, everything is nicely packed away.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:32 PM on November 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

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