Solutions for storing a wide variety of spices?
March 28, 2017 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a ton of spices, and the tins I keep them in don't fit in traditional American spice racks. If you keep a wide variety of spice on hand, what do you use to organize and store them? If you've got a funky DIY solution for this, I'd like to know about it.

The crux of the issue is that since I like to keep a lot of different spice, storing them in something that is opaque and airtight is important to me so that they stay fresh as long as possible. So I don't want to give up on the spice tins I'm using. (They look pretty much like this and work quite well.) But they won't fit in one of these, and just stacking the tins in my cabinet is starting to get unwieldy. The tins are 2.5 in across and 2 in tall.

I figured other people who cook a lot might have come up with their own solution to this issue, so I thought I'd ask.
posted by Diablevert to Home & Garden (39 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I keep mine in a drawer and put labels on the tops.
posted by mskyle at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

I keep mine in baby food jars, used a label maker to put labels on the top and I keep them in a shallow drawer (my last kitchen was very drawer-based and had a wide, shallow drawer that was perfect, and in my current kitchen I am temporarily using a woodworker's bench as a work surface and it also has wide, shallow drawers).
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2017

Most of our spices came in bags, so we bought a bunch of the smallest Ikea Korken airtight jars. We stuck labels on the top and have the ~16 most commonly used ones in a big Tupperware box we pull out when we need them. (In an ideal world they'd be in a drawer...)

It's not opaque but they're stored in a solid cupboard, so light exposure is only while we use them.
posted by carbide at 12:04 PM on March 28, 2017

The pantry in our house is a closet in the kitchen with a regular door. We have wire spice shelves on the entire inside of that door.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 12:07 PM on March 28, 2017

I put shelf inserts in my cupboard which eliminates the stacking problem.
posted by Polychrome at 12:07 PM on March 28, 2017

We have those tins. In addition to getting a label maker and labeling them on the side (as opposed to the top) so that it make stacking and finding them easier in a cabinet, the spices we used the most often got a dab of glue from a hot glue gun and a magnet glued to the bottom of the tin so that they would stick on the fridge.

You could also continue this by mounting a magnetic board (magnetized steel sheets work well for this) on the outside of cabinets, on the inside of cabinets, or under the cabinets.
posted by Karaage at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine uses nearly the same tins for her spices. She affixed a magnet to the bottom of each tin and sticks them to a wall-mounted magnetic board.
posted by esker at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have the same containers. Glue magnets to the bottoms! You can then attach them to all kinds of strips and panels, and your appliances, depending on what they're made of. I bought metal strips at Home Depot.

(or what Karaage just said....)
posted by the webmistress at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

A friend did something like this but with labels rather than clear tops. She has it on her wall and it's pretty nice looking.
posted by vunder at 12:10 PM on March 28, 2017

Stick a strong magnet on the bottom and stick them on your fridge, or mount a steel panel in your kitchen and stick them to that.
posted by ananci at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Gorilla Glue + rare-earth magnets + side of fridge. They are right next to where I do my cooking so easy to grab, and easy to (almost) throw back on the side of the fridge when I'm done. However, they do gather dust easily. Here's an example. I just used small plain glass jars, glued the magnets to the lids and have strips of contact paper or masking tape with the spice written on it across the "bottom" of the jar, which is now facing out.

Now you have me worried about light though, maybe i'll paint the jars with chalkboard paint, then I can write the spice name directly on the bottom of the jar.
posted by Fig at 12:12 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have, um, kind of a lot of spices (to say the least and excuse the random photo; it's the only shot of it I had on my phone) and we got a custom spice rack made from this guy. It is amazing and we love it (despite my skepticism when my partner was ordering it).

We buy our spices in bulk so they come in bags. We store the baggies by spice type (grouped kind of as chile-related spices, indian-type spices, green leafy spices and miscellaneous) in large jars that we keep in the cupboard above our stove.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:19 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mom has tons of spices and she uses small glass jars to store them in. One thing that she has is this plastic thing with 3 levels on it so that the bottles are higher than the row in front of them for easy viewing and access. You can think of them as bleachers for the spices. This is all kept in a cabinet so light isn't an issue.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2017

I have a pretty detailed spice organization system that I came up with incrementally, and I'm pretty happy with it. My system wouldn't work as well with uniform containers, but I'm going to explain that part anyway.

I have tons of spices that I use all the time, plus various spice blends that I mix up for convenience, so things can get out of control pretty easily. I also have a very small kitchen, so I keep them all on a shelf in a cabinet with a large recessed area that's pretty hard to get to.

So first, I collect small glass jars in all different sizes and shapes, some originally intended for spices, others for things like condiments or teas. The spices I use the most of go in the bigger jars, and the ones I use sparingly go in smaller ones. I keep my most-used spices and blends in the open part of the cabinet for easiest access, then I have two little wooden crates like the kind that clementines sometimes come in, which I store in the recessed part of the cabinet, so I can pull them out easily when I need them.

I do label all of my jars (I use a cheap, old skool vinyl label maker for maximum hipsterness), but I mostly am able to identify the different spices based on the jars they're in. Often, I can do it by feel so I don't even need to pull the boxes out of the cupboard. I didn't sit down and methodically memorize them or anything, but after a little while, you just remember organically.

I also have a hard rule that nobody else is allowed to touch or even look too hard at my spice cupboard, because it is a well functioning but very delicate system.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:22 PM on March 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I tried fooling with one of those spice bleachers for a while, but I finally gave up and hurled it from me with force because of the waste space underneath the bleachers. You can't get at anything under there or see it, and it inevitably leads to degeneracy, crime, and perversion. I prefer two-tier lazy Susans in the cupboard for the occasional spices and a larger lazy Susan on the counter for the stuff I use every day.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:43 PM on March 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

We have a lot of these little glass jars. (In retrospect, maybe we should have used tins.) Like ernielundquist, we use an old skool vinyl label maker for labeling. We alphabetize the spices - we tried trying to categorize them but got into too many arguments about how to classify certain spices. We have these sitting on Ikea Mosslanda picture ledges. As a result of doing this we use a lot more spices in cooking than we did when the spices were in some disorganized boxes in the pantry, so our food is More Delicious.

(Salt and pepper live on the counter by the stove. They're labeled "the meaning of life" and "the answer", respectively.)
posted by madcaptenor at 12:44 PM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a fan of masala dabba boxes: round stainless cookie-tin-sized boxes that have smaller boxes inside. They fit in my kitchen drawer, which are too shallow to hold a traditional spice rack jar. And you can organize your spices in groups of seven. Pull out the one for the appropriate cuisine. The boxes you are using are pretty similar - maybe try putting them in cookie tins?
posted by bendybendy at 12:45 PM on March 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I use one shelf in an upper cabinet. It has a double layered lazy Susan and a staircase spice rack. I use whatever containers come my way. A lot of then are in Coleman's mustard jars. I have some Tupperware. Some urine sample bottles (that had never been used). Some original spice jars (some quite old). Definite mixture.

And I also have a bin of plastic baggie spices ( from the bulk food store) that I root through. Actually I have two. One with refill spices (bags of spices that I use to refill containers) and another bin with bags of rarely used spices.
posted by Ftsqg at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

We recently got this pull out/down spice rack and it's made it a lot easier to locate spices.
posted by benbenson at 12:51 PM on March 28, 2017

I don't know if you're up to doing some construction, but our kitchen has a purpose-built spice cabinet that holds rows of spice jars (one deep per row). I think it would probably fit those cans, but since it's completely custom, you could certainly make one that would fit them.
posted by primethyme at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2017

I use those spice bleachers. Inexpensive on Amazon.
posted by praemunire at 12:59 PM on March 28, 2017

I have a lot of different sized jars and bags because I tend to buy in bulk, so some stuff is in small quantities and some is in quart jars. My storage method was basically to rent an apartment with a pantry.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2017

We bought a bunch of matching jars in two sizes, and have a couple of shallow Elfa drawers reserved for them. Small jars go in one drawer, large in the other. All the jars are labelled. We buy all our spices in bulk.

It's not ideal, since there's nothing keeping order within the drawers, so there's no real way to sort within a drawer, but somehow we've muddled through.
posted by adamrice at 2:40 PM on March 28, 2017

A long time ago I needed ~100 test tubes to store parts, but it turned out I could buy a giant box of more than 1000 1" X 6" TTs from VWR for less than 100 would have cost me, so I did -- plus several bags of non-composite wine corks (even then a vanishing breed) from a brewer's warehouse.

They turned out not to be very satisfactory for spices because the corks had been treated with citric acid to repel wine taint, and it was a pain in the ass to boil and dry them, but mainly because the air space above the spices in the tube degraded their flavor too rapidly.

Finally I managed to find some glass vials with a poly closure and a diameter and length that allowed them to fit snugly in the tubes 3 deep with only the cap of the 3rd vial sticking out, and that's worked OK, because we know we need more when we're on the last vial, and I have a little scoop that's just the volume of a vial and a small powder funnel to fill them with.

I really like the chromed wire 3-tiered TT holders best, but they result in more light exposure; we do have about 50 old brown glass vitamin bottles ranging from 75 - 400 ml that we somewhat erratically put bulkier and highly light sensitive stuff in, but I wish I had a bunch of the brown glass TTs I've seen out there occasionally.
posted by jamjam at 2:40 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use the same tins. I put clear labels on the top with the name of the spice inside, and glued flat magnets to the bottom. They stick to the side of my fridge and the stainless steel backsplash that I attached to the wall between the cabinets where I do most prep work.
posted by raisingsand at 2:55 PM on March 28, 2017

We have a skinny pantry door, and we have an over-the-door rack that covers the inside of that door - it is full of spice bottles, and the door closes neatly. If I had metal tins, I would attach something metal on the inside of that same pantry door, and magnets to the back of my spice tins.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:10 PM on March 28, 2017

Response by poster: One follow up for people who have adopted magnets for similar tins: do they wobble when you put them on the counter with the magnets on? Because I'm a clumsy mofo and I'd worry I'd be more prone to knocking them over if they didn't sit flat. (The fact that I've dropped them several times with the lids on and they've stayed closed is part of what makes me loyal to the tins.)
posted by Diablevert at 4:11 PM on March 28, 2017

I use these, which have proven similar air-tightness. They fit in a kitchen drawer easily.
posted by politikitty at 4:24 PM on March 28, 2017

Alternate to magnets: heavy duty Velcro.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2017

I use an overdoor rack from The Container Store customized with several different widths and depths of racks. I keep spices, tea tins and cat food tins in the smaller, more shallow ones. It's been a lifesaver in my cute but not necessarily functional (as far as storage goes) kitchen.
posted by janey47 at 6:57 PM on March 28, 2017

If you have a drawer to keep them in, will something like this work? Or put labels on the top & arrange them in the drawer, as per mskyle's suggestion. Either of these methods are easier & more accessible than stacking them in a cupboard, IMO. (We have a lot of spices, too, because my husband is a Penzy's regular. Ours are stacked on a two-tier lazy susan that fits two high on each level. Works fine to see labels, but still not as handy as seeing all at once.) If you search spice storage on Pinterest, there are the usual thousands of ideas, including links to plans to build your own DIY solutions.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:41 PM on March 28, 2017

All my spices are in small glass jars with labels stuck to the lids. They fit well into several dollar store woven baskets that are at least as deep as the jars, so they don't get exposed to the light.
posted by maudlin at 10:38 PM on March 28, 2017

As mentioned above, we use a double-tiered lazy susan on an upper shelf, above the prep area.
posted by vignettist at 10:42 PM on March 28, 2017

I am of the jars-in-drawers school, specifically square jars so they use all the space and don't move around much when a few are out. I've written on each of them the refill weight so I can get the right amount at the bulk store. (Bigger jars in second drawer for bulky herbs.)
posted by clew at 12:19 AM on March 29, 2017

Use Velcro on the bottom of the tins and on the cupboard door (depending on clearance, you might need to avoid the shelves, or you might not). Velcro won't wobble like magnets will. Fuzzy side on the cupboard, hook side on the tins.
posted by DaveP at 4:37 AM on March 29, 2017

I love this thing we bought so much. Sadly I think it'll only fit up to about a 2-inch width of container, but I seriously love it so much that if I were you I would strongly consider finding new containers for the spices because this is a magical, wondrous kitchen item. Maybe something like this?
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:33 AM on March 29, 2017

The most important thing is to store all but six months' worth, at most, in the freezer. Herbs and spices tpretain their full flavor much longer when they are stored in an airtight bag (or other airtight container) in the freezer.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 10:09 AM on March 29, 2017

If I had it to do over again, I'd probably buy a gross of 25X95 mm amber glass vials with screw on phenolic lids, because those are light proof and small enough so that a bulk buy of any given spice would fill several, and the opened one would be used up before it could go bad from exposure to air -- plus they'd fit perfectly in my test tube racks and harmonize nicely with the amber glass vitamin bottles.
posted by jamjam at 10:10 AM on March 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

The most important thing is to store all but six months' worth, at most, in the freezer

(I usually write the date that I stored /opened any spices, or any food product that I expect to have around for more than a week, in whiteboard marker on the container. Very helpful, esp when you look at something and realize it's looooonnnnggg past it's usable life. No "can I eat it?" AskMe questions from our house).
posted by vignettist at 10:26 AM on March 30, 2017

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