I never really learned how to cook when I was growing up. My mom is a very picky vegetarian that doesn’t eat vegetables and my step-dad was into overcooked meat and potatoes. So really I just ate a lot of pizza, potatoes, and hamburger helper as a kid.
Mid college I started watching cooking shows like crazy and it was about that time that Pinterest became a big thing. I decided I wanted to learn how to cook. So I did, one recipe at a time. Part of learning to cook is learning to season your food. So though all of those recipes I acquired quite the pile of spices and seasonings, enough to fill a cupboard and accidentally buy doubles of a few of them.
I also realized that I was going to hold on to a few of these spices for a weirdly long time so it was time to develop a system to keep them organized.
Gather Your Spices
Find all of your spices and put them all on the table or counter or wherever. Take a moment to look through them. Are there duplicates of any? Can you combine any? Are there any you know that you can get rid of?
Do Spices Expire?
Spices have a “best if used by date” instead of an expiration date. So you don’t have to toss anything that is past its date. However the quality of spices do decrease over time so if you have anything overly old you might want to get rid of it. If you have had it that long it means you probably don’t use it that often and you’ll be okay getting rid of it.
Whenever I buy a new spice I write the month and year on it. Then when I use it all up I’ll know approximately how long it took me to do so. This helps me know if I should buy a big or small one next time. It’s cheaper to buy in bulk but you have to know you’ll use it.
It’s incredibly easy to keep spices forever. When I first started writing dates on things it was back in 2013. I still have a mostly full container of cinnamon from 2013. I really only use it for pumpkin pie and cinnamon rolls. It still tastes fine so there’s no reason to get rid of it.
Now you have to decide where you’re going to store your spices. Ideally you want to keep them all together and you want them easily accessible. I once stored my spices in the awkward cupboard above the fridge and I hardly ever used them. It was just too much work to find the ones I wanted.
I would recommend keeping them out of direct sunlight (Paprika looks weird when it sits in the sun too long) and you should keep them away from moisture and heat if you want them to last longer. Your spices will stay cleaner if you store them in an enclosed space instead of out in the open. Many of my spices have dusty, greasy lids because I used to store them right next to my stove.
Drawers and cupboards are perfect for concealed storage but there are a ton of options available online. Baskets are also super helpful in keeping your spices organized. I put all of my tiny spices in a little basket so I don’t lose them in the back of my cupboard.
Know Your Basics
I have a few spices that are my go-to’s. I put them in everything. Mostly onion powder, garlic powder, and Tone’s Six Pepper. I also have to have dried onions for mixing into ground meat for burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs.
Learn About Spice Mixes
I used to buy those little taco seasoning packets all the time. But there were a few times I wanted to make tacos and I had forgotten to buy the seasoning. Then Pinterest came to my rescue and I found a recipe to make my own taco seasoning mix. (That’s why I have a giant container of paprika.) It’s so easy and I use it for everything. Taco seasoning mix also works great for fajitas, chicken tortilla soup, and chili.
There are a ton of recipes for other seasoning mixes too.
What are your go-to spices?
Let me know in the comments. What do you absolutely have to have when cooking?
- 4 tablespoons Chili Powder
- 5 teaspoons Ground Cumin
- 4 teaspoons Paprika
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 teaspoons Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
- Use less chili powder to make it less spicy.
- Use two tablespoons for each pound of meat.
- As is this recipes makes 10 tablespoons or the equivalent of 5 taco seasoning packets.