How to clean out and organize your spice drawer like a pro! Because less time spent looking for spices means more time cooking (and eating) tasty food.
Spices are a game-changer when it comes to leveling up your cooking. But it can be a challenge to use them well when just finding that jar of paprika becomes a scavenger hunt. So after half an episode of Tidying Up and a trip to IKEA, I organized the spices in my drawer into easy-to-find, joy-sparking efficiency. Here’s how I did it!
Take stock of what you have
The first step in organizing your spice drawer (or cabinet) is to take stock of two things: how much space you have and what spices you have.
Your space will determine the spices you’ll be able to keep. For me, I have just one drawer nestled away to hold everything, so I knew I would have to be picky about which spices to keep.
Then comes the purge. Hold up each spice (channeling your inner Marie Kondo, of course), and ask yourself: “When was the last time I used this”. Anything that you haven’t touched in over a year (or anything crusty, from the 90’s, or in ominous plastic baggies) gets tossed out. It’s difficult, but I know you can do it (and future-you will thank you!)
Transfer spices to uniform containers
So you’ve purged all your old and unused spices and are left with the dream team. Spice packaging can come in many shapes and sizes, which can make organizing them tricky. So the next step is to take all of them out of their original containers and transfer them to uniformly shaped jars. (The exception to this are spices with built-in grinders, which I save one row for in my spice organizer.)
Things to keep in mind when picking out spice jars:
- Affordability/accessibility: Pick out jars that are not only affordable, but that are also easy to replace in case one breaks.
- Airtight: Go for jars that have tight seals to keep spices fresh.
- Light protection: If the place you keep your spices is exposed to sunlight, go for jars that are dark to prevent light exposure to the spices, which can degrade them over time. If your spices are in a drawer or cabinet, clear jars are okay.
As you transfer your spices to their new homes, be sure to label them! Labels can be as precise or general as you want, so long as you know your system (ex: is it “ground black pepper” or “pepper”?) This is the label maker I use (affiliate link). And it may sound obvious, but make sure labels are facing the right direction on the container so you can read them at a glance as you cook.
What happens when you have more spice than fits in a jar? I keep a small “overflow basket” in our pantry where I throw all the odds and ends. When I run out of a certain spice, I check the overflow basket before buying more. This keeps my workspace clean and organized for cooking, while making sure not to buy more that I need!
Prepare your spice drawer
Next step: prep your drawer! Rather than having all your spices rolling around willy nilly, use a drawer insert to keep things organized. I use these spice organizers from IKEA, which I love because you can add as many (or as few) as you need to fit the space (plus they obviously fit perfectly into our kitchen’s IKEA kitchen drawers).
There are many ways to go about organizing your spices. There’s the “put spices I use often towards the front” method, and the “group spices by flavor profile” method, but these all become a bit murky after a few months of hectic weeknight cooking.
The simple solution? (Type) A is for Alphabetize! Sorting your spices alphabetically means you’ll always know exactly where things are, and every spice has a designated spot to go back to.
Keep it up
Of course, all of this gloriously Pinterest perfect organization is a waste of a Saturday afternoon if you’re not going to keep it up. Fortunately, taking care of your newly organized spice drawer is as simple as following these two steps:
- Be ruthless about what you let in
- Be ruthless about what you throw out
In other words, don’t buy spices that you might use, or that have just one purpose. A cinnamon sugar blended spice is nice and all, but do you really need it if you also have cinnamon and sugar? Going with that, continue your merciless clean out of old and forgotten spices, going through every year or so to take stock of what you have.
And that’s how to organize your spice drawer, friends! If you organize your spice drawer after reading this, we would love to see your before and after photos!