Cooking From Every Angle

My Spice Drawer Trick

December 17, 2009 • 54 Comments

Juniper Berries

- Amanda

Call me a fusspot but I really don't like having a mish-mosh of spice jars, packets, tins and bags. A few years ago when we built a pantry in our kitchen, I added 2 spice drawers and decided it was time to get rid of the jars and bags, at last! I needed something with labels on top so I could pull open the drawers and see all the spice names at once. I bought a bunch of food-safe plastic containers from Consolidated Plastics -- yes, you may recognize them from the doctor's office, but we don't need to discuss that -- and then a wet-erase pen from Staples, and ... ta-da! Any time I run out of a spice, I just rinse the label off the top and add a new one. Inner fusspot satisfied.

Spice Drawer

Jump to Comments (54)

Comments (54)

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over 4 years ago djgibboni

I'm very late to this conversation, but Organized Living sells all different kinds of such containers, and sells them in singles on up.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I couldn't find them on their website -- do they have a store?

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over 4 years ago Jaynerly

WOW!! I love this idea! Although I do not have a spare drawer now I will definitely remember this for the future!

Shayna_and_me

over 4 years ago Caron Golden

As Amanda knows, I ordered some acrylic jars and some tins from specialtybottle.com. And, this morning I had fun reorganizing. I kept some jars & packaging, but everything else now has its own easy-to-read container. Now I just need to get a pen that doesn't smear.

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over 4 years ago phyllis

Wow. Ordered my jars two days ago and they arrived today. I'm so excited, but, unfortunately, don't have time to take on the whole project until Saturday.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Congrats -- you took the first important step!

Shayna_and_me

over 4 years ago Caron Golden

Amanda, this so appeals to my fusspottedness, too. I went on the Consolidated Plastics site, but it looks like you have to order in massive quantities, which is especially challenging if you want various sizes. Did you order 50 or 80 of a size? Anyway, I did some research and found a different site (Specialty Bottles) that has clear acrylic threaded jars. I'm thinking of getting the square ones since they'll fit better than round in a drawer. Here's the link: http://www.specialtybottle....

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Sounds like there are several of us who use this method. I would add that if you make your own spice blends, these can be neat little gifts. Surprise your friends when you pop one out of your messenger bag and toss it over to them.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Caron, the square jars look great -- I did buy 50 to 80 of the other plastic ones. I gave some to friends, others disappeared, you'd be surprised by how few extra I have.
And Pierino, great idea -- thank you.

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

I'm still trying to figure out how to cram kimchi into a small container without the lid blowing off.

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over 4 years ago phyllis

I'm so excited. This is a wonderful idea. I measured my spice drawer, did the math and I can double the number of spices I currently can contain. I'm placing my order now!! Thank you.

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over 4 years ago Gale

I stole this idea some years ago from my sister and it sure brings order from chaos. But I am not a plastic fan so I found stainless steel containers with acrylic lids in at least two small sizes from Lee Valley Tools (originator of the rasp grater) - a great site for kitchen and gardening tools.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks for this tip -- I'm going to check it out.

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over 4 years ago cmcdonn

I get the efficacy of transferring everything to like containers, but you miss the memory of where they came from -- almost like the difference between email and snail mail letters . . . there is a sense of history with the different labels from different stores and shopping excursions. I guess you can tell I am not a scientist . . .

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Fair point.

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over 4 years ago GoodFoodie

I keep my spices in the freezer or frig. It really allows me to keep them a long time. But again, such a mess! Bottles and bags all over the shelves. I need a large pullout shelf, not possible in the freezer. Is there a solution folks for that? And are there any drawbacks to freezing or placing spices in the frig?

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over 4 years ago cardamom3

Where to buy high quality spices in small quantities ? Check out Smart-Spice.com or the sister line ,tsp spices.com. They're organic, delicious, come in pre-measured teaspoons and last at least 3 years on your shelf. It's all I ever buy now !

Artdecowoman-main_full_green

over 4 years ago QueenOfGreen

And I thought it was just we engineers who operated this way! Mine too, are in a drawer, with labels on the top. And though I have ideas for holleya, I'm not sure I could convey them without a full scale set of construction drawings! haha! Actually, I would suggest looking in your office supply store - that's where I find a lot of my organizational tricks. Like a folder stand to hold my cookie sheets, muffin tins and madeleine pans upright. You'd be amazed...

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I like your folder stand idea -- I'm always fighting with all of my baking sheets and racks because they're jammed into a cabinet with no separation between them.

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over 4 years ago dishelle

I use a spice "drawer", too, and it's so much easier than having them jumbled in a cabinet as they were in my old house. It's an extra-wide, low drawer. If a spice does not fit because of height, I just lay it on it's side. I also clean out jam or jelly jars after they are emptied, and use those for the spices that come in baggies (I just keep the baggie in the sealed jar). Tops are labled, sides if they are too tall. While it's not a neat looking as having all the same style jars, no one ever sees it but me, and I can cope with the apparent disorder, as I generally group according to use - Indian savory spices all together, Tex/Mex in one corner, chai spices in another. It works.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I never thought of grouping them -- cool idea.

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over 4 years ago MonkeyBusiness

I also went for the drawer option. If you can spare a drawer (or dare I say, two!) it will save you the labor of repackaging our spices...and can I add to the fusspot quotient...not only must they be alphabetized, but they must be sorted by type...as for how to organize your own blends, Penzeys sells empty jars in various sizes.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I've been out-fusspotted!

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over 4 years ago holleya

How would I use this concept without a drawer? my jars are all in an eye-level (and just above) cabinet - glass jars in all shapes and sizes are labeled on the sides but of course these become impossible to see once placed in front of each other. And the shelf is now full, so they tend to fall out when I rummage around! Any ideas? :-)

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

You could buy half-shelves at the Container Store and then store your spices on their sides so they lay on the shelves and you can see their labels...?

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

I'm now really fascinated by how much attention this outwardly simple topic has drawn from fuspots and non-pots. I also deploy tins with clear acrylic lids so that you can see what's inside; so if you know a juniper berry from a peppercorn from allspice you are in luck. And I use these mostly for my own spice blends. I buy them at Surfas in Culver City. They do have a web store.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Been dying to go to Surfas.

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Surfas is mecca. Not just for kitchen equipment but for frozen and refrigerated items as well as bagged and tinned stuff. My strategy is to hit the Santa Monica Farmers market early in the morning and then drive over to Surfas.

Emerils_dessert

over 4 years ago Mariya

This is such a great suggestion! I too suffer from tiny bags and various containers of spices-which all are luckily labeled! Thanks for the suggestion! Another option are pint and quart containers, labeled with plain white tape-simply change the tape as you wash/change containers.

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over 4 years ago Rhonda35

I've been doing this for ages - I don't have "fancy" containers - just use a sharpie to label the tops of regular spice jars from the grocery store and, when I run out of a spice, I remove the label from the jar and save it for those spices that come in bags, etc. Mine are alphabetized, too. Once in a while, I have to realphabetize, but in general it works out great.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I didn't know you had this system, too?!

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over 4 years ago sixtyfive

I used to be able to find that 3M freezer tape easily; now I can't find it anywhere. Will try the adhesive instead.

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over 4 years ago Rhonda35

Our Walmart carries freezer tape - check yours.

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over 4 years ago breakawaycook

But... true fusspots must ALPHABETIZE!

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Never for this commis. The spice jars tend cluster around what goes together in the same dish; juniper, clove, black peppercorn etc. Of course I do spend a lot of time on the step ladder searching as a consequence of this character defect.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Well, then I am a true fusspot, because my drawers are alphabetized! Usually my husband, Tad, does it. But the drawers do get a little out of control with all the testing and cooking we do. We're due for a re-organization. The ones you see in the photo were arranged for the photo -- didn't want to have just "A" or "G" spices in the shot.

Mlt_yogateau_1

over 4 years ago mtrelaun

Fusspot or design genius? I'm thinking design genius.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I like your way of thinking.

P1020611

over 4 years ago mariaraynal

Great idea, and smart to use the leftovers for, well leftovers. Love these tips.

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

On multitasking medical supplies I use waterproof tape to lable items that look alike, such as different types of flour e.g. all purpose, high gluten etc. which store in air tight graduated containers from restaurant supply. I also use the tape to lable frozen items like containers of stock (type, date and so on).

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Where do you get the tape? Can you order it online?

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

It's just waterproof adhesive tape, easy to find in your supermarkets along with bandages etc. or at CVC or Duane Reade. I always have some on hand because I'm typically creating new wounds in my kitchen and have my battlefield dressings close by. Just use your Sharpie or whatever.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

3M also makes something called "Freezer Tape," which I used for years, but it doesn't remove cleanly from freezer boxes (which are the aces in my kitchen-supply rotation), so I use Avery removable address labels, with a fine-point Sharpie pen. The Avery labels can also be used for envelopes and packages, too! ;o)

Phoenix

about 3 years ago Phoenix Helix

Another alternative is painters tape - it sticks well, but removes from freezer containers smoothly. I love all these organizational ideas.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Amanda, are your containers the twist-top kind? I can't tell from the photo . . . . . I've already measured the depth of my drawer and looked at the specs of the various options at the site where you bought yours. Do you know whether you really have to buy 80 at a time?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, mine are twist top. And I did buy 80 at a time -- I use the extras for leftovers in the fridge.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

We went the spice drawer route when we moved into our current space, with an inexpensive angled insert for the bottles to rest in, but this is much more space efficient - and very clever.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

thank you!

Ashtaco

over 4 years ago wanderash

I LOVE tips like these. I was just saying to my husband last night, I would love to peek into a few very organized people's kitchens and see their answer to the Tupperware dilemma- how to organize all of those different sized containers and lids in an orderly fashion. Is it just me?

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

No, it;s not just you . . . and if you find out where the disappearing lids go, I'd be really interested. ;o)

Artdecowoman-main_full_green

over 4 years ago QueenOfGreen

I think all the lids have migrated to my apartment. I always lose the containers but still have bazillions of lids around...

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I'm with you on this, Amanda. These suggestions are great!! I definitely feel a project coming on . . . . . . ;o)