Too Many Cooks: Hoarders Edition

October 16, 2015

Do you have a drawer of dishtowels so packed that you can barely open it? A veritable tower of canned beans on your pantry shelves? Jar after jar after jar of ground cinnamon? You are not alone. This week, we asked the team: What kitchen things do you just have to have, even when you know you already have enough? 

Taylor: I always pick up coffee wherever I travel—a canister of Café du Monde, espresso, blonde roasts, dark roast, Viennese-style coffees. I have 2 to 3 cans of instant coffee in the freezer to cook with, Turkish coffee and Moroccan coffee to drink in the afternoon... You get the picture. 

Shop the Story

Jackie: I seem to collect sugar. Raw sugar, refined sugar, confectioners sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, and even flavored sugar, which I use when I make homemade marshmallows

Hillary: I recently cleaned my fridge and found that I have 12 types of nut butters (including 6 different kinds of peanut butter)—who am I? I like nut butter, but honestly have no idea how I acquired so many types. Please send help.

Catherine: JAM. I have so much jam. I just keep buying it or getting it as a gift. I can't stop. 

Micki: My boyfriend made me count the number of salt varieties we had in our cabinets last week. I think the count was over 10? Lavender salt, truffle salt, fleur de sel, grey salt, kosher salt, magic unicorn salt, the list goes on... I blame the office giveaway table.

Merrill: This will be no surprise to many of you: crackers, crackers, and more crackers. #allthecrackers (I need something to go with my #backupcheese!)

Jane W.: Welcome to my fridge, The Cheese Museum. Merrill, if you ever find yourself in a #backupcheese windfall, I will gladly accept an in-kind donation. 

Merrill: There's no such thing, Jane.

Amanda H.: Spice containers and plastic containers—just in case someone suddenly sends me 157 things I need to store. I have boxes filled with empty "backup" containers in our closet. 

Riddley: My name is Riddley and I have a pasta problem. Seriously, I cannot help myself from buying pasta whenever I go to the store. My justification is that 1. I love pasta, and 2. Different sauces need different shapes, so I might as well keep as many different kinds of noodles around as possible. 

Lauren L.: Now that I have completed The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, nothing. But really, jars. All. Of. The. Jars. I have a whole cabinet of jars for use in possible future special projects. Big, small, wide, narrow, old, new. And they spark joy, so there.

Olivia: Pretty sure I could fill a bathtub with the amount of Le Puy lentils I amass.

Which kitchen items do you seem to amass? Come clean in the comments.

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lindsay | please pass the peas
    lindsay | please pass the peas
  • Hilary
  • AntoniaJames
  • Peggio
  • Danielle
Taylor Rondestvedt

Written by: Taylor Rondestvedt

Is never without a loaf of rye bread and currently stocks 5 different butters in her kitchen.


lindsay |. October 19, 2015
Canning jars. It drives my husband nuts. (And he doesn't even know that I also have them stashed in three other rooms besides the kitchen.)
Hilary October 18, 2015
But of course those of us with large larders are always able to rustle up interesting meals without having to go to the shops! I'm not Old Mother Hubbard - vast collection of oils, vinegars, salts, herbs, spices, cans, sugars, rices, pastas and anything containing truffles.
AntoniaJames October 17, 2015
The preserves, chutneys, fruit in syrup and pickles I put up every year. I always seem to have a few dozen miscellaneous jars left over come early summer, which we must work our way through often into the next calendar year, while enjoying what I've made more recently.

I'm reminded of one of the Swedish immigrants in Willa Cather's lyrical "O Pioneers!":

"Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson."

I feel a lot like Mrs. Bergson, most of the time. Two shelves in our garage, and the constant flow of condiments of all kinds through our refrigerator, bear witness to this. ;o)
Peggio October 17, 2015
Thanks for this article ... now I don't feel so out of control. I recently cleaned out my small pantry and had to throw out many outdated items so I have reformed a bit but I still can't go to the store without buying some staples that I know I have on the shelf but will probably use in a week or so and that will leave me with none. I have all different types of pasta, oil, homemade spice mixtures, jams, vinegars, various flours and rice/quinoa/lentil varieties.
Danielle October 17, 2015
I have no problem with ANY of these, you are all fabulous. My boyfriend on the other hand, well, has an issue with my ingredient-collection tendencies.
Cristina S. October 17, 2015
Question: In the last photo, where did those pull out shelves come from? Thanks!
Panfusine October 16, 2015
I LOVE you guys, thought I was the only hoarder around.. at any given time I seem to have 6 different types of lentils, too many pasta shapes to count (blame that partly on my kids), about 10 different types of salts, not counting the flavored varieties I've purchased from Provisions , about 10 types types of just Indian spice blends ( Goda, Malwani, Koli (for fish & seafood dishes, and I'm vegetarian!) , gondhavle, sambhar, Rasam, vethakuzhambu (pepper sauce) , Pav bhaji, to name a few, not including the generic garam masala and 'curry powder)
WECK Jars.. I've hoarded these from Provisions so much that I have clips and gaskets stuffed into any spare space in my kitchen drawers
Cans and cans of various Thai curry pastes.
and yes about 50 bottles of tomatoes, Jams, chutneys and pickles of all types all canned up for theh winter
SpinachInquisition October 16, 2015
Ohmygoodness. OK, at least I'm not alone. I chalk it up to being _completely broke and destitute_ while in college that I do this. Plus, I taught myself how to cook with ANYthing during those lean years so now I have a terrible, terrible pantry problem. Where to begin. I could probably sort by country/cuisine:

China/SE Asia: every possible permutation of specialty vinegar, rice wine, oil, canned and frozen ingredients like lotus root, noodles, dried shrimp, chili pastes, fish sauce, you name it.

Mediterranean (Greece/Italy/N.Africa/Spain): again - chili pastes like harissa, various herb and spice mixtures, dried legumes, canned dolmas/beans/olives/tapenades/fish/etc., extensive selection of tomato products, pastas... ugh.

India: premade puri shells/golgappa, jaggery, curry spices (help!), chutneys, sauces, teas, etc.

N. Europe: Lyle's golden syrup, teas, condiments, beans, pickles, cheeses (cheeses!!), waffle/wafer products...

This list is making me sad. I need to stop because I'm not even scratching the surface. Suffice to say, if I see something "interesting" or "necessary" for an authentic dish... I have it in my small closet-sized pantry. :-)
SusanKP October 16, 2015
Oils and vinegars. So many and so many options. And what do I use? Olive Oil and lemon juice. Oy
Niknud October 16, 2015
Spices. Oh so many spices. They have overflowed my spice cupboard and invaded the pantry. My husband had to put up extra shelves. Those are now filled too. Curse you, Penzey's for opening up a store in my town. Sandwich sprinkle! Pasta sprinkle! Rub for chicken, rubs for fish, about 20 different kids of bbq seasonings. Garam masala, za'atar, berbere. I have problems. Oh yah, and hot sauce. Lots and lots of hot sauce.