Amanda & Merrill

My Spice Drawer Trick

by:
December 17, 2009

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

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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54 Comments

djgibboni February 22, 2010
I'm very late to this conversation, but Organized Living sells all different kinds of such containers, and sells them in singles on up.
 
Amanda H. February 28, 2010
I couldn't find them on their website -- do they have a store?
 
Jaynerly January 1, 2010
WOW!! I love this idea! Although I do not have a spare drawer now I will definitely remember this for the future!
 
Caron G. December 30, 2009
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.
 
phyllis December 23, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 24, 2009
Congrats -- you took the first important step!
 
Caron G. December 21, 2009
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.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=66.
 
pierino December 21, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 24, 2009
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. <br />And Pierino, great idea -- thank you.
 
pierino December 25, 2009
I'm still trying to figure out how to cram kimchi into a small container without the lid blowing off.
 
phyllis December 21, 2009
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.
 
Gale December 21, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 24, 2009
Thanks for this tip -- I'm going to check it out.
 
cmcdonn December 20, 2009
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 . . .
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
Fair point.
 
GoodFoodie December 20, 2009
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?
 
cardamom3 December 20, 2009
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 !
 
QueenOfGreen December 20, 2009
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...
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
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.
 
dishelle December 20, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 24, 2009
I never thought of grouping them -- cool idea.
 
MonkeyBusiness December 20, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
I've been out-fusspotted!
 
holleya December 20, 2009
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? :-)
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
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...?
 
pierino December 20, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
Been dying to go to Surfas.
 
pierino December 21, 2009
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.
 
Mariya December 19, 2009
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.
 
Rhonda35 December 19, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 21, 2009
I didn't know you had this system, too?!
 
sixtyfive December 19, 2009
I used to be able to find that 3M freezer tape easily; now I can't find it anywhere. Will try the adhesive instead.
 
Rhonda35 December 19, 2009
Our Walmart carries freezer tape - check yours.
 
breakawaycook December 18, 2009
But... true fusspots must ALPHABETIZE!
 
pierino December 18, 2009
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.
 
Amanda H. December 19, 2009
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.
 
mtrelaun December 18, 2009
Fusspot or design genius? I'm thinking design genius.
 
Amanda H. December 19, 2009
I like your way of thinking.