Apparently it only happens once every ten years.
Not too long ago I helped my Granny pack for a move to her new house. I packed up her spices and joked about how some of her spices were as old as me. I laughed too soon, because my turn was coming.
It had been a while since I checked the expiration dates on all the spice bottles. They were lined up four layers deep. As I prepared for my move, I wondered how old they were.
As I looked into the cabinet, I found:
- Basil from 1998
- Ground mustard from 1999 (it smelled a bit dusty)
- Garlic salt expired in 2002
- Parsley expired in 2003
I didn’t know it had been that long since I checked them!
The frugal side of me has a hard time tossing spices, but the practical side convinced me it’s necessary.
Practical Reason #1: No one should eat something that is ten years old.
Practical Reason #2: Spices should have a scent.
Practical Reason #3: Green herbs should not be beige.
Practical Reason #4: Expired spices don’t need to be replaced. I obviously wasn’t using them anyways.
So what’s reasonable? McCormick shares these guidelines for how long spices can be expected to last.
- Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
- Herbs: 1-3 years
- Ground spices: 2-3 years
- Whole spices (such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns): 3-4 years
- Extracts: 4 years (except for pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely)
Ground spices quickly lose flavor, which is why whole peppercorns last longer than ground pepper. To keep your spices fresh longer, store them away from heat, light, and moisture. That will help to preserve flavor and color, and prevent clumping.
If your spice bottle is missing an expiration date, you can check it online:
- Check dates for McCormick spices
- Check dates for Spice Islands, Durkee, Tone’s, French’s, Dec A Cake, and Trader’s Choice
I tossed more than half of my spices. (I spread them out to make it seem like I kept more.) The nice part is that the ones I kept are the ones I actually use.