You might be wondering why my spice jars have tiny pink chicks on the tops.
One day I was having a hard time, and when I arrived at home, Doug had glued pink chicks to everything in the pantry to cheer me up. Imagine them on the tops of cereal boxes, crackers, bottles of oil, spices, and tea. Everywhere. Pink chicks had completely taken over the pantry, so I let them stay. That was a couple of months ago, and they’ve been here ever since.
The last time I sorted through my spices, I had quite a few more than I do today. Twice as many, perhaps. I didn’t want to throw them away because spices are so expensive, you know? Some of them were ten years old, dried basil from 1998!
What we forget is that spices are food. They’re supposed to have a scent. We wouldn’t eat ten-year-old food in most cases, but yet we still hold on to those tiny old bottles of marjoram and anise and allspice as if they make our spice cabinet look more gourmet, even when we never use them.
Let’s clean out the spice cabinet and keep the spices that we really use, not the ones we think we’re supposed to keep. Old spices taste like paper and smell like dust, and they are not going to help our recipes.
The good news is that you don’t have to worry about spending money to buy more spices. You weren’t using the old ones anyway, so you don’t have to replace them!
How long do spices last? According to McCormick,
- 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)
Some people have asked me about buying the big containers of spices to save money at wholesale clubs like Sam’s and Costco, but I don’t recommend that unless you own a restaurant.
I prefer to buy small amounts of spices from grocery stores that sell spices in the bulk bins. I bought a bag of bay leaves for only eleven cents! It’s a lot cheaper when you don’t have to buy the bottles. I either refill my own bottles or just keep a few of the little bags in a wooden bowl.
You can label a repurposed bottle or write the purchase date as a reminder with a Sharpie marker. You can write directly on glass jars, and the marker ink comes off with rubbing alcohol. (I learned this from a reader’s comment.)
To keep your spices fresh longer, store them away from heat, light, and moisture. You probably don’t want to keep them right next to the stove.
I keep my spices on a shelf in the pantry, so I have a tiered spice shelf to help me see and reach them all.
If you aren’t sure how old your spices are, just smell or taste it to see if it still has flavor.