Seasonings - spices, oils and vinegars - are one of the most clutter prone areas in the kitchen. Without regular maintenance, they tend to become an unruly mob raising anarchy in the kitchen.
We buy more when we’re low, but rarely empty the original container or mix it with the new. Small spices and jars tend to get pushed to the back of a cabinet or drawer. As the area becomes more crammed, you’re not even sure what you have so you end up buying duplicates. And while you may have started out with an organized spice rack storage system, the need to just stuff them where ever they fit has left you with an overflowing mess. I’ve seen it in many homes and I’ve done it myself.
If your seasonings are stressing you out, follow these simple steps to declutter & organize your spice rack:
Pull all the seasonings out & wipe down the cabinet / drawer / rack. You may also need to wipe down messier items such as oil bottles.
Check the expiration dates on everything & dump the expired - even if it hasn’t been opened. Expired spices generally won’t make you sick, but they do loose their flavor, especially in climates areas, like Dubai, where the moisture tends to turn ground spices into a stale, solid block.
Combine duplicate seasonings where possible. Tip: use a butter knife to CAREFULLY pry those pesky plastic lids off spice containers.
As you return the seasonings to their storage area, group them by type or use, for example: spicy seasonings & peppers (cayenne, chili, black pepper, etc.), salts, herbs, grill flavors (steak, rubs, etc.), oils & vinegars, and so on... this basic organizing principle ensures you always know where to find what you're looking for.
Bonus: Swap seasonings into to coordinating, reusable containers. They look great & buying in bulk is more eco-friendly. If you don't want to take the time to print sticker labels, you can use either a paint marker directly on the jar, or piece of scotch tape & a sharpie to note the spice name and expiration date.
What to do with the removals?
Because we're all about sustainability here at The Savvy Space, I've collected a few ideas for upcycling your old spice containers and repurpose the seasonings themselves.
However, please proceed with caution. Spices are generally used in small amounts and as you increase the "dosage", the potential for allergic reactions increases as well. (Remember the cinnamon challenge?) so be sure to research any seasonings you plan to use. You can check for allergy risks and other potential injuries using the Household Products Database, Keeping in mind that food allergies don't always translate to skin allergies and vice versa. Moreover, long-term contact is a different situation than consumption, so it's best to ensure the spices won't cause issues if they stick around for a while.
Kids crafts: Vibrantly colored spices were the original color agents for many paints. Save the trip to the craft store and keep the kids entertained with this homemade, eco-friendly spice paint recipe from Popular Science: Mix together one cup of flour, 1.25 cups of cold water, and a tablespoon of neutral oil until it's thick enough to paint with. Divvy it up into as many containers as you like and then mix in different colorful spices such as cayenne, tumeric, cinnamon & thyme.
Combat odors: Spices such as coriander, sage, thyme, oregano and cinnamon can be used as natural deodorizers for musty areas around the home. Collect them in small fabric satchels along with a little baking soda and place them in clothing storage bags, stinky shoes and gym bags or hang them from top of the laundry hamper to help tame odors until your next load of wash.
Revamp homemade vinegar cleaning products: Love the natural and effective disinfectant properties of vinegar cleaners, but not crazy about the pungent smell? Try adding seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus and various herbs to create a more pleasant aroma. According LiveSimply, three ingredients is all you need: Mix together 1 part distilled white vinegar, 1 part vodka & 2-3 cups of herbs or spices, shake well & wait 14 days for a better smelling, all natural cleaner. View recipe details here.
Banish pests: Keep out pesky critters, try sprinkling spicy peppers such as cayenne or chili in the top soil. Check out this garlic & hot pepper pest spray from Wellness Mama or try one of her all natural bug spray recipes. Apply a generous amount if using expired spices as they are likely less potent. And if ants are your problem, a bit of black pepper will stop ants in their tracks as they are repelled by the smell.
Single-serve snacks: old containers make the perfect "to-go" package for bulk foods, like trail mix, you can easily fit into lunch boxes, briefcases or tote bags.
Baking assist: keep your flour canister pure by filling an old jar with flour and use it to sprinkle in on the cutting board the next time you're baking something needs rolling out. Fill another will powered sugar for an easier way to "dust" sweets.
Beach bestie: keep a jar filled with baby powder in your beach bag for an easy way of getting sticky sand off your feet.
Craft container: Empty spice containers are the perfect size to hold any small craft item from such as pins, clips, beads and needles. Or with a few rocks or a bit of rice in the bottom to weigh them down, old jars can be used to hold paint brushes and messy popsicle sticks while crafting.