This summer, my pantry had a transformation. I started using a SpiceStack organizer. At first I was dubious. Would the three-drawer unit that measures 11 inches wide, 10 3/4 inches deep, and 8 inches tall fit into my kitchen cupboard?
That meant that I could put up to 27 full-size or 54 half-size round spice bottles into the unit, thereby adding room to my pantry. The drawers pull out and drop down. Priced at $34.95, it can be ordered online at www.spicestack.com.
Now you may be surprised that I have that many bottles of spices, but amazingly I do.
When I started organizing this unit in my cupboard, I found three bottles/cans of cinnamon and two bottles of celery salt. I remember buying the extra bottle of celery salt because I couldn't find the first bottle in the maze of spices. I have multiple bottles of sea salt and assorted spice blends. I ran out of room before I could add those to the SpiceStack organizer.
But I did manage to put all of my baking spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.) on one shelf, and all of my garlic, onion, chile, and pepper types of spices on a second, thereby reserving the third for the classics of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and others.
In the process, some spices met the trash. Some spices I had used only once or twice a long time ago.
After all, the shelf life of spice stored in an airtight bottle is about two to three years for ground spices, and for whole spices, three to four years, according to Laurie Harson of the McCormick spice company. More sensitive are herbs such as freeze-dried chives with a shelf life of one year. Oregano and rosemary last two years.
"Keep spices and herbs away from sunlight and heat in a pantry or darker area of your kitchen. Do not keep them over the stove," she says. When you measure or sprinkle, don't do it over a steamy pot. If you do, spices will lose their flavor and aroma. Keep spice bottle lids tightly closed.
Freezing spices isn't necessary. When you take them in and out of the freezer you introduce moisture. But if you live in an area with high humidity, you may want to think about keeping red-pepper products such as red pepper and paprika in the refrigerator.
My storage result was thrilling. The spices were organized and my pantry was beginning to look civilized. It inspired me further.
My pots and pans are next. Old favorites are going to the back of the cupboard, making way for the more recent pasta cooker, the wonderful two and three-quart pans, and the pot that's perfect for one serving.
I've discovered that an antique salt shaker that sat in the back of a cupboard can be transformed when the salt is replaced by other dry powders for household tasks. How often are you looking for a shaker to spread something in your yard or among your flowers and bushes?
Gather up your cookie cutters and store them in a cookie tin. Collect those little measures - the teaspoons, half-teaspoons, quarter-teaspoons, and tablespoons - and store them in a little juice glass. It's so much easier than rummaging through the silverware drawer in search of the little measuring spoon gone missing. That little tip keeps me organized.
Use a colorful little soup bowl to hold cleaning items and scrapers by your kitchen sink.
For other storage dilemmas, there are products such as OXO GoodGrips POP Containers designed to store dry foods; the product is not microwave-safe or dishwasher-safe. Once the container is closed it is air-tight. It also can be used in the freezer for coffee or flour. It comes in 11 sizes, including square and rectangular. The containers range from $7 to $16 and are available at retail stores in October.