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This question bubbled up on Facebook .
"I'm sure you have a ton of spices. How do you keep them organized?"
I don't know that I have that many. Compared to my one friend's house (who is proud that she has basil, in addition to salt and pepper!) I suppose I have quite a few but in comparison the the wall of spices at the grocery store, I'm way understocked.
Anyway, I have about 20 spices; but use the same core group for most anything. Those are: garlic, onion, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, Italian seasoning (or granulated Poultry seasoning), nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. If you don't count those last two, slide in smoked paprika and Cajun seasoning, which are my go-to spices when something needs a boost.
So those 10 spices are front and center for easy grabbing. I used to keep all my spices alphabetical but I find it's easier to have what I use most in the front so I'm not having to navigate so much.
Behind these core spices, though, you'll find the rest and somewhat in alphabetical order. I try to group things together to some extent, too -- like keeping all the baking spices (nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin pie spice) together and all my Indian spices together since chances are if I need one, I'll probably need them all.
Now, a confession. I know I preach "less is more" and I do believe that, but I also can't help myself when spices go on sale. My supermarket sometimes has 10 spices for $10 and I'll buy 10-20 jars. I go through spices so fast when writing recipes that I use them up. I think I averaged 9 jars of cinnamon last year. Might as well save myself some money!
My "extras" are tucked away high in a cabinet (that I can't reach, despite being 5'8") so they're out of the way, but I know they're up there and can call on Scott (who is 6'0") to get them when I need a replacement.
I also buy my nutritional yeast in bulk. 5lbs at a time. I would like to say that we only order it once a year. But, no. I keep the big bag in my pantry, but a smaller canister (that I refill) on my spice rack.
Speaking of my pantry, it's pretty clear as well. I used to have an overflowing pantry with food items I never remembered buying but suddenly "appeared." It was a total disaster and once we I ate my way out of that mess (literally ate my way out!) I've tried to keep the stock piling at bay. Buying what I need for the week only, plus a few basics like additional canned beans, or tomato sauce. Sort of like my core 10 spices, I have 10 core pantry staples that I always like to have on hand. Those are canned beans (black bean, chickpea and kidney or white bean), tomato sauce, tomato paste, baking basics (flour, baking powder and baking soda), salsa (I'm an addict!), potatoes, onions and garlic, and grains (brown rice and quinoa). I find if I have nothing else, as long as I have some combination of those ingredients, I can make something to eat pretty quickly.
My pantry is organized by frequency of use as well as like items and then there is the size consideration too since my shelfs vary in height. On the top I have most of my canned goods -- tomato sauce, beans, soup to-go. Next is my onions, garlic, quinoa, polenta and peanut butter that's hidden since Scott has an affinity ;)
Next is my baking shelf, followed by grains and pasta and finally -- potatoes, dry beans and lentils. My 5lb bag of nutritional yeast lives behind the sodastream and next to my big canister of oats that I plow through in weeks
If you're looking for more advice, I wrote this tutorial with pictures on how to organize your cabinets and pantry .