Frustrated with my spice cabinet

I am so frustrated with my spice cabinet. I can’t even begin to describe how much. I have encountered this a great deal several times in the last week. I have a small galley style kitchen. So while my love for spices is grand, my space for them well is quite frankly not so grand. I am trying to come up with a way to organize my spices and do so efficiently, so I can find them, and so that my spices don’t grow old and lose their flavor.

Before I go into why I find them frustrating on why I hate to store them, let me say I hate the variety that I have. I have a medium sized moving box of spices, excluding the wonderful salts that I have. I know this because I moved twice in 2009. I packed everything up twice. I am beginning to wonder why I need so many spice blends. I am not talking about spice blends such as chili powder, or say curry powder. I think I have a problem with purchasing or acquiring odd ball spice blends like ‘Penzey’s Black and Red’, or the ‘Penzey’s Fox Point’ seasoning. I am beginning to wonder if I should just buy single herbs and spices, and not blend. This is going to be my plan of action, at least until I walk into a spice store and find something so spectacular I will want to have it in my home.

Storage, the physical storage, this is the part that causes me much heartache. So something that works to my benefit is where I buy my spices. For the most part, my spices come from two places. About eight years back I started to purchase spices from Penzy’s, who has fabulous spices and they are often less expensive than what they are in a grocery store. In 2008 I found The Spice House in Chicago. I love The Spice House, again very good prices, and the freshest spices imaginable. So why this is important, is that they come in standard sizes. Everything comes in similar sizes, so I am not combining square containers, large plastic containers, and then goodness knows what else.

The organization of spices is where I begin to fall apart. A couple of years ago I tried putting all of my spice jars into a drawer. For me, this wasn’t the most successful plan, as all of my jars are round. So everything rolled around in my drawer, and after opening the drawer a few times, I couldn’t read any of the labels. So now I have some tiered shelves in my spice cabinet that works ok. Since it is tiered I can read all of the labels, but I have too many spices, so I have to double stack everything. It is a pain. Last night when making some taco soup, I pulled out a lot of things before I got what I needed, and I was adding bits and pieces of blends trying to purge my cabinets of the spice blends.

want to make some of your own spice blend recipes? try some of these.

My question to you is how do you organize your spices? What spices must you have? What can you live without? I am so frustrated by my having too many spices in too little of a space. Do you have any thoughts?
Write your suggestions below, I will be anxiously waiting to hear what in the world do you do with your spices.

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Leslie Vestrich

    On eBay I bought a vintage wall spice cabinet (search ‘Three Mountaineers spice cabinet’ sort lowest price first) that I love as it takes up no visual space and holds 39 supermarket bottles. But I found 60 half size bottle to stack (each shelf is 5.75@H) because fresh (bulk) is best and I too love blends. Why dumb down your cooking? It has a cute sampler-like cover with a ‘Herbs & Spices’ chart and inside the door another list of food/herb combos. It fits on the side of my double-oven cabinet stove-side. 19.75H x 20.85W x 2.75″ deep, so easy to grab a bottle and disappears in the room. You could paint out the front or paste on a print you like within its frame.

  2. Anthony O

    I have very small and oddly shaped cabinets in my kitchen, with no really good place to keep all my spices. The solution I’ve come up with is that I have several plastic containers purchased to fit in a particularly useless narrow cupboard, and I store the spices in them without the lids (the containers, not the spice lids). Then I can just pull out the containers and easily find the spices I’m looking for, and put them away just as quickly.

  3. Gary

    This works for us.
    When we bought our current home about 18 years ago, we had a 2-tier lazy susan put in a lower corner cabinet where the door is attached to the lazy susan.
    Upper shelf we have all of our small and medium spices in alphabetical order.
    Problem – you can’t read the front labels on a lower shelf.
    Solution – I made a list of all the spices and printed little round labels for each. Your local office supply store probably has a crazy variety of shapes. Add dates to these labels to help you purge extra older spices, that you really should not be saving for your grandkids. Then placed each label on the top of each jar.
    I too am big into Penzy’s. We have one 3 miles from our home.
    Lower shelf is used for large, Sam’s Club, type container, etc.
    We recently purchased a refrigerator with French doors. One side has very shallow shelves by the ice maker. We use those for spices we want to keep refrigerated.
    We use the small basket inside the freezer for additional longer term spice storage.

    • Stephanie

      You have some great ideas. I have since moved to a different set up. Mostly I benefited from a larger kitchen. I too, have written dates on my spices so I know how old they are. I am curious what spices do you store in the fridge/freezer?

  4. JStansell

    Don’t know if you will see this comment or not but I, like everyone else, had many spices of different shapes, sizes, etc. What has worked wonderfully for me is in my pantry i hung a spice wire rack from lowe’s and numbered the shelves. BUT the best thing I did was type a list of all spices in alphabetical order and I hung a small cork board right beside the spice rack and just stuck the list by the spices with a thumb tack. I can go in and, at a glance, see if I have the spice and exactly which shelve it is located. This also helps tremendously if I have “help” in placing spices back… anyone can see where it goes. If I run out of a spice i make a note and if I add or delete a spice, i just make the change on my computer and print a new list. This has been a life-saver for me.

  5. Crissie

    I put all my spices/salts in jars – mason or 4 oz jelly jars – my hubby glued sheet steel to the underside of all my cabinets and I purchased earth magnets and glued to the top of my lids. All my jars are stuck to the bottom of my upper cabinets – there are 78 of them… I used tiny magnets with a 1 1/2 pound pull for my jelly jars and larger ones with a 5# pull for my masons – I have cabinet lights behind them and although you can barely see the jellies, they reflect the light and look really good! They don’t take up any counter or cabinet space that way ; )

  6. TucsonJenn

    I HATE my tiny spice cabinet…omg, I want to strangle whoever “designed” it (I say designed with quotes because it was CLEARLY an after thought).
    I’m thinking of getting something like this organizer for a drawer because drawers are actually something that I have extra of in my kitchen.
    If anyone has any experience with these, please let me know if they’re good or just another kitchen gadget that’ll go to next year’s yard sale… Thanks for posting this…I’m glad I’m not alone. lol

    • Stephanie

      I haven’t tried one of these. But anyone that designs a small spice cabinet is not my favorite person. I have always needed something just larger than what I have. I did buy some shelving solutions from the Container Store. There is a brand called Elfa and they make these nice back of the door systems that are great for helping you organize what’s in your pantry.

  7. TRISH

    I share your frustration with spice storage. Here are some things that work for me. Plastic baskets & I do one for baking, the other two for savory recipes. I divide the two by alphabetical breakdown. (A-M, N-Z). I also ordered a case of empty spice jars so they are easy to arrange. Recently I purchased a countertop spice carousel that holds 16 bottles of my most frequently used spices. I think I have the problem licked. Here’s another source for spices Their spices are always nice & fresh and I know they sell to smaller coops and natural food stores. They carry an organic line of spices, too.

  8. Verue Hughes

    I had a pass through from the kitchen into my dining room. I’ve hated it since I moved into my house. Finally I designed and my husband and I built a spice rack to close it in. I LOVE my spice cabinet. I measured everything that I knew I wanted to put in it so that there would be room for everything. The top shelf I use for baking/sweet spices the next shelf down is for meat etc. The next one down is for frequently used meat spices. The bottom shelf is for sprays, oils and anything else that won’t fit on the other shelves. The doors covering the spices we added frosted glass. It looks really elegant. On each side we put shelves for my flour, sugar and coffee canisters. One is also reserved for our phone system. I will try to attach a photo of it. If the photo does not work you could email me and I’ll send you a picture of it. Email address is

    Verue Hughes DeRidder, LA.

  9. Donna

    I found a place on-line called “Red Monkey Foods” I love thier stuff and use thier spice blends on just about everything.

    My favorite places are myspicesage, and the chicagospicehouse, and penzeys. My goal is to get to where I can blend my own stuff. Trying to save space in my cabinet!

  10. moonstonemystyk

    I saw this on Good Eats on the food network. Little metal tins, stuck to the inside of the cabinets with velcro. It would free up shelf space, and leave all of your spices in an easy to see (and choose from) place. He marks them on the top with what is in them, and the date so that any that are too old can be replaced. I started doing it with mine, and now I use them more often because I have no problem finding the one I want.

  11. Kelly

    I LOVE how we organize our spices and it’s made my life so much easier when it comes to trying new recipes and daily cooking. 🙂 We use thee great magnetic spice containers and have them on the side of our fridge. Also, I painted our fridge with chalkboard paint so that allows me to write the name of the spice next to it, which helps when I say “Honey, can you grab me the such-and-such”. 🙂 It works great in a small space! If you can’t do it on your fridge you could always buy a piece of sheet metal to hang on the wall and paint with chalkboard paint, or put some on the inside of your cabinets. 😀

    Here are two pictures of our spices:

    Good Luck!!!

  12. Andrea

    my mom (as a chef) has the very same problem… and she lives in a japanese home that has a very small kitchen… so what she did is she got a bookcase/dvd shelf and uses that! it works perfectly for her. and of course, if you did not want your spices shown to the world, you could put a little ‘curtain’ over it.

  13. Darcy

    I too have a galley style kitchen. They are evil, unless one is on a boat. I think the person who started designing them into houses should pay a hefty price – all of it going to me so I can buy a house with a proper sized kitchen.

  14. Shiela

    Another suggestion is They sell boxes that stores different spices by theme. It is nicely organized. Anytime, you are cooking, you can just pick up the box. Here is a picture of what I am talking about

  15. Carol

    I have to second the spicestack organizer. I recently bought one and it holds so many spice bottles and is wonderful to use.
    Previously used alphabetical rows in cabinet, lazy susans, a kitchen drawer devoted to spices, etc. None of those worked for me.