Variety May Be the Spice of Life, But Too Much Spice Isn’t a Good Thing

When in doubt, I buy more spices. Unfortunately, that’s how I’ve ended up with several lifetimes’ supply of paprika in all its forms—sweet, Hungarian, smoked—despite the fact that I rarely cook with any of it. Mustard seeds, dried mint leaves, and paquin chiles tie as runners-up in my spice excesses.

This past weekend, I finally confronted my spice issue and created a labeling and organizing system comprising color-coded labels and stackable tins that make it impossible to overlook my existing inventory (and would make Martha Stewart proud). My newly organized spices finally deserve to live in the amazing custom-designed spice pantry built into one end of the custom-designed kitchen island my uncle Otis built for me.

These handy tins, purchased online from Specialty Bottle, come in various sizes, but when it comes to spice storage, the smaller the better. Spices don’t have an indefinite shelf  life: don’t follow my paprika example, and only buy what you can use up within six months. I used to frequent Penzey’s Spices at Grand Central Market, but now that it’s gone, my go-to spice source is Kalustyan’s.

I don’t think Avery had spice tins in mind for their “removable” organization labels; I ended up having to reinforce the rebellious edges with double-sided scotch tape, but in theory, each label is transferable to bigger or smaller tins as necessary over time. My color-coded system makes it easier to hone in on what I’m looking for: brown, for spices with “seed” in the name; green, for dried herbs; red, for hot or spicy spices; dark blue, for all other savory spices; and aqua, for spices used for baking.

What’s next on my organizing list? Excavating my stand-alone freezer. I’m pretty sure I’ve still got leftover chocolate Dean & Deluca birthday cake from February somewhere in there, waiting to reward me.

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