From Allspice to Za’atar

When we got married and set up house almost 8 years ago everything was about the look.  We registered for beautiful things.  I was in to these black clay bowls that were deep.  I thought they’d be perfect for rice dishes and soups.  When we first started to use them we didn’t have a table.  We’d sit on the couch and watch shows and hold our food.  These bowls were pretty, but they were HOT!  You couldn’t hold them with anything like soup.  Then we were eating with the bowls on the coffee table and leaning over them.  No longer pretty.

We now have a kitchen table where we do most of our eating.  I crocheted bowl cozies for our bowls, and we used those for a while, but soon those bowls were gone (our first yard sale) and replaced by some with handles and some with wide brims and lips.  And black was also replaced by white.  Food looks better on white.

I’ve learned a few things along the way.  My kitchen has moved through a sort of evolution… or devolution in a way.  From form to extreme function.

Other demoted and discarded kitchen items include pretty black storage crocks for flour and sugar and such that weren’t airtight and especially a two-tiered spinning spice rack.

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I cook plenty, so of course the 16 or so spices didn’t cover all of my needs, so my cabinet quickly filled with individual spice bottles.  It was impossible to keep them in order.  I tried shelves that looked like miniature stairs and rearranging them constantly, but every time I went to cook I’d go digging and searching for the right seasonings the bottles would tumble around and spill out of the cabinet (sometimes into what I was cooking).  Sometimes, while re-rearranging I’d find multiples of some seasonings.  When you don’t know what you have you buy more.

Meanwhile my pretty spice tier on the counter started to deteriorate… the plastic caps stopped sealing and the labels themselves rubbed off.  Brilliant!

Advice from America’s Test Kitchen changed all this.  In their kitchen they seal their spices in clear bags, label them, then store them alphabetically.  A phrase IMG_8692that has become my theme at home is “use what you have.”  I didn’t have their clear, uniform bags, but I had sandwich and snack size Ziploc baggies, and index cards and postal tape.  It took two hours to transfer and label all of my spices, and I was hesitant to toss my spice jars just in case it didn’t work for me, but it has changed everything and I’ll never go back.

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I have a tub for spices alphabetically with one tub for just “C” spices (most begin with C.  Seriously, start naming your IMG_8690spices and be amazed!).  Now when I cook I just pull out one or two tubs, open the bag and use the proper measurement spoon, which reaches into a bag much better than a skinny, narrow jar.  Bonus: I got rid of the two-story space eater of a spice rack from my counter.  Love me some counter space! (More on that in a later post.)

IMG_8694This also works great for when I’m out of a spice I just lay the bag out, add the spice to my shopping list, then fill the bag and replace it in the tub when I’m done.

Someday I might print labels in a pretty font, but for now these work for me, which is the definition of function.

I’d love to hear from you.  What “it looks pretty” inspired purchase proved dysfunctional for you?  There’s lots of ways to organize, so I’d love to hear how you manage your spices?

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10 thoughts on “From Allspice to Za’atar

  1. You must be psychic – I was just thinking tonight, “Hey, I need to clean out my spice cabinet.” I’ve got a corner cabinet *and* a very similar spice rack taking up space on my counter. My parents gave it to Erin and I at our first wedding shower and part of me hates the idea of getting rid of it, so it’s still just sitting there – even though I never use it!

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  2. My kitchen is not perfect and is probably aptly described as a “galley kitchen” so space-saving and prettty sounds awesome. I recently bought a magnetic knife strip at IKEA and I love the way it looks. So much better than the ugly wood block I had before. (I will say that my 11 yr old knives that were loose in their handles were kind of unworthy of it, so I have bought some reasonable priced replacements on IKEA and Amazon. So the purchase does get a few negative points for its ‘give a mouse a cookie-ness,’ i.e. a purchase that spawns another purchase.)

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    1. Oooo… I love this. When we buy a house a knife strip is on my list. Mine are in a drawer which is a big no no according to those who know. It might be a little one replacement leads to another, but 11 years is a good life for most knives I’d say. How do you dispose of old knives?

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  3. Tina Smith has a very wide drawer that she stores all her spices in. It’s brilliant because she can lay them down with the label up and see everything clearly. I don’t have the luxury of extra drawer space, but I’ve always thought that is something I’d require in a dream kitchen!

    Also, love that you’re blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great idea! I don’t have quite that many spices so I keep them in their containers and have 3 lazy susan turn tables that work for me. I have some larger containers of spices that take up too much room on those so they just hang out at the top.

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