Knowing When to Toss Out the Old Spices

Happy Monday to you! I hope you had a good weekend. I tried to be a little bit productive by hitting my spice cabinet. This little cabinet in my kitchen has been neglected for far too long. It's not that I haven't used the contents of it, I just haven't been very good about maintaining the integrity of it...letting it get overrun with spices I don't use or ones that have gone bad. It's really hard Knowing When to Toss Out the Old Spices, but I was determined to clean up and clean out this area to make it more user friendly.
knowing when to toss old spices
Erma Bombeck said, "Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices." I believe her. As I went through the shelves of spices, baking supplies, coffee and teas, I was amazed at how long I've had many of my spices. I even found a few duplicates.
I posted this picture to Facebook, posing the question "What are the oldest spices in your cabinet?". Amazingly, my spices from when I got married over 14 years ago weren't the oldest.
In my quest to organize this tiny space, I ended up throwing out almost half of the spices that were taking up precious real estate in that cabinet...mostly because the dates on the bottoms of them were pushing 10 years old, not because they were necessarily bad like the rancid Lemon Pepper I inadvertently sprinkled into my PW's Marlboro Man Sandwiches the first time I made them. I may never live that one down.
Why do we hold onto them for so long? Is it even safe to keep them past their "sell by" date? I went looking for answers. I found that technically, spices don't "go bad". They will lose their potency, but typically aren't harmful to ingest past the expiration date. {Unless it's Lemon Pepper- see above paragraph.} I also came across these "spicey" tips among others:
Knowing When to Toss Old Spices
Finally, the biggest takeaway from my research was to never shake spices directly from the container onto cooking food. This allows moisture and possible oils to get into the spice container, causing the spice to "go bad" faster. *** I am totally guilty of this one.
I'm so glad I took the time to go through the spices before baking season is upon us. I even found a long lost friend tucked away in the recesses of the aged spices...my shiny red pepper mill! Not only did I find items I thought were lost, but I gained a lot of storage space. I now have an entire shelf dedicated to baking, including my flour and sugar! With my small kitchen, I'll take storage wherever I can find it!

Ms. Bombeck went on to say "The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go." For me, it would probably be cinnamon. What's the one spice you absolutely can't live without?
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29 comments:

  1. Thanks for the heads up with the spices...It is such a coinsidence because I just bought some really old spices in some cool jars at the GW and I will use them for Halloween, they are scary, come on over and have some watermelon...Phyllis

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  2. You make me want to check out my spice cabinet right NOW!!! :)

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  3. Great to know, Nici! It's so easy to forget some of the ones we don't use much!

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  4. I only got my first apartment in 2005 so none of mine are that old. Still, I think I need to go clean out my cupboard now. Thanks for the useful tips.

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  5. This is great! I've never really payed attention to my spices, but I will now.

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  6. I am now heading to my spice rack..this is great information! Such a helpful post :) I would love for you to join my weekly linky party at Share Your Stuff Tuesdays. It's on the blog now..hope you can stop by!

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  7. Guilty as charged! Honestly, I don't think I've taken the time to think about spices going bad. When I moved out on my own almost 10 years ago, I stocked my pantry because I believed that was what you were supposed to do. I literally looked at my mom's pantry and tried to mimick (on my budget) what she had.

    Little did I know that I would actually enjoy cooking foods from a different palette as hers and that would cause me to buy different spices. Now, I've been fascinated with food stores where I can buy my spices in any amount of my choice. When I clean out my pantry again, I believe this will be the route for me. That way, I can get the spices I need for those exotic dishes here and there, but without wasting a jar of something I will use sparingly. There's nothing like curry that's lost its kick!

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  8. Greatest take-away tip from this post is to never sprinkle spice from their container directly onto cooking food! I do this and, over time, some of my spices will harden and that leaves me wondering why. I keep them in a dry place and I just couldn't figure it out! This is very helpful...THANKS!

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  9. Oh wow, I never even thought that you can keep spices too long. This is great info, thanks!

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  10. These are great tips! I just bought ALL new spices because I moved out by myself. I'd love if you checked out my post about it! http://www.envirocraftiness.com/2013/08/custom-spice-jars-make-you-envy-of-all.html

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  11. I must admit I was a little afraid to read your post. I had visions of your spice cabinet looking perfect and you never having an old spice. I'm so relieved that I'm not the only one to have spices older than my marriage. Thank you for sharing I'm now inspired to get my spices organized.

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  12. Great tips! Thanks so much! I got rid of tons of spices last time we moved or I would have 14 year old spices just like you. Now I only have 6 or 7 year old spices. I keep them because they are expensive to replace.
    Thanks again,
    KC

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  13. So glad I found you through Inspire Us Thursday! I totally need to go through my spice cabinet now. Good idea about writing the date on the bottle because many don't have a sell-by date. Typically, I use the "smell" test to see if one is worth keeping. I had no idea about not shaking from the container. Thanks for sharing! Cindy from Superheroes and Teacups

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  14. I always wondered about that shaking the spice over the stirfry habit i have...

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  15. Funny that you posted this! I just moved my lazy susan spice rack from my countertop because the spices in there are over 22 years old! lol

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  16. I found some embarrassing old spice. Time to clean.

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  17. I have some that are 40 years old. They cost so much I just cannot bear to throw them out when a recipe calls for a pinch and 40 years ago it was sky high.

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  18. I so need to do this! My spices are literally falling out of the cabinet, and I would be embarrassed to admit how old some of them probably are. I recently found a cute cabinet that I plan to paint and store my spices in. Thank you for sharing at What We Accomplished Wednesdays!

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  19. Thanks for this great information! I, too, forget to check dates - I wish the spice companies made smaller containers for those of use who do not cook very often. I guess I know why they don't - lol!! I need to check mine today!!

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  20. This was so on time for me as I was pondering how long to keep my spices! I need to clean up my spice cab!! I am stopping by from Marvelous Monday Blog Hop. I look forward to a visit soon at homemaker-mom.com

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  21. A couple of years ago, I started looking at my spices after a move and realized that most of them were very old. Since then I've been marking the date on each spice bottle when I open them. Your SPICE reminder is a big help. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31.

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  22. Great SPICE tips, especially making the date on the spice bottle. THanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31.

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  23. Great tips! The hubby and I were just looking at our spice drawer that's overflowing and wondered if we should toss some. Looks like we have more cleaning to do! Thanks for sharing! Stop by my Friday's Five Features and link up this post (and others)! http://diy-vintage-chic.blogspot.com

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  24. Whenever possible I purchase my herbs and spices as whole as possible. Instead of ground nutmeg I use only whole nutmegs and grate them as I use them. They stay fresher much longer. I also raise many of my herbs so that I can use them freshly picked or I dehydrate my own. They are much fresher and you tend to use what you grow faster and better than store bought ones. And I NEVER buy spice mixtures. Things like Montreal Steak Rub and Jamaican Jerk spice I make myself! You can find the recipes for anything like this on the internet. When I whip up a batch I use my small electric Coffee grinder, which I only use for grinding my spices and making my spice blends. And NEVER wash it with water. If you use water on your coffee grinder you will kill it! I clean mine with 2 methods. 1- I grind kosher salt in it to help remove the residue. 2- I use a pastry brush with regular bristles to clean out all the nooks and crannies. Usually when I whip up any spice blends I make a double or triple batch and share some and the recipe with my friends and family. It is much cheaper than buying the store bought ones and you can pick and choose what ingredients go into them. For instance dill seed pops up in many store bought Kansas City Steak blends but they really are not very flavorful and they aren't very pleasant to chew. And do not buy in bulk unless you are buying whole spices. Cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole allspice or nutmegs will last nearly forever but ground spices lose color and flavor very quickly. My mother-in-law bought things in bulk. In cleaning out her home after she died we found as much as 5 gallon containers of things like rosemary, ground garlic, onion powder, ground black pepper. It was all so bad that it went into the garbage. We raise our own meat and make our own sausage but even with doing our own meat products every year we could never make a dent in the bulk purchases that she had stored. You need to store what you can use in 6 months to a year if you are going to buy ground spices. If you can't use it up in that time period consider sharing with someone else, a family member or friend perhaps. You will save money in the long run and have fresher spices too.

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  25. I know without looking that we have some spices that are 22 years old this month! That's when my husband bought his first house! He bought several spices at Costco and they are still in the cabinet. I guess we don't use enough Dried Parsley, Cumin, Black Pepper, and Cinnamon. LOL A couple of years ago we went to the salt and pepper grinders so haven't used the powdered black pepper in awhile. My question is, what do you do about the mess the grinders leave behind? I try to shake out everything loose before setting it back down, but inevitably it leaves a mess every time on the counter. There's not much room on that part of the counter, but I was thinking if I could find a small rectangular dish to set them on would work, but might be hard to find. Any suggestions?

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  26. I just clicked over from TDC's before & after party and I've gotta say, your post is really timely for me! I just cleaned out my Meemaw's spice cabinet. She had spices in there from 2001! I threw out probably about 3/4ths of her cabinet... I wound up using the expiration dates as my guideline because I didn't really know how else to judge things. (And I have no idea why anyone needs six different containers of Cream of Tartar... I don't even know what you use that for!).

    I too am guilty of shaking my spices directly into the cooking food. However, I only use about 6 different spices with any regularity, so I wind up replacing them every few months anyway. Hasn't seemed to been an issue with the frequency I go through them!

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  27. Thanks for the tips Nici, I have started dating mine, but it's still hard to throw them out at the 1 year date so many recommend! You have given me some leeway here and I do appreciate it! I have some spices from when I got married too, a zillion years longer than you!
    Jenna

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  28. These are some good tips, Nici! I didn't realize that spices could be kept that long. Spices are so expensive. I'm glad you can buy them in those really small containers and worry less that they will go bad before you use them up. I've gotten some very nice spice jars at IKEA that have a screw on lid and a nice big opening. I prefer that to the shaker method.

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  29. These are good tips, I don't buy to many powered spices as normally I use whole spices, and grind as I need them. I'm with you, if I had to take one spice with me it would cinnamon also. I love it a bit to much. lol

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Thank you so much for stopping by to leave a comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to write your words of encouragement. Your sweet notes make my heart smile! Have a delightful day!