My previous kitchen was small, so small that it necessitated the use of vertical space to store my collection of jars (on a shelf suspended above the counter) and spices (on a magnetic board screwed to the side of a cabinet).
I’m in a slightly bigger kitchen now, but have the opposite problem: plenty of drawers and cabinets, but no vertical space for storage.
For someone who keeps over 80 varieties of herbs and spices on hand, it’s an organizational challenge. But I finally came up with a neat, beautiful, and practical system for labeling, storing, and sorting all my containers, and it’s such an easy project that I had to share.
(Plus, I’m an organizational geek to the highest degree and surely there must be others like me?!)
With herbs and spices, I usually buy them in bulk as they are much more economical. And by bulk, I don’t mean Costco-size containers with a lifetime supply of Italian seasoning. I’m talking about the spices you can dispense by the scoop at markets like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and — my local favorite in Central Oregon — Market of Choice.
You can get a standard 4-ounce quantity of garlic powder for under $1. A specialty spice like za’atar might go for $2. Bulk spices can cost up to 75 percent less than the ones in expensive glass jars, are sometimes fresher, and I highly recommend them over prepackaged spices.
That said, I do keep a few prepackaged spices on hand as some were gifts, purchased from farmers’ markets, or picked up on the fly on road trips. So, I needed a DIY system that would work for both my bulk spices and prepackaged spices, keeping in mind the various sizes and shapes of the jars, tins, and tubs.
I came across these miniature Ball jars and immediately knew they’d be perfect for storing spices. They are an exact replica of the brand’s iconic mason jars, just scaled down to a diminutive 4-ounce size with a one-piece screw-on lid.
(Note that these specific jars are for storage and decorative purposes only, and are not suitable for canning.)
The miniature jars have a smooth side for labeling, and I found that a white paint pen (I used this one) worked great on the glass. The paint can survive a light rinsing, but comes off with soap and scrubbing so you can relabel your jars as needed.
To transfer all my spices from the old tins to the new jars, I used this silicone funnel and found it super efficient for the job. It’s wide enough for whole spices like peppercorns, but narrow enough to fit the mouth of the jars.
As far as drawer organization goes, the most common method for storing spices is a tiered rack like this one. A lot of ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets also have in-drawer racks that are custom-fitted to their systems.
But we’re renting right now, didn’t want to invest in beautiful (but expensive) wooden drawer inserts, and couldn’t find any generic racks that fit the exact dimensions we needed.
Instead, I found these soft foam liners and they are seriously game-changing! They can be cut to length with just a pair of scissors, and they work really well in shallow drawers where tiered racks may be too bulky.
The design is stupid simple: a set of channels down each liner creates a groove that nestles your spice jars straight down the center. The groove holds all the standard sized spice bottles, including larger ones.
I arranged all my jars in the groove and love how they look in the drawer — so easy to grab and go!
I use my own method for sorting them by flavor profile: peppers, Mexican spices, Italian herbs, and Asian spices (all my most-used jars) in the first drawer, then sweet spices, Moroccan spices, and an assortment of prepackaged salts, rubs, and seasonings in the second drawer.
The drawers shield the jars from heat and light, so my spices have a longer shelf life. They also live right by my prep counter and stove top, so it’s made cooking a lot less confusing when I don’t have to rummage through a cabinet or shuffle through jars that get lost on tiered racks.
Since I can clearly see all my spices at once, I always know when I’m low on something and can add it to my shopping list immediately. No more forgetting what’s around, or running out in the middle of a recipe!
So there you have it — quick, easy, efficient, and attractive spice drawer organization for geeky cooks like me.