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Food professionals in the culinary world say we are a world of spice and herb hoarders. Your spice cabinet may be full of ancient history. Still have the star anise that your mother gave you twenty years before she passed away in 2003? Or a vintage pack of Swiss Steak Seasoning Mix that was discontinued in 1997?

This hoarding tendency has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Americans are spending more time in their kitchen rather than dining out, according to McCormick, the prominent U.S.-based spice company. So they are stocking up on even more spices.

Why the spice hoarding? You might only use certain spices and herbs for dishes that you make once or twice a year. You might hesitate to toss them and purchase a new jar because spices are often expensive. You might hang on to them “just in case”. You might not even know you have them.

While I don’t usually spend time on purging spices with clients because they take up so little space in the scheme of things, I often do put it on their follow-up to-do list. Not only is it important to cook with the freshest of spices, but spices you never use take up valuable cabinet space so it is important to periodically revitalize your collection.

Why review your spices and herbs routinely? Here are my tips for freshening up your spice cabinet:

1) Spices lose their flavor quickly. Ground spices have a shelf life of up to three months; whole spices for eight to ten months. How do you know? Some brands show the expiration date. For those that don’t, label the container with masking tape and write the purchase date on it with a Sharpie.

2) Spices can be recalled. Periodically check the brands’ websites for any recalls.

3) Fresh herbs are much more flavorful than dried. Try to buy fresh. Fewer dried herbs increases space in your spice cabinet.

4) Use a lazy susan or spinner to contain the spices. It makes them easily visible. There are many styles to choose from. There are singles and doubles. Materials can be acrylic, white plastic, metal and bamboo. The standard size is 9-10” in diameter. Your cabinets may be larger. Measure before you buy.

5) And remember to rinse out any empty jars and recycle!!!!

(The above is partially paraphrased from an Aug 2, 2021 article on


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