Keeping spices and herbs stocked in your kitchen yields easier and tastier cooking! Check out this printable basic spices list and tips for keeping your spices and herbs fresh and optimal.
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I shared earlier this week on Instagram the simple reason why I like to make so many lists: because having a ready-to-go list/checklist means that is ONE LESS THING I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT.
I’m sure you can relate when I say that there is a lot to keep track of on a daily basis, and one way that I like to mitigate this potentially overwhelming situation is by making lists and brain dumping what I can onto paper for safe-keeping. (Because I WILL forget).
My favorite lists are ones that I can use again and again. I have master lists of meals, seasonal lunch and dinner menus, standard shopping checklists, and now, a spice inventory to help me make sure I am not accidentally completely out of cinnamon or garlic (which would both be awful).
Keep reading for a list of the basic spices and herbs that typically* belong in a well-stocked kitchen, as well as ideas on purchasing and storing for best freshness and taste.
*typically because there are always exceptions. There may be a few items on the checklist you don’t bother keeping on hand. I, for one, don’t bother buying sage because a family member is allergic.
Basic Spices List
This weekend I emptied my spice drawers completely to clean, sort, and take inventory. My littles helped me to wipe down each jar and the plastic storage boxes that had accumulated a lot of spice debris. I also vacuumed and wiped out the drawers themselves for the same reason.
In addition to the cleaning, I checked each bag or jar for an expiration date. It’s kind of crazy what can get overlooked over time. I had spices that expired two to three years ago, and a package of yeast that expired in 2014! Long-expired spices and herbs do not deserve the space (especially since their dates clearly indicate that they are not being used!).
Another task I had to do a few times was marrying packages of spices. If they had a similar expiration date, and I had multiple bags, I tried to combine as much as I could. For some reason, I had three partially-empty bags of turmeric.
Once all this housekeeping was finished, I returned the jars to the drawer, briefly contemplated putting them in alphabetical order, then quickly dismissed that idea because #futile.
I’ve wanted to create an inventory checklist of spices and herbs for a long time, for the same reason that I created my Kitchen Essentials Checklist. I would remember that I needed to buy one or two spices, while forgetting that I was out of a few others. (Just like when I would make a grocery list of items I needed for meals that week, while forgetting that I was out of baking powder or sesame oil).
I made a list of all the spices I regularly use and like to have on hand, as well as commonly used blends. I also cross-referenced several other sources to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything out!
Tips for Keeping Spices & Herbs Fresh
- Start with a clean out.
- Empty your cabinet/drawer.
- Wipe down the jars/containers.
- Vacuum out the cabinet/drawer.
- Check the expiration dates on jars and bags. Toss out* spices that are expired 6+ months. (You can “test” the spices by opening them and smelling them. They should smell fresh and strong, not stale or musky. Old spices will not flavor your food as well as fresh spices).
- Condense/refill spices. Consider using the same style jars for all your spices so they fit best in a drawer or on the shelf.
- Organize your spices. Return to cabinet/drawer tidier and more organized than before. Consider using a shelf or lazy susan in a cabinet, or storage bins in a drawer to make your containers more visible/accessible. Store spices in a cool, dark location.
- Use the Spice & Herb Inventory sheet to make a note of what you have on hand, and what you need to replenish.
- Buy fresh spices for best tasting food! Many spices on the shelf at the store have sat on the shelf for long periods of time, and possibly in a warehouse before that. For the best, freshest spices, check out the options below that source directly from farms, and/or prioritize freshness.
*What range of expiration you decide is appropriate is ultimately up to you, as well as what you decide to do with expired spices.
Where to Get Fresh Spices
- Savory Spice Shop (stores in various states across the country)
- Frontier Coop (can also find in many grocery stores too)
- Thrive Market (membership grocery service)
- The Spice House
- Local ethnic markets
- Salt & Pepper Grinder Set (easily grind whole peppercorn and salt for maximum freshness)
- Salt Crock (this is what we have used for years to hold our kosher salt. it’s so convenient for seasoning food while I cook and at the table)
- Spice Grinder (we have this spice grinder. I love how easy it is to use. I keep whole cumin in mine, mostly, because fresh ground cumin is amazing).
- Mortar & Pestle (a convenient– and fun– tool for grinding fresh herbs and making your own blends and pastes)
- Microplane (this handy tool is great for grating hard spices like nutmeg, as well as easy fruit zest, and perfectly grated parmesan cheese)
- Small Mason Jars (these are what I use to store my spices)
- Magnetic Spice Jars (these have openings for shaking and pouring too!)
- Labels (I need to get new labels to give my jars a fresh and clean look. Not to mention make them easier to read!)
I hope you found this basic spices list, tips, and recommendations helpful! Fresh spices and herbs will truly make a huge difference in the overall taste of your cooking. Don’t forget to tag me if you share this resource, or any other recipes or resources from the blog! Happy cooking!
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