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If you’ve been keeping up with me on Instagram you’ll know that we’re slowly but surely giving our kitchen a makeover. While the kitchen that was in this house when we bought it is basically the opposite of my taste, i.e. completely devoid of colour or interest:
However, we’re extremely lucky that it was an almost brand new kitchen, and it’s absolutely rammed with storage.
I always feel like I should remind you how small our rented kitchen really was… it had THREE cupboards, total. And the biggest one was under a leaky sink so we couldn’t really put food in it.
I love to cook, and even when we lived in the tiny studio flat I still maintained a pretty impressive spice collection. I have 38 different herbs and spices in my cupboard at the moment. Every single one sparks joy, so sorry Marie, they’re all staying.
I’ve got everything from sumac, to star anise, to jerk seasoning – but organising them in a way that makes them easy to find and use is a bit of a challenge.
The starting point
Here’s my before:
It’s not the messiest cupboard out there. I’m lucky that my boyfriend bought me a fancy Joseph Joseph spice rack for Christmas a few years ago, they don’t make them any more but it’s very cute.
In my dream kitchen, I’d probably have a deep drawer for all my spices. The tall cupboard I have now has a lot of wasted space, but I’ve tried to make the best of it.
My cupboard at my old flat was a lot worse – I just had to take everything out when I was looking for something. I’d often buy duplicates of certain spices because I had no idea what was at the back of my cupboard!
Here’s what it looks like now:
Pretty good, right? I actually already had all of the storage-y things, so it didn’t cost me anything!
How to organise your cupboards
The best way to sort out any cupboard, wardrobe or drawer is to pull everything out of it. Once I knew what I had I could throw out or decant any of the empty or almost empty jars. You can see what I chucked in the bottom right corner of this picture. I did throw away an ancient, almost empty tub of mixed herbs that I’m not planning to replace.
How to make the most of your spices
Spice tip one: keep them in the dark
Like perfumes, spices will keep their potency a lot longer if you keep them out of sunlight.
Spice tip two: go for bags, not jars
If you have spices you get through in large quantites – for me, that’s smoked paprika, turmeric and curry powder – it’s much better value to buy them in bags rather than tiny jars.
I picked up this one in Asda. It’s 50p for 100g of turmeric. If you bought the small jar, you’re only getting 45g for 59p, so it costs you more than double by volume. This is based on Asda’s quite reasonable own-brand prices, if you bought
Good places to pick up bagged spices:
- Flying Tiger
- Asian grocers
- The “ethnic” aisle in supermarkets (I hate that term).
Spice tip three: get labelling
If you’re decanting bagged spices into things like old jam jars, you’ll speed up your cooking by keeping things labelled. You can buy a label maker, or just get a piece of paper and some sellotape like me. I like to be able to see what’s inside them from above, and even some supermarket jars don’t come labelled on top (Asda, I’m looking at you). Schwartz
Keep like with like
I tried to split all my herbs, spices and seasonings into categories I’d remember. One of my baskets has ground spices, one has herbs and whole spices and then I have a separate box for stock cubes and tomato puree.
It’s a good general rule for your kitchen too. Only have one place where you keep one type of thing. E.g. don’t have tupperware in two cupboards. It makes everything so much simpler to find and put away.
Make the most of your full space
I added a shelf organiser (£3 at IKEA) to make the most of the vertical space within my tall cupboard. You can see at the top of the photo I also have an extra drawer thing hanging from the top that’s full of crisps. I bought mine on Amazon, but then I saw you can get it cheaper from Wilko.
Prioritise what you use most
Of this shelf, I definitely use vegetable oil the most, so it makes sense to have it within grabbing distance. But you probably already knew that, right? Salt and pepper are in a whole different cupboard in my house with all the sauces, but they’re right at eye level where I can grab them.
Some chefs recommend having a salt pig out on the side at all times to encourage proper seasoning. It’s something I’m considering!
I’m really happy with how this cupboard turned out – it looks so much emptier than it did before, even though I only got rid of three jars!
What do you think?
Want a spice-filled recipe? Check out my hidden veg onion bhajis!
ByTheForkful.com has plenty of plant-based recipes you can use your spices on if you’re looking for ideas.
Like before and afters? See my bathroom makeover on a budget.2