Buying spices from the bulk section can save you A LOT of money, and helps you live a zero waste lifestyle. This article will provide you with some tips on how to store bulk spices, as well as provide suggestions for the best containers to use.
The bulk bin section at the grocery store is a great place to save money, and the spice section is probably the section where the greatest savings are found. For example: a .5 oz jar of Parsley on the shelves costs $2.84. Buying that same amount in the bulk bins is just 21 cents! (see all my price comparisons here).
The only down side is that the spices in the bulk section do not come in containers, so once you bring them home, you'll need to transfer them.
Trust me, I've done the thing where you just store them in the bag you bought them in. The result is you trying a lick of cayenne pepper because you can't tell by smell or appearance if it's paprika or not.
Not only that, improper storage shortens spices' shelf life and diminishes their flavor.
Tips for Spice Storage
Store in Airtight Containers
Spices can go stale, especially dried leaf spices, like basil, oregano, and parsley. Keeping them sealed air tight helps them keep their flavor longer. It also helps keep out moisture. If you live in a humid environment, the moisture in the air can cause your spices to clump and cake together. Additionally, keeping them sealed air tight helps prevent the spices spilling out. I think it's safe to say that no one wants to clean up an extra mess.
Store in a Dark, Cool Place
This also prevents flavor loss. Light and heat both reduce the longevity and taste of spices. For this reason, if you are using a spice rack in your kitchen, you'll want to keep it away from the stove. You'll also want to make sure the containers you are storing them in are not clear, which would expose your spices to light. (see examples below). My favorite place to store spices is in a drawer in the kitchen, but a cabinet is an option too. Just make sure it's not right above the stove.
Don't Store in Large Quantities
Recipes usually only call for a small amount of spice at a time, so oftentimes a container of spices can last a long time before all the contents are used. It's tempting to think that spices will last forever, but in reality this is not the case. It's unlikely that most spices will go bad and make you sick. Rather, it's they will lose their flavor, and therefore, become useless.
For this reason, I recommend using containers that hold 4 oz or less. That way, you can always ensure you are getting the most flavor for your recipe. If there is a spice you use a lot of however, (hello garlic powder), a larger container would make sense.
If your spices have changed color (i.e green parsley flakes are now mostly brown), or no longer smell like anything, it is definitely time to replace!
Use Stackable Containers
Has this happened to you? You start foraging through your spice cupboard, looking for a certain ingredient. Pretty soon, you are awkwardly holding 7 spice jars with one arm, while digging through the rest of the cupboard. At least 3 spice containers have fallen on the ground. You've looked through the whole cupboard but can't find it. More digging, more frustration. Then you realize it's one of the one's you have in your hand.
Using containers that are similarly shaped and stackable helps you keep things organized and easy to find. I am also a big fan of keeping my spices in a drawer rather than a cupboard. When they are in a drawer, they can all be labeled on the top and then all you have to do is open the drawer and find what you need. There is no need to rearrange or stack anything.
Use Eco-Friendly Containers
If you are trying to live a zero waste lifestyle, or simply trying to cut down on garbage, then buying spices in bulk is a great way to achieve this goal. Pick containers that are reusable and sustainable to maximize this benefit. Find some great up-cycle options below.
Spice Storage Containers
I've rounded up a list of some great storage container options below. They start with some up-cycled free ideas and the rest can be purchased by following the link to Amazon. (As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases, with no cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Incredible Bulks).
Refill the Containers You Already Have
Chances are high that you haven't always bought bulk spices, or maybe you're just starting out buying from the bulk section. If so, you probably already have spice containers in your home that can simply be refilled. If so, keep using them! It's free and would create less waste. Just make sure they follow the tips listed above.
Up-Cycle Other Containers You Have Around Your House
Lots of other food products come in reusable glass jars that are perfect for holding spices in. Baby food jars, yeast jars and chicken bouillon containers are all about the right size. Mason jars are also a great option, just remember to use the smaller sizes. Both of these first two options would be inline with a zero waste lifestyle.
Short 4 oz Clear Glass Jars
These class containers are a great option. They are very similar to mason jars, only I like the lids better because they are just one piece instead of two. I think these are perfect for storing in drawers.
Pros: These little jars stack nicely on top of one another, allowing for good organization. They are also the perfect height to fit into a drawer. Their wide mouth makes it easy for measuring spoons of any size to scoop out spices. They are very durable (I have had these drop off the counter before onto the hardwood floor, and the glass did not chip or break). Both the sides or the tops can be labeled.
Cons: They do not come with a shaker lid (not a deal breaker for me, I never use those). They are clear containers so they need to be stored in a drawer or cabinet to preserve spice freshness.
Tall 4 oz Glass Jars
The concept of these glass jars is similar to the ones above but come in a taller, narrower shape. These would be perfect for storing in cabinets or in racks.
Pros: I'm loving the small funnel that comes with this jar set. That would make transferring spices into them really easy. They also come with labels, as well as shaker lids.
Cons: The jars are too tall to fit vertically into a drawer. If that is where you are storing them, they will have to lay on their sides, taking up more space. The mouth of the jars are too narrow to fit larger measuring spoons into. You'll have to pour the spices into the measuring spoons, which equals a great chance of spilling. Clear glass (see above).
Magnetic Spice Tins
These metal, magnetic spice jars sure are neat.
Pros: Metal sides means you can store these out in the open without compromising spice flavor. Because these are magnetic, you could use metal wall plates to store them on the wall, freeing up cabinet and countertop space. Labels are included. The wide mouth can fit larger measuring spoons for scooping spices out. Holes on the side of the lids allow for easy shaking and pouring.
Cons: Some of the reviews said that the slot on the side of the tins ins't large enough to pour spices out of. However, the lid can be removed and the spices scooped out.
Spice Container Organization
Below are some really handy options to help keep your spices organized.
Cabinet Storage Options:
Drawer Storage Options:
Door/Wall Storage Options
What's Your Favorite Method of Bulk Spice Storage?
Let me know in the comments how you prefer to store your spices!
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