Sunday, February 6, 2011

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme...

...No, make that parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Here's one of the many things I've been meaning and meaning to tell you about...

If you know me very well, you surely know that I am one of the most disorganized, cluttered people around. Honestly, it really doesn't bother me that much. Because I know it bugs Bill, though, I do occasionally consolidate all my little piles and throw away some of my junk, but I inevitably backslide after a day or two. Still, there are tiny pockets of organization in our house. Like the shoe organizer that has now kept my bathroom vanity clean for nearly two years.

And then there's my spice rack. Once upon a time, it was a jumbled mess that caused me untold stress. I'd be putting the finishing touches on dinner, only to realize at the most crucial moment that the thyme (or the ginger or the ground mustard) was nowhere to be found. Stirring the sauce with one hand, I'd frantically toss all the spice jars onto the counter with the other. Sometimes I'd be so rattled that I had to go back through all the jars again, putting them back in one at a time, until I found what I was looking for--or realized that I we were out.

On one of our anniversaries, Bill bought me a decorative spice rack with labeled glass jars. It was both pretty and practical. But there was one problem: it only held my dried herbs. All the other spices and seasonings were still a wreck. Each time I slid one of the glass herb jars into its slot, I thought, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if all my spice jars were uniformly sized, and perfectly visible?"

It seemed like an impossible dream--until my friend Jenny featured one of her craft projects on her blog. She washed a big batch of baby food jars and painted the lids with a metallic silver paint, and then she stuck on hand-lettered labels. The result was simple, elegant, and very functional:

"Hey, I could do this!" I thought. But where would I get all those baby food jars? Allyson had long since graduated to table food. That's where my friend Kristina came in. About a month after Jenny's entry, Kristina posted a blog entry about her own spice jar project. Turns out she had given her old jars to Jenny, but she found a bunch more that someone was donating on Even better, she gave all her leftover jars to me.

Since we already had some silver paint and polyurethane spray, this meant the whole thing would cost me nothing! Within a week, I had my new spice rack. Is this gorgeous, or what? 

Note the perfect alphabetical order--of course!

My handwriting isn't nearly so graceful as Jenny's, but I still love my jars. I like seeing my own handwriting because it reminds me of one of my few successes at bringing order out of chaos.

I can't tell you how much more relaxed I am when I'm cooking. What if I need cream of tartar? Easy! Right between the cloves and cumin. It's been eight months, but I still feel a little thrill each time I put a jar back into its designated space. Now, I almost never run out of anything, nor do I buy duplicates; I always know what I have and what I need.

My next project was supposed to be the bigger items on the next shelf:

I collected glass peanut butter jars for a few months, but they're still sitting in the garage--unless Bill threw them in the recycle bin. I just never had the energy to follow through for some reason. Maybe it'll be my spring project.

Have I inspired you to reorganize your own spice rack? If so, check out the links above to Kristina's and Jenny's blogs for some specific instructions. I'll add these tips:
  • The labels should come off pretty easily if you soak them in soapy water for a few hours, and then scrape them with a Pampered Chef scraper or a razor blade. 
  • Buy some little circle stickers before you fill the jars. As you transfer the spices from the old jars, write the expiration dates on the stickers and put them on the bottom of the new jars. (I was shocked at how many expired spices I had!) 
  • My jars are sitting on an expandable riser that I got at either Target or Walmart. The rows are the perfect height to keep the labels visible. 
If you decide to try this, I'd love to see your pictures. Happy organizing!


Kristina said...

YEA! So glad you finally got your spice rack done!!! :) They look fantastic. And isn't it much more fun to cook now that they're organized? AND if you run out, you can just get them refilled at the NEW Kroger by us or Central Market! Hooray for organization. :)

Oh and just FYI, it's, not .com Have you signed up to be a part of it yet? It's fantastic!

Sarah said...

Kristina - Thank you for the jars! Yes, cooking is so much better now. I hadn't thought about shopping at the bulk spice section, but what a great idea! I love being green in any little way I can.

Thanks for the correction on the website. I will update my blog entry.

NC Sue said...

Another hint that helps me - I arrange the spices in alphabetical order. I know it sounds weird, but it really helps.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

"Have I inspired you to reorganize your own spice rack?"

You have made me hungry now! I'll have some alphabet soup and eat each one of the letters in alphabetical order. How's that for me being organised?

God bless.

Jenny said...

Sarah, love it!!! I love your idea of adding the expiration date, I totally need to do that because I am really bad at letting things get old, especially since I do not cook as much as you do. I admire the fact that not being organized does not bother you. I wish I could live that way! But my mom was super-organized so I guess I inherited it from her. If you ever need help organizing anything, my services are free of charge! :)

Sarah said...

Sue- I'm with you! Alphabetizing the spices makes them so much easier to find.

Victor - You're incorrigible! I love your sense of humor.

Jenny - I'm so glad you gave me this idea. I'm not exaggerating about having a much lower stress level during cooking. Plus my cabinet just looks nice! I'll remember your offer about helping me get organized.

Mindy said...

Love the new spice rack! I'm horrible about mine but I use them so often that I know exactly where everything is. I just keep everything that I use often, in the front (Garlic Salt, Onion Powder, Italian Seasoning, etc.) and the further back they go, the less I use them (Turmeric, yuck).

Victor S E Moubarak said...

And all this reminds me of the first time I had alphabet soup ...

It was at an open-air restaurant in Paris. You know the ones; all the tables are set out on the sidewalk outside the restaurant and you enjoy the tourist views as you eat.

As I was served my meal I remember it started raining. It took me ages to finish that bowl of soup!

Gentle said...

I am so ready to do this...have any extra jars? I might have to start buying baby food just for the jars..ha! I have a link for some super cute labels for the jars...take a look.

Mason jars have some really cute sized jars that could be good for bulk spices too.

Sarah said...

Mindy - That's a very logical way to organize your spices. Before I alphabetized mine, it seems like the ones I used most often somehow ended up in the back. And also the short ones were behind the tall ones. It was a wreck.

Victor - I'm shocked that you had alphabet soup at a French restaurant! The only kind I've ever had comes in a little Campbell's can.

Gentle - I was just asking Bill if he recycled my leftover jars. I had a ton left from the ones Kristina gave me, but I'm not sure where they are. Will look in the garage. Those tags you linked to are really cute!


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