Have you cleaned out your spice cupboard lately?  If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. Like any other food or condiment, spices do have a shelf life, so it is important to clean out your spice cupboard at least twice a year. Here’s how:

1) Empty the cupboard. Start by removing the herbs and spices from the cupboard and placing them on the kitchen counter. Remove any shelves or units from the cupboard that have been used for storing the spices. Wash each storage unit in warm soapy water and wipe down the cupboard itself.

2) Check for freshness. Once you’ve cleaned the cupboard its time to assess your spices. Here are some questions to ask yourself: are the colours of your herbs and spices vibrant, or do they look faded and washed out? Do the herbs feel brittle and crumbly? Are your spices still aromatic? If your spices have begun to fade, feel brittle and are no longer aromatic, dispose of them in your compost container. You should be able to recycle the empty jars and plastic containers as well.

3) Consolidate. If you have multiple packages of the same spice, combine them to free up space in your cupboard.

4) Take stock again. Which herbs and spices do you use most? Make a list of spices you need to replace and bring it with you on your next trip to the grocery store.

5) Rethink storage. If you are thinking of reorganizing your spices, it’s important to keep in mind that spices need to be placed in an area way from light and heat. Organizing your spices and herbs in a cupboard or drawer is usually the safest spot. For organization and easy access, arrange your spices in alphabetical order. You can also organize your spices based on how often you use them; for example, if you use garlic powder the most, make sure to place it in the front row. For more sophisticated methods of storage, visit your local kitchen store for some organizational racks, additional shelving and multi-tiered turn-tables.

6) Return herbs and spices. Once you have cleaned up and determined the best method of storage, return your spices back to their cupboard or drawer.