In my kitchen I use a variety of spices, both powders and loose whole spices, numbering maybe 30 or 40 individual ingredients. Each one needs to be kept separate and reasonably well sealed while also being quickly findable, accessible and easy to replenish. Also, frequently, up to 10 or even 15 may be required to cook so the system needs to be easy to re-organise.

Current solutions that I have used and also that I have seen others use are very varied (from a bunch of packets in a cupboard, to spice rack arrangements, often with some rules that attempt to govern the system) but each one throws up problems, particularly when it comes to finding, replenishing and re-organising.

My kitchen, like most, has cupboards, drawers, flat surfaces and walls, all of which are capable of a holding objects or sets of objects that help to organise typical kitchen things such as spice collections. The time and cost spent implementing an excellent solution are considered well worth it.

What would be the best system of arrangement for the set of spices within the kitchen, taking the above requirements into consideration?

  • What's wrong with the available standard solutions? (Google images > "spice rack") Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 6:08
  • often standard solutions don't consider usability, they are often more concerned with how something looks and who it appeals to visually in order to make a sale. Granted, the best solution might be insert_product_here but some reasoning would be good too
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 6:15
  • 1
    indeed, i often feel products are designed to 'look like someone would expect it to look' as oppose to actually being designed from the perspective of solving a human problem, plus, the full solution to this problem may well also include logic applied outside of the product itself
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 6:18
  • 4
    I meant that it would be good if the question contained a specific explanation of why the current solutions are inadequate. Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 6:21
  • good point, edited
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 6:30

2 Answers 2


A combination of alphabetical arrangement and grouping by common useage would by my suggestion.

When you're cooking, 2 things are true of the use of herbs and spices:

  1. You read the name of the ingredient in a recipe or know the name of the one you need (therefore can easily work out how far along an alphabetical row it would appear)
  2. You tend to use groups of complementary herbs and spices for specific types of cuisine (e.g. mexican food will often use paprika, chilli powder, cumin and corriander)

The best solution would be to group ingredients by cuisine or commonly cooked meals, and then within those groupings, sort alphabetically.

In practice this means when you cook your favourite meals, you work along one shelf of your spice rack, or one side of the cupboard, knowing all the ingredients you need are in the same physical location. When you're choosing one specific ingredient, you already know the location, and you can then use the alphabetical arrangement to find it more quickly.

Sounds a little OCD, but I enjoyed it! :-)

  • 2
    I like this answer, but there's one flaw - some spices fall under multiple cuisines (thereby groups), you would either need to split your spice so that it can exist in multiple groups, or remember which "primary group" it falls under if it's not in the group you're presently cooking with. With the first option, if you run out of a given spice in a given group, you would need to check if you have some available in other groups before going and buying more.
    – Kai
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 11:22
  • The OCD comment is interesting, I think some things give the impression of being OCD but can't really be described as such when they solve a real problem you encounter often. Things we do often should be done well and rather precisely !
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 14:10
  • You add dummy jars for the duplicate listing locations with 'See Mexican' on them. And have nice big cards with easy to read alphabetic letters on them marking the A-Z ( easier to read probably than the small print on the spice labels. And if you want to be really OCD you replicate the ordering in a file on your computer, with which you can use the search function...)
    – PhillipW
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 13:50

For the most OCD-friendly solution, may I suggest the following?

Buy your most frequently used spices in bulk, along with a collection of similarly-sized containers for them.

Subdivide your pantry into recipe zones, for example Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Baking.

Group the spices used in those cooking endeavors together in their appropriate zones. Cilantro might appear in the three cuisines' zones, and will always be handy.

Use shelf carousels so that all containers can be revealed easily, and things can't get lost at the back of the cabinet.

For the non-collector: McCormick makes single-serving spice collections on single cards, with recipes. They call them Recipe Inspirations and if you don't want to maintain a spice library, you can shop for spices by recipe, and buy just what you need (pay for the excess packaging, of course).

  • lolz at the recommendation to use a carousel! (good point though) Great idea to repeat spice pots if they are used in more than one context, even within an individual cuisine this happens.
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 19:59
  • Thanks, Colin! I was cooking in a friend's kitchen and she doesn't use carousels, so you pretty much have to rearrange the entire cabinet to find that one thing ;-) At home we use coriander/cilantro in everything, so having a small windowsill herb garden is kind of nice, too. Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 20:48

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