While cleaning my cupboards, I decided to do a purge of my spices. I really, really hate to throw out spices, but it just has to be done at least once a year. I remember cleaning out my Grandmother’s after she passed away, and there were spice cans that were at least ten to twenty years old. The contents were gray dust. 
Bulk Spices - Sue buys a lot of hers in bulk from StringTown grocery which is an Amish store. I don’t buy from bulk stores much as if they are open bins they can be risky for Celiac people. Health food stores and Co-op stores have spices and seeds to buy in bulk also. New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City is a good store to buy spices and seed in bulk. The nice thing about stores like this, is you can buy small amounts or larger amounts according to what you use. Don’t buy large jars if you won’t use it often. It is no saving if you have to toss a large amount. Spices are becoming more expensive and as the cost of gas goes up, they will continue to raise in price.
Red Spices
Small Containers - I buy-as you can see by the photo-the small containers from Tone’s (located in Iowa) and larger jars of the ones I use a lot. I do like Penzeys Spices. I just received an order  that included Bay Leaves. The first time I ordered Bay leaves from them I ordered a pound. They called to check that I really wanted several hundred bay leaves. After we got done laughing, I changed the order to 1 ounce which lasted me a good year and I use a lot of bay leaves. It is the one spice I would hate to give up the most. This time I ordered 4 ounces (see top photo) and will share them with Sue and my daughter. Penseys often send a sample jar of a spice with my order and I have tried spices and ordered some I might not have ever tried. Just a nice extra from a good company.
When to toss - The general rule of thumb is to smell and taste your spices. If they do not smell anymore or taste flat, they should be tossed. Penzeys recommends keeping red spices such as paprika and whole, crushed and ground chili peppers in the refrigerator.  
Storage - Other than vanilla beans and extract, the flavor of spices will not be damaged by cold. Always store in a dark cool shelf in your cupboard. If you have an open spice rack, hang it out of the sunlight. Heat, light and moisture are the hardest on spices. They will lose their flavor and aroma faster if stored in these conditions.
How long do they last?  While it doesn’t make sense to discard spices oftener than once a year, some will last two years or more, you need to check on them. Ground spices will not last as long as whole ones. Seeds can become rancid quickly and really are better kept in the refrigerator. 
When in doubt about a spice, just smell it. If it smells strong and spicy, use it. If not, toss it.


  1. Hi, I am Dutch, living in the Netherlands and read cookbooks like novels. Backreading from now to the start, I like these recipes. It seems younger folk do not know how to cook from scrap and I realise through reading your blog on stock in cupboards and this one, that I have fallen for convienance too, but not all the way. I remember my mothers kitchen cupboard in the early fifties, after five years of war and distributed and not available goods. The only sweet premixed little box in our house was custard oh and self-raising flour, if one can call that convienance. We could get live yeast, but it was more tricky then self raising flour. No pancake powder, no cakepowder, all from scrap. This post made me smile, up to the sixties this is what was in my mothers tins with cinnamonpowder and -sticks and vanillabeans or -sugar for the sweet cooking there was also: salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves.and premixed currypowder, the yellow stuff. That is it, vegetables and meat were spiced with some of these and they were delicious. Of course we had mustard and vinegar too. No overflow of foreign spices, no overfull cupboards, just this.Dried raisins and currants to make our type of Spotted Dick. But we had milk from our cows, butter and buttermilk we ordered from the milkmill, where our cowsmilk was processed, hens and a cockerel and eggs, the first two to be slaughtered when getting to old, and a pig. My brother had a rabbit, just for fun. We had a potatoe and vegetable garden with strawberries and red and black and gooseberries and my mother canned these and green beans, the carrots, meat, made sauerkraut and runnerbeans in brine, in spring there was spinach and lettuce and in winter laid up coals of all kinds: cauliflowers, red and white cabbage, some kinds I do not know the English word for, beetroots and rutabaga and leeks and kale. Carrots and the last three veggies were good for mash and veg, mashed together with the potatoes that is. We never went hungry. I am 65 and could, if I must, go back instantly to cooking that way and most of the time I do, but how would people in their early twenties cope if suddenly they had to cook like that again without the internet available and all kinds of canned, tinned and boxed food? Many turn to the net for inspiration and do not own even one basics cookbook. The sun is shining nicely, but there is a very cold wind, maybe it is time to cook vegetable mash with carrots (the storeable ones) and onions, gravy, and smoked sausages. Only salt and pepper needed with that.(no ciliflakes, I have a tender stomach). I will read all to the start of your site, thank you for your recipes and good memories and the beautifull Sunday pictures. Reina..

  2. Hi, Reina,
    We enjoyed hearing from you. As you may know, I lived in Germany 5 years, and we loved Europe. When we came back to the US, we lived for 25 years in a community with a Dutch heritage; some still speak the language fluently.
    We also think too many young people don't know how to cook if they can't read the directions on a box! We are seeing more interest in gardens and raising chickens again in this country...a good thing.


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