If you don't have a good system for storing your spices, things can get really messy really quickly. Maybe you line them up in rows in your cabinets or squeeze them onto a tray next to your stove. You can never remember if you have pumpkin pie spice or how long you've had that nutmeg, and each time you bake, you have to shuffle the bottles around until you find the vanilla extract. All it takes is accidentally knocking over the cumin to create a domino effect of falling spices. Just like that, everything in your pantry is orange and receiving the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric.
To prevent this totally hypothetical situation that has absolutely never happened to me from happening to you, it's important to keep your spices organized. (Check out our favorite method for spice organization—and find out why we think it'll make you a better cook.) But before you start, you're going to want to gather some supplies. Here are our staff's favorite spice-organizing tools:
1. A Set of Spice Bottles or Jars
It's better to buy your spices as you need them, rather than getting a whole set at once. However, this means you often end up with an assortment of bottles in various shapes and sizes, plus some flimsy plastic bags if you buy from bulk bins. If you want them to stack nicely or fit together perfectly in a drawer or shelf, you'll need to "decant"—yes, there's an official organization-nerd term for this—your spices into small containers. Bon Appétit senior associate food editor Molly Baz likes to use these clear cosmetics containers because you can see what's inside, they're easy to label, and they have a wide mouth that's easy to scoop from.
2. A Label-Maker
You can do this with masking tape and a sharpie, but if you really want to feel like an organizational whiz, use a real label-maker to label each of your jars. (The labels should go on top if the spices will be kept in a drawer, or on the front of each jar if they'll be sitting on a spice rack or in a cabinet.) Be sure to include a use-by date as well as the spice's name.
3. A Spice Rack
If you don't have room to keep all of your spices together, store the ones you use most frequently on a small spice rack or shelf installed on the wall near your countertop or cooking surface. If you don't mind sacrificing the counter space, you can place a small spice rack on your counter, like this. Make sure you can see and access each individual spice without moving another out of the way. Again, reserve this for your most-used, everyday spices so the rack doesn't take up too much space.
4. Spice Drawer Organizers
Alternatively, buy spice-drawer organizers and place your frequently used spices in a convenient-located drawer. The organizers will keep your spices lined up and prevent them from rolling around every time you take a couple out to use.
5. Spice Shelves for Cabinet or Pantry Doors
For your less-used spices, a rack on your pantry or cabinet door like this will keep them out of the way but available when you need them. Or, buy containers with magnetic bottoms and stick them to a magnetic surface installed on your cabinet door, like this, or on the side of your refrigerator.
6. Non-Skid Lazy Susan
If you have the cabinet or shelf room, a lazy susan is a great way to keep extra spices easily accessible. We like the non-skid kinds so you don't end up sending those spices crashing all over your countertops with an overzealous spin.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious