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How Long Should I Keep Spices Around?

To ensure that your spices are living up to their potent potential, in addition to a “best by” date, McCormick even has a “Fresh Taster” feature on its website where you can plug in a code found on the bottom of each McCormick spice bottle to verify its age and TOSS (Toss Old Spices Seasonally) accordingly. And as McCormick notes, if a certain bottle of spice originates from Baltimore, itís at least 15 years old, and if you have Schilling brand spices, theyíre at least seven years old.

Food Expiration Dates: What Do They Really Mean?

If you donít buy McCormick brand spices, there are a couple of things you can do to see if a spice is still good. For starters, simply pour out a little and observe its color. If the vibrant color has faded, then usually so has the flavor. Over this past summer, I encountered grayish-brown, not red, paprika at a friendís house and remember being wary. Sure enough, it tasted like “paprika light” and was definitely not worth using. In addition to the color test, you can perform a sniff test as well. If a spice is no longer fragrant, itís probably best to replace it. If a spice has some fragrance left but is far less potent than it used to be, just double the amount called for in a recipe.

Also, remember to keep spices, whether of the ground or whole variety, in a cool, dry place away from your stove with their lids securely fastened so that they keep as long as possible. And donít feel guilty if you have to toss and replace a spice. It wonít do any good taking up real estate in that congested spice cabinet of yours. If a spice is really old, you may not want to throw the packaging away. Many folks collect antique spice bottles and tins, so you may have luck pawning it off at a local antiques store or selling it at your next garage sale.

It may be wise to buy spices in bulk (in small or larger quantities) to save a few bucks, cut back on packaging waste, but you will have to face the ďI only use cloves once a year but have a giant bottleĒ dilemma.

Not all grocery stores sell herbs and spices in bulk, but itís worth looking into. Depending on the household usage of a certain spice, you can buy as much or as little as needed so that little goes to waste. Is your house cumin crazy? Then by all means stock up and store the spice in a cute little reusable glass jar. Need mustard seed for a recipe but donít think youíll use it again? Buy just a few tablespoons in bulk instead of an entire bottle that costs upwards of 5 dollars (spices arenít cheap). Iíve started doing this with garlic powder. I found that I was using it frequently so I stopped by a local Middle Eastern grocery and purchased some in bulk ó more than what Iíd been getting in an average bottle†ó†for a much lower price.

Good luck with the spice cabinet clean-out project. I hope that after this youíll no longer warrant the “spice hoarder” tag. And remember to consider buying in bulk in the future to save money and curb your spice-related waste stream.

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8:16AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Still have the spice set given to me by my youngest son, back around 1990...Most never used because I'm still working on using up the spices in metal containers. Are the oldies in metal containers collectables??? I know, I know, throw the oldies.

5:39AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Wow some of this stuff lasts a long time! Good to know.

2:26AM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

Good to know! Thanks for sharing.

12:53PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

11:45PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

O.K. I'll have to do the sniff test since alot of the spices I have have no dates.

8:12PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

good to know

10:00AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Thank-you for the informative article. I need to go through my spices again. One spice I use to use a lot of was Dill. I was told to keep it in your refridgerator to help preserve its freshness.

2:45AM PST on Jan 6, 2012

Thanks for the info.

2:30PM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Thanks. i needed that!

8:43AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

I guess i can toss everything then!

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