How often do you check your spice rack for expiration dates? In my case, not often enough is the answer!
Most of you know I like to entertain and I cook at least five nights a week. So I use a lot of spices, so I thought I was on top of expiration dates.
Being stuck on crutches, I am going a little bit stir crazy so I thought it might be fun to take a walk (or hobble) through our home to find some smaller organizational projects that I can complete. I started at the back door of our kitchen and oddly, I didn’t even need to move. I happened to look at the cabinet on the left and stopped in front of my spice cabinet.
The spice rack you are seeing in the photo above is NOT the spice rack I use. That is because I bought this spice rack eighteen years ago from Martha Stewart online. Needless to say, the spices aren’t any good. As in not at all. But it sure is a nice decor piece.
When I opened up my spice cabinet and this is what I found.
Ok, that’s a lie. It was a bit messier so I just straightened it up a tiny bit before I snapped a photo.
And then the fun part began. It was time for me to double check that all of my spices were still good. I figure if I am going to spend so much time and effort cooking, it might help if the spices I am using actually tasted good. I should mention that I grow a lot of fresh herbs so I do use a lot of fresh parsley, dill, basil, sage, and oregano, to name a few.
Herbs and spices won’t make you sick if you eat them after their expiration date. But they lose their flavor and strength and are basically worthless after a long period of time. You can check the spices by smelling them, tasting them and checking their color. But of course, I took the easy way out and checked the expiration dates. That was easier said than done.
About two-thirds of the spices had a legible expiration date. But there were a lot of spice jars that had weird codes or nothing. So I went to google and did some research.
This is what I found and I promise I did not make this up. To “de-code” some of those four and six digit numbers, here is what we are supposed to do.
“Locate the 4-digit number on the bottom of the spice package or the back of the extract bottle. This number is the date of manufacture. Assume the number is 6310AY. To obtain the year, add 5 to the first digit (6 + 5 = 11). The second digit (in this case, 1) is the year, meaning 2001 is the year of manufacture. For the month and the day, divide the last three digits by 50 (310 / 50 = 6 with 10 remaining). The 6 indicates the number of complete months before the production month, i.e. January, February, March, April, May, and June. July is the month of production and the remaining 10 is the day of the month. Code 6310AY is the code for a product made on July 10, 2001.”
I am sorry, but are you kidding me? Somehow I would think they would want to let us know an easier way to figure out the expiration date. Because if we throw out the spices, we need to buy more, right?
Anyway, the good news is I also read that this same spice company started putting expiration dates on all of their spices in 2004. So any spices with codes on the bottles are at least 14 years old. So there was no need to decipher the code. Obviously.
I also discovered that if you have a spice bottle from Schilling and you see “Baltimore, MD” on the label, it’s at least 15 years old. Good thing I had two of those.
My next step was to put all of the spices in rows based on their expiration dates.
If you look at this photo, the row on the far right is 2019 and the row next to it is 2018. So all of the other rows represent spices that are past their expiration date. And the row on the far left is for 2002. At this point, I contemplated not using this project as a blog post. I mean seriously, who has forty-seven spice jars in their cabinet that are expired? Apparently me. And that’s embarrassing.
But wait. That must mean my spices are vintage. There must be something cool about that.
By the way, the shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 3-4 years for whole spices and seeds, 2-3 years for ground spices, 1-3 years for leafy herbs, and 1-2 years for seasoning blends.
So here is my newly organized spice cabinet.
Oh, my. That’s pretty pathetic
I do know that there were a lot of spices in our cupboard that are “one-offs”. In other words, they are spices I needed for a specific recipe. That I never used again. So I am not going to have to replace all forty-seven jars.
Here are the ones I need to replace.
I did some research and Amazon has well priced Variety Packs. I also think I might buy smaller jars now that I know most spices are good only a few years.
So now it’s your turn. Open your spice cupboard and check those expiration dates. Then let me know how it goes. I am hoping a few of you may help me feel better. And just so you know, the oldest spice in my cabinet had an expiration date of 2002. Feel free to beat me and find an older one if you can.