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Wow. This is Embarrassing.

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 in 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.

Most of you know I like to entertain and I cook at least five nights a week. So I use a lot of spices. 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. I decided 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.

For more real-time updates, follow me on Instagram @My100YearOldHome

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Welcome to My 100 Year Old Home. I started my blog so I could share my passion for entertaining, décor, cooking, and crafts. You will find all this and more right here. Read more…

22 Responses

  1. I moved recently and was able to shed all my old spices. In my new town, Middlebury, VT, we have an amazing food Co Op that has a large selection of organic spices by weight! The prices seem shocking, $65/lb or something, but a little plastic ziplock bag is usually under a dollar. I also grind whole spices with a mortar and pestle – makes a huge difference in flavor.

  2. ????????‍♀️ You’re not the only one! I cleaned out our spices last year and had like 5 jars as well when I finished. Lol! Slowly our spice rack filled back up and is now overflowing. I ended up dividing my spices into two groups, “baking” and “cooking”. It helps to find what you’re looking for quickly.

  3. Do not be embarrassed!! You are Not alone!! I do this periodically, (meaning years apart!), and usually I’m in the same position as you!!

  4. I did this a 2 months ago and found expiration dates of 1999! I also eliminated all the one that were one ofs along with the expired and had 10 jars left., Now when I open my cabinet and can easily find what I need especially the spices that we use on a daily bases.

  5. What a good laugh you gave me this morning. We’re preparing to move, so I think I’ll go ahead and get a jump start by tackling my out of control (but alphabetized!) spice cabinets. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. This post made me laugh so hard. In addition to expired jars, in my recent pantry purge, I also found duplicates and a triplicate. Who needs three jars of cumin??

  7. This may be the single greatest blog post I have ever read. An astonishing dose of “real,” coupled with helpful advice/experience, and a universally replicatable outcome. Unless you (ahem) went through the exact same experience six months ago but hid the process from the world. Cheers to you and thank you for laughs, style and bravery!

  8. I wish I could send you a photo of my spice drawer. I bought very tiny canning jars and put round chalk board stickers on the lids that I label with a chalk pen. I purchase my spices in small amounts by the pound and get just enough to fill the small jar. When I open my drawer I can see all of the labels at once and it’s the best thing I ever did!

  9. Probably time to do this project again. I save the jars and buy fresh bulk spices at New Seasons or even in the organic section of Fred Meyer here in Portland.

  10. another fabulous post, I absolutely enjoy all of your blog post as well as your IG. You are so real, down to earth feeling and absolutely funny! I laughed when I seen your picture of your newly organized spice cabinet ????. My boyfriend asked what I was reading, I shared your post and he outbursted in laughter as well.

    Thank you for the daily inspiration and daily chuckles!

  11. I, too, low to cook and collect a lot of spices. A couple of years ago I did the same type of purge. Storing spices needs creativity. When I first married I stored them in an old fashioned word rack above the stove. I learned that heat is not good for spice. In My last home, I stored them in a drawer near the stove. When we moved into our retirement home, I tried to use a drawer again but was short on drawer space. So I got my talented husband to build a custom rack on the end of a wall cabinet. It is perfect. I used the same jars from the drawer. I keep extras in the pantry and refill as necessary. (I have pics.)

    You should consider using those MS jars on the counter and refilling with fresh spice as necessary.

  12. Oh dear! This post had me rolling on the floor laughing!! I’m not going to even dare look at ny spices, I will say last time I cleaned out my pantry I found a can of pumpkin from 2009. Guess that’s when I stopped baking. Gah!

  13. I’ve found that the smaller spice jars are great because they stack and I can refill them cheaply in the bulk section at Winco (the most expensive part is the plastic jar)! I have the same problem with buying a jar of spice for just one recipe, so annoying! Love your Martha spice rack though, so pretty! ????

  14. Just found this post. Ohmygosh, You are hilarious! I sent my husband to the store for some items and he came back with “extras” for the next days dinner ( which was super nice!) and all the spices needed. So dinner only cost $zillon! So I started in on the spice cabinet to find room, wondering if expiration dates could be found, I googled it, stumbled onto you, and you said something about Baltimore and tin cans! Needless to say, it made my job of cleaning out the cabinet easy!

  15. OK, I know this is post is old, and I’m going to be the dissenter to this info. I won’t tell you just how old SOME of my spices are, lol. It really bothers me when perfectly good product is tossed because it’s “after an expiration date”, when in reality,99.9% of expiration dates are for the STORE for rotation purposes and there are no “government” mandated rules or laws regarding this. The exception is baby formula and some medications, unless something has changed in just the past year or two. While I will agree that some herbs and spices may lose their potency most are perfectly good to continue using. And that code? Hmmm, I know the cream of tartar I bought within just the past two years could not have been manufactured in 2001 (based on your analysis of the coding). While this post is about specific to spices, I want to show how uninformed people really are. When I was researching info on expiration dates I came across a forum where a woman was afraid to use a cake mix she had because it was ONE DAY past the expiration date. She thought she would be poisoning her family. Silly and so uninformed. Back to the spices; much of their longevity also depends on where and how you store them. Mine are all kept in a cool dark pantry away from light, and heat, and when I use them, I don’t shake/pour directly over the steaming pan on the stove as steam can enter the bottle. Just adding my 2-cents worth, for what that’s worth.

    1. I absolutely agree with Lee’s dissenting post. Herbs and spices can lose some potency over time, but in my opinion those published shelf lives are mostly intended to help companies sell more spices.

      I did get a laugh from your newly organized spice rack pic, though.

  16. Funny but TRUE!!! I did this with my spices a couple years ago and it was frustrating. Got some whole star anise and anise seed that are over 5 years old. I can’t bring myself to throw them away. They still smell really good. Until recently, I didn’t even know that heat and light were bad. So I setup a spice organizer in a drawer away from the oven and it’s wonderful. It helps the kids learn how to cook too. I’ve been paying to keep my spices “current” and now starting to buy them whole. Hubby has been advised that I’m just gonna pay for that and he is OK b/c a few of my meals have come out really good. I’ve told my friends and neighbors not to buy one-off spices until they check with me.

    My main concern is that I’m learning how to cook, and when I try something new, I want to be sure that its not messed up by old spices. Since I make plenty of other mistakes as I’m learning. The worst part now, is that all the grocery stores are closing at 8PM. It’s messing up my just-in-time ingredient purchases.

  17. I received an old Shillings spice rack with all but one jar, all still foiled sealed, dumped them as I know shilling is now mccormick, and Big Lots had a sale on spices, so refilling the bottles after a good washing – now to use more spices, especially with the new instant pot and some recipes.

  18. Glad I found this! I was trying to figure out how old some Poultry Seasoning was that we had gotten when my MIL passed……It was from Feb. 5, 2000!!! I couldn’t smell it and I knew it wasn’t good, but my husband insisted he could smell it and thought it was fine. This coming from a man who does not have a great sense of smell in the first place. lol.

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I'm Leslie,
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