Having lived in cramped New York City apartments my entire adult life, I've learned a thing or three about keeping a tidy space. Having just a few hundred square feet really forces you to clean and keep a tight ship when it comes to what you accumulate. So every spring, I've come to carve out a little extra time to refresh my cooking space — even now that I've moved to the South and have more space.
I'll definitely give my kitchen a deep clean, but beyond scrubbing there's one super-important thing I always do: I go through my spices and toss the old stuff.
You Should Toss Your Stale Spices This Spring
Spring cleaning is the perfect time to take a deep dive into your spice cabinet. While your curry power and cinnamon won't actually spoil, they will lose their flavor and potency over time. Whole spices have the longest shelf life, at up to three years, but ground spices and dried herbs only have about one to two years.
Of course, you can assess the status of your spices any time of the year, but I find spring an ideal opportunity because it's the time of year when your cooking style really starts to shift and the warmer weather has you cooking lighter, brighter dishes.
If I find that some of the spices I've been cooking with through the colder months — like cumin for my winter pots of chili, or pumpkin pie spice for all my autumn baked goods — are lacking a strong smell, I'll toss them. And then I'll hold off on re-buying them if I don't plan on using them in the summer, and replace them in the fall so they'll be extra fresh when I go to use them.
More on Organizing Spices
I give my spices a sniff and if any of the more evergreen ones — like red pepper flakes and za'atar for me, although every cook has their favorites — seem lifeless, I'll refresh them immediately. There's usually a majority of spices in my cabinet that still have plenty of life to them and those stay put. (Good thing because it's wasteful and expensive to constantly replace spices!) More than anything this is just a great little exercise to tidy up something that's crucial yet often forgotten.
What's the one item you clean out every spring?