The Spice Rack Problem

by Kate Steadman

Pre-Christmas, I suggested buying spices for foodie friends as holiday gifts because they don’t take up as much space as other gadgets and are likely to be used. I guess my mom was reading (Hi, Mom!) because this was one of my gifts from Santa:


But there’s one problem: how do you store all those spices in a closet-sized kitchen??

Melissa of the Traveler’s Lunch Box writes: “The problem was – and still is, as far as I can tell – that people who design spice racks aren’t actually people who cook.” Nodding my head in vigorous agreement, I present my current spice arrangement:



This is v.3 in a little over a year. Sure, the mounted spice rack provides ease of use, but it hardly holds the essentials. The spice “cabinet” is a pitiful mess full of oddly-shaped jars, packets and boxes, plus Kay’s spinning spice rack, which must be in a cabinet to preserve our teensy counter space.

The initial problem remains: we simply have too many spices, even for a spinning rack, shelf, and 3 shelf rack. Add in my present, and well, it’s getting beyond hectic.

Melissa has an elegant recommendation: a wooden printer’s tray with slots just the right size to hold 4 inch spice containers. This looks time-consuming to implement, but worthwhile if your spice collection is growing at an exponential pace like the Cabana’s.

I installed the latest spice arrangement within the last two months, so I’ll probably suffer a bit longer before I grudgingly move on to v.4. Of course, the New Year itch might provoke action sooner…


17 responses to “The Spice Rack Problem

  1. Have your local custom closet company come and put in pull-out drawers about 6″ vertically apart in that little closet. I have had this arrangement as part of two pantries and it is perfect. Just enough height to fit your standard sized spice jars and maybe some taller items. I also have baskets and corrals installed where I keep the bagged bulk items (trust me, if you had a Penzey’s in town, you would buy a number of things in bulk).

  2. I look longingly at those apothecary cabinets at antique stores… but our problem is the same as yours… no space in a small urban kitchen. I just can’t sacrifice the counter space, but ideally that’s what I’d do. The draws are, naturally, the perfect size for spices so all you’d have to do is label the tops.

  3. I buy small amounts of spices at Whole Foods and store them in the plastic bags they furnish in the bulk spice section. Saves tons of space.

  4. Spice organization is a seriously problem in most kitchens, so you’re not alone! My father invented a new spice rack for my mother, who IS a real cook, called the SpiceStack. It stores 18+ spices from the grocery store (the mini Penzey’s bottles fit perfectly!) in your kitchen cabinet where spices are out of the way yet accessible. We include 96 drawer labels so you can customize your spice rack and always find spices quickly and easily.

    Check it out at and Happy Cooking!

    Best, Lauren Greenwood, President, SpiceStack Inc.

  5. I LOVE the in-drawer spice rack from Target. You lay the spices on it so you don’t have to label the tops. They stay in place with the rubber bottom, not rolling around like if they were just laying in the drawer.

    The height of each space fits one regular sized jar or two of the small ones. AND I can double layer them and still be able to close the drawer.

  6. We use test tubes – some pretty glass and cork ones (2*30) from Tubular Spice Co. and then two more foam blocks of 50mL conical centrifuge tubes (my boyfriend works in a lab). Since the bulk spices come in all manner of packaging, they can safely be stored in a big box and the tubes refilled and at the ready.

  7. Nathan Williams

    Huh, I was just going to plug the SpiceStack, but I see it’s been done. It’s not as nice as custom pull-out drawers, but as a renter, I shouldn’t do such things. My only problem with it is that one is two small, but two would be much too big.

  8. Midwest Product

    I LOVE the in-drawer spice rack from Target. You lay the spices on it so you don’t have to label the tops. They stay in place with the rubber bottom, not rolling around like if they were just laying in the drawer.

    I agree this is the easiest solution, but unfortunately it requires a spare drawer to work with in the first place. I’m assuming from the description of a “closet-sized kitchen” that in this case that’s simply not an option.

    If you do have an extra drawer you can use, though, IMO this is much more convenient than any sort of elaborate rack taking up valuable counter or shelf space.

  9. Nope, no extra drawers, or counter space for a spicestack (which could never hold all the spices I’ve collected). hopefully good advice for others though!

  10. Alton Brown uses these guys an I always thought it’d be nice to have them all over the side of your fridge if you were crammed in a small space… My kitchen came with a smallish, tall corner cabinet with a 2 tier lazy susan so that works for most of mine. The ones I buy from the mexican section in little cellophane bags I close up with rubber bands and keep in a big jar, that’s probably eight of my favs right there.

  11. one of my christmas presents was a set of magnetic tins with clear lids and labels–the set of 30 wasn’t enough for all my spices, but it’s an expandable option. plus, instead of taking up cupboard or drawer space, now all my spices are on the side of my fridge, which has the added benefit of making them easy to find quickly. mine was a kit, but here’s a DIY version:

  12. At my house, we bought a small sheet of metal that we glued to the inside of a cabinet. We then transferred all our spices to small containers that have magnets on the bottoms. Takes up much less space than a spice rack and works well for a small kitchen.

  13. i think if i had the money, i would use what hillpagan and Margot suggested – the magnetic spice tins a la Alton Brown. it would be awesome on a fridge or you could buy a piece of adhesive magnetic material and just put it on a wall.

  14. Nathan Williams

    I tried the magnetic tins thing, and found that the tins I could find were a lot smaller than the quantities of spices I had, even from normal-size jars.

  15. Our kitchen is small but not urban. What we have is rack like a mini wine-bottle rack that mounts on the wall, and we put little sticky-dot labels on the tops of the spice jars.

  16. Visit and tell him what you need . He does a great job building anything , and reasonably priced too !

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