A Spicy New Year

January 08, 2024 | Christine Hradek

kitchen spices

We are refreshing our kitchens here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. in the new year. Last week Jody shared how she is working on getting back in the groove of meal prepping by making some meals ahead to pack for her lunch. She highlighted our Vegetarian Chili recipe and also shared some great tips on managing our canned food at home to make sure we use the oldest items first. The same principle applies to our spices and the start of a new year is a great time to take a look at what you have.

Spices stay safe to eat for a long time, but they do begin to lose their flavor after about a year. It is a good idea to make a point of using up what you have every year or so to turn over your supply and avoid things getting lost in the back of the cupboard. I have a kind of tradition of deep cleaning my fridge and doing a spice inventory around New Year’s Day because I can watch football games in the background while I putter through it. Here is how I approach my spices.

  1. I pull everything out of the cabinet and look at the dates. I also group any duplicates I have.
  2. I make a note of any that are a year old or getting close to a year old. I put those at the very front of the cabinet.
  3. I hold off buying new seasonings or blends until the oldest spices are gone. Sometimes this means my meal plans have to take spices into account for a few weeks.
  4. I make a plan to use the oldest spices this winter before they start to lose flavor. For example, if I have a lot of thyme and onion powder, I will likely make some chicken soup. If I have a lot of chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper, I will likely make a couple of batches of tacos. I will also see if I have the ingredients to make some spice blends that make it easy to use multiple spices at once. Some examples are:

Are you joining us in a bit of a kitchen refresh this January? If you are interested in the fridge cleaning portion of the new year kitchen refresh, stay tuned for a blog at the end of the month from our friends at ISU’s AnswerLine! Next week I will be back with some tips on preventing waste in your pantry and freezer.

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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