Chances are a lot of the spices in your kitchen are past their prime. Here's a guide to refreshing your spice stash and keeping it organized.
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Row of spice jars
Stewart Waller / Getty Images
| Credit: Stewart Waller / Getty Images

If there's one spot you're forgetting in your spring cleaning regimen, it's likely your spice cabinet. It's an often neglected corner of the kitchen that rarely gets a deep cleaning, but it deserves your attention.

Contrary to popular belief, spices do actually expire, but they don't go bad in the way that milk or meat go bad. You won't get sick from consuming old spices, but over time they lose their flavor and vibrancy. If you've ever cooked a dish and wondered why it fell flat despite following a recipe, expired spices may be to blame.

Ground spices, a popular choice because of their convenience, are good for about six months to a year while whole spices hold their taste for up to 5 years. Oxygen causes the oils in ground spices to dry up and they take on a dull hue.

Can you cook with old spices? Sure, but your food just won't have the flavor you're looking for and you're better off spending the money on a fresh stash. So now is the time to dig into the back of that spice cabinet and take stock of what's worth keeping and what needs to go.

Here's a step-by-step guide to getting your spice cabinet in order and keeping it organized:

1. Take everything out

Remove everything from your spice cabinet and set it all out on a counter or tabletop. Group jars of the same spices together to see what you're working with and more easily assess which ones to keep and which ones to trash. If you see a spice blend that doesn't bring you joy and you have no plans of using, just eliminate it now.

2. Wipe down shelves

With a rag and a gentle cleaning solution, wipe out the empty shelves to give yourself a clean slate. If you have any organizer stands, drawers, or racks, wipe those down as well.

3. Check for expiration dates

Look for jars that have expiration dates labeled on them and toss any that are expired. It's time to start fresh and stock your pantry with spices that are going to actually add flavor to your cooking, so don't hesitate to part ways.

4. Use your senses

For the jars that don't have an expiration date marked on them, your nose and eyes will be your guides. First take note of the color. If your oregano is more brown than green and has taken on a dusty hue, it's got to go.

Next open the jars and give them a sniff. If you're not picking up on a scent, shake a bit of it into your palm and rub your finger in it to release its aromas. If it doesn't have a strong smell or any smell at all, it's time to say goodbye.

5. Organize

Now that you have pared down what to keep, put the jars back into your cabinet in the order that makes sense for you and your cooking habits and make sure all lids are tightly sealed. Keep any duplicate jars grouped together and place the most used spices near the front.

6. Restock and label

When restocking your cabinet, buy spices you know you will use often and only buy a quantity that you can reasonably use in six months to one year. Place a piece of masking tape or painters tape to the bottom of new jars and write the month and year of purchase. This will take out any guess work for next year's spring cleaning.

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