Fourth Thursdays with Deb J ~ Can you say overkill?

Deb J

Deb J

 Herbs and spices!  How many do you have?  Do you use them often?  How old are they?  As you can see we have way more than we need.  The majority of these are seldom used and some never used.  They have been around way too long in my book.  It drives me nuts but this is another place where Mom has her ideas and she isn’t going to change.  I’ve tried.  Some of these moved with us 5 years ago.  Yes, that’s right!  Five years ago!!  I wish it would all disappear.

I think we would be much better off if we tossed it all and just bought things as we use them and then in small amounts.  We are blessed to live where we have these stores with spices you can buy according to weight.  If you need a tablespoon of something you have never used before you can go there and buy it.  I like that.  You don’t have a bunch of something it turns out you don’t like.

Deb J Docs1

My spice collection

If you only use it once or twice a year for some special recipe you don’t have to have it sitting around getting old.

I’m on a campaign to lessen the amount of spices we have and the age of them.  Wish me luck.

Today’s Mini Mission

This one may be more than a mini mission but that would depend entirely on how out of control you allow this area to become. The area for today is the desk top.

Eco Tip for the Day

Be very selective about what you buy so that you are so satisfied with the product that you will use it until it wears out and not trade it in for something else soon after.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Hi Deb, sorry about the late start. I had written the wrong date in the schedule box. I didn’t only get the day wrong I also had the wrong month. Silly me.

    I think I have a simple solution to your issue. I Googled “Shelf life of spices” and found the following article.
    2 – 3 years seems the optimal time in which to use most spices. Show this to your mother and she might realise that many of them are past their best. I hope that works for you.

    • Colleen, thanks for thinking of this idea. I have shown something like this to my mom and her answer is that she is not getting rid of something she paid good money for. Grrr!

      By the way, this was supposed to have a couple of pictures with it. I have a feeling the email with them did not some through. I will send them again.

      • I am glad you mentioned the photos. The silly part is there are photos which is why I chose this post over another that you send.about ribbon. The ribbon photo did not come through. Could you please resend it for me. As soon as I finish this comment I will attach the appropriate photos to this article. Sorry about that. My mind really must have been elsewhere last night. 😕

        • Colleen, I’m having a problem sending the pictures. I will try again in the morning. I’m not sure why they are being rejected by my server.

  2. Good luck, Deb!

    I do most of the cooking in the house so i handle all the herbs and spices. Those currently in the kitchen are those I use on a regular basis. We don’t have a place to buy herbs and spices by weight -that would be lovely, though – so I try to buy the smallest container/bag I can find. If it turns out to be something I want to use more often, I can always purchase a bigger size.

  3. Deb, Good luck. Mom’s can be very stubborn, I know mine is. 🙂

  4. Deb J.,
    I am assuming that your Mom is about the same age as mine, 85 years old. Depression babies. The last time I visited my Mom on the mainland, I went through her entire pantry and threw most of it away. Paprika is not supposed to be brown 🙂 Although she moaned and groaned, I told her it was not HEALTHY to be using spices and other food products past their prime. Not only is it not healthy, but there is zero nutritional value or flavor. I went to her store and purchased the spices that she uses on a regular basis. I also bought her some fresh plants like basil to put in her kitchen window cill and sung the praises of fresh over dried when available. It lessened the pain somewhat. On a funny note, my sister was recently visiting my Mom and she told her, “Kimmy threw out all of my spices”, hahaha! I have given my daughter full permission to do whatever is best for me if I ever get like that, both verbally and in writing 🙂

    • lol Kim, it has nothing to do with age. my mum was 65 when I cleared out her pantry. I threw away spices and food that was more than 8 years old… her lifesstyle changed so much from cooking for 4 people to eating out most of the time. its veggies from the garden she likes and eats, but not canned, processed food. she got a bit mad at me at first, but in the end she had to agree.

      I went through my spice collection not long ago. its been 2,5 years that I moved in and stocked up, so I figured its time to have a closer cirtical eye on this area… I threw away 3 pieces and designated 3 for use it up and not replace. most of my spices I use on a regular basis. I did throw out a huge box of pre-fabricated breadcrumbs. I figured that if I do schnitzel or something similar, it is no big deal for me to ask for old rolls and just grind them myself… lesson learned.

      • Lena, I think there are just some people who hang on to things no matter what their age. It’s another of those “I might need it someday” or “I paid money for that” kinds of things.

    • Kinberley, yes she is 85 (86 in May). She did go through not long ago and get rid of some things she hasn’t used in years. That in itself was big. But getting her to dump and then replace things she does use is not easy. She does not look or act like she is older. She is still on the go at home and has a decided opinion about things. If I had a way of sending her off for a visit somewhere for a week then I could switch things out.

  5. That looks like my 93 year old Mom’s spice cupboard! There are even duplicates of old spices. She hardly cooks at all anymore so I don’t fight this particular battle but almost all of them need to be tossed.

    • Juhli, we have the duplicates too. We moved here 5 1/2 years ago. We brought most of these spices with us and they still haven’t been opened.

  6. Thanks for this post Deb J. You inspired me to go through all my spices. I didn’t have too many – 26 bottles – but now I’m down to 12, all of which are current and I use. The others had expiration dates going back to 2008, which I guess proves that I don’t cook as much as I think I do, or just don’t like those flavors. My husband wondered what on earth I was doing at 6.45am but sometimes that urge to clear things out just gets you! I have a Sprouts supermarket very near me which I believe sells herbs and spices in bulk, so I’ll try getting small amounts if I need anything in future, and I’ll be a bit less obsessive about obediently following recipes which call for a quarter teaspoon of this and that.

    • Christine, I’m glad this post helped you. We have Sprouts stores here too and that is how I deal with any new spices we need especially if we are dealing with a new spice or new recipe. I love being able to get small amounts to try.

  7. Idgy of the North

    We had the same issue with spices (but about twice as much). We just couldn’t figure out what we used regularly. So we put ALL the spices into a few shoe boxes and placed them in another room. When we needed a spice, we took it out of the box, used it and put it back in the “spice drawer”. We set a time limit ( 3-4 months to cover a few holiday/ seasons). Any spices still in the box where then tossed. Well the time limit was met recently. Out went 75% of the spices we owned!! We will now go the bulk store close by to pick up just the amount we need if it’s not one of the ‘staple spices’.

  8. Oh my! I have a husband that has a collection of herbs and spices. The good news is that he cooks a lot and will not use ones that are old and beyond prime. This is one area I feel confident about what we have, even though it would be excessive for others. Yeah to having a husband that loves to cook and cares about the ingredients. I still have to continue to work with him on other areas of clutter though:)

    • Sheryl, Woohoo!! It’s great you have a husband who likes to cook and is so particular about what he uses. Now I hope you can get him more on board with the rest of the decluttering.

  9. We have a spice cupboard with 18 drawers and 8 additional vessels and that is how many spices and herbs we have. This might seem rather a lot, but we do use them regularly and only refill them when empty. That said, if we make e.g. curry, we use fennel seeds, coriander seeds and so on to season instead of premade curry powder. We can use those individually for making bread or as herbal teas as well, so it works better for us that way. (We do like curry, but it’s not exactly a “staple” here – in some months we eat it several times, but in other months not even once) Also, we have only few ground spices (only the most frequently used), most have to be ground (e.g. the fennel and coriander), but it’s really not that much of a hassle (I use the coffee grinder, when it’s a bigger amount), just a matter of a few seconds, however the spices last much longer and I prefer spices to actually have a distinct taste. 😉

    Which is why I’d get rid of those 5-year old ones at once! They probably only taste like dust anyway. Maybe let your mother taste them with closed eyes and if she can identify the spice, she may keep it, all the others can go! 😉

    • Sanna, you have a great idea with having Mom taste and see if she can identify. Like you it isn’t the amount of spices we have but whether we use them. Mom is all for convenience thus so many preground spices. Since she insists on doing the cooking I have giving in on that one but would like to get rid of those we don’t use on a a regular basis. We have a few old favorites.

  10. THis is one area where I know that nothing is out of date. We use a lot of herbs and spices and in fact today I found myself buying more ground cumin only a fortnight after the last purchase (I am that anal person that keeps their menus and shopping lists on line in order to ensure we don’t eat the same stuff over and over). I don’t have many dried herbs as we grow most of our own and freeze the excess for use over the winter. It is also one area where my dreadful hoader of a mother is also exonerated! She uses her herbs and spices even faster than I do!

    Our problem area in the pantry is pickles. I make all our jams and jellies (savoury and sweet). I also make some pickles but we just don’t eat them. I have asked for a canner for Mothering Sunday this weekend because I know we will use canned fruit and vegetables more than pickled ones. In the meantime if anyone would like some pickled pears, picallili, and assorted fruit pickles I’m your girl!

    • Gillie, good for you. I think it is great that you keep things in line like that in your spices. When I was on my own and didn’t have Mom with me I did my own cooking and things were much easier. I had a preplanned menu so that I knew exactly what I needed. I also cooked and froze meals in advance so that I didn’t have to spend much time each night after I got home. We did this for a long time after Mom moved in with me but then she got to where she didn’t like it as much. We would prepare things but she would then decide she didn’t want them. It’s been an interesting few years.

  11. I save my old spices and use them up in the summer. I sprinkle spices on hostas and daylilies so the deer won’t eat them. Gets rid of old spices from my cabinet and helps my plants. Win, win

  12. Deb J – I was just bemoaning this issue on the weekend. When I first started decluttering my herbs and spices were first to go as they were all badly expired. Then a year or so ago I got into cooking and herbs and spices crept back into the household. As some of them only came in little cardboard boxes ie not air tight and the rest had really narrow neck bottles, I splashed out and bought some Tupperware spice containers.

    Then a Bin Inn store opened in my area ie where you buy dry goods by the weight. So my pantry became very minimalistic as I just buy what I require and only the quanitity I require. Handy hint: opened envelopes make great holders when buying spices this way.

    So my pantry looks a bit out of sync. Only the basic dry goods are held in stock, but this collection of herbs and spices lined up. If I had to narrow it down, it would be curry, Italian mixed herbs and a Moroccan mix (Adrian likes to use this when he makes Beer Can Chicken), everything else could be bought from Bin Inn.

    The girls and I had decided that baking wasn’t a good thing to keep stocked in the house, better to have a slice as a treat when we go out for coffee than to have an entire cake sitting in the pantry. So yeah, my pantry is rather streamlined these days.

    At the moment I am not doing much adventurous cooking, life is a bit busy, but when things settle down I’m sure I’ll make some headway thru my spice supplies.

    • Moni, isn’t it interesting how one thing (spices) led to another (buying containers)? I’ve done this too. Now here we are and I’m trying to get rid of them. I still need to slowly work on Mom with this. It will happen eventually.

      Stores like Bin Inn are a necessity in my mind. I think every area in every country should have them. I’m so glad here in the Phoenix area we have Sprouts and Whole Food with bulk spices, etc.

      I know you will eventually your spice area like you want it. I know how busyness can get in the way.

      You and the girls are so smart to keep baking supplies and the results out of the house. Mom has finally come to the same conclusion. She loves to bake but is realizing we shouldn’t have it and if it is in the house it is hard to pass up.

  13. If itwas my mom, I would consolidate spices that were alike and buy new spices in bulk, empty out the old and replace it with new. It seems like a win-win solution.

    • If I could ever get my mother out of the house long enough I might try this but I would rather she some to the understanding and not have to sneak behind her back.