The stores all have holiday decor up, Instagram is talking about sweater weather, and sweets season commenced with mini Reeses (Snickers too). I won't deny it, I love it all. I also love that cold weather means hot chili and lots of baking.
You know what I don't love? Taking a bite into a warm ginger snap and questioning what the heck I put in it!... Mmmm... tastes like expired spices. Whether it's your family's legendary pumpkin pie or your grandmother's spice cake... you definitely don't want a stale spice or old baking ingredient making it taste like a mouthful of funk.
Solution? Get organized! See, organizing isn't just to make things look pretty. It's also very practical, and might even save you at this year's holiday family gathering. Here's how an organized baking cabinet will help you:
Know exactly what you have so you don't over buy, and so you can fill in any gaps
Ensure all ingredients are fresh, toss any that aren't
Reset by cleaning any dirty containers and surfaces
Create a system that helps you use your space most efficiently
Label items to make retrieval easy, and so other members of your family can help
That's how it helps, so now you want to know how exactly to create a perfectly organized baking cabinet.
Here we go:
1. Take everything out.
This is the "it gets worse before it gets better part." You gotta take it all out to see what's going on – what items you have multiples of, what items were accidentally left open, where there's been a spill, and what's missing. Which leads to the next step..
2. Take inventory.
With a notepad and pen handy, start looking at all the expiration dates, recycling or tossing all old items. Start making a list of baking items you'll need to get at the store, and any organizing products that might work better, such as a brown sugar container that doesn't cause hard clumps, or a tiered spice rack so you can view all labels at once. To reiterate – this is the editing step. Make sure you toss any expired items, or items you know you'll never actually use.
3. Deep clean.
This step can't be skipped and it'll make the end result so much better. Baking cabinets are notorious for creating a mess – spilled flour, leaky maple syrup bottles, and cinnamon somehow everywhere.
TIP: Since the items are edible and can pick up scents, I recommend using all-natural cleaners.
4. Understand how you use the space.
Understanding how you use each space in your home is key for creating an effective system that will actually make your life easier. This is especially true for a baking cabinet where you'll want to quickly and cleanly (no knocking over the sugar container to get to the baking soda!), reach for ingredients when you're ready to bake (anyone else hear "on your marks, get set... BAKE!"...?). You'll also have to take the dimensions of your space into account – do you have a deep pull out cabinet, a reach-in pantry, or a lazy susan? Your space will determine the products you'll need.
5. Buy product for form + function.
We all love beautiful containers, but in your baking cabinet, it's essential to have products that function for the items in them. This means containers need to be airtight, have lids that stay put, are easy to clean, and serve any other functions you need them to. One of my favorites for pantry projects is the ProKeeper Baker's Storage Set from The Container Store.
Not only is the design simple and clean, but they each contain design elements that help serve their unique purpose. For example, the flour keeper has a removable leveler for one-handed measuring, the sugar storage containers include a flip-out pour spout, the brown sugar container has a terra cotta disk insert to keep sugar moist and clump-free, and the minis are topped with shaker screens to sprinkle contents. You know why I love these features? It cuts down on clutter and cost of purchasing additional tools!
I'm also a big fan of decanting spices into uniform jars. I love these glass ones from The Container Store. This can save space by making sure all the jars are the same shape... but it's mostly just really visually satisfying...
Yes, this is my favorite part!
Wash and DRY your bottles and containers. Both are equally important steps. You want zero moisture because it will clump up your ingredients.
TIP: Use a rolled up piece of scrap paper as your funnel for pouring spices into the jars. After years of decanting thousands of spices, this is still the easiest way to do it. Otherwise you'll be washing the funnel a ton so that the spice flavors don't get mixed.
Place the old jar behind the new one so you don't forget what you put in each jar... you end up with a lot of light brown spices that all look the same.
Give your jars and containers a quick wipe down with rubbing alcohol so that the pen or sticker label goes on to a nice clean surface.
If you're writing your labels with a pen, use a permanent white board marker. This prevents smudging upon first use. You can also use rubbing alcohol if you need to redo your label or change it out for another ingredient later on.
TIP: Write the expiration date on the bottom of the jars.
7. Set it up
Now that you have a clean space, freshly decanted ingredients, and perhaps a few other products, it's time to create a system that makes it easy to see and access everything. You'll need to take into account reachability – If you have a higher shelf, the less-used items should go up there (such as cake decorating items, back stock, etc).