The Shelf Life of a Spice Rack

Basil and oregano grow in my garden.  Spices and dried herbs grow in my cabinet.  Just like rain lily bulbs, the little jars multiply as time passes and I forget about them.  There are two chili powders, two nutmegs, two cloves, and three ground mustards.  The ground mustard is baffling.  I can’t think of one recipe I use it in, so why do I keep buying it?  It has to stop.  I’ve compiled a list of every spice, seed, herb, and extract in my cabinet.

The majority of my herbs are McCormick brand, which made my project much easier.  If there’s no best by date on the jar, McCormick has a website where you can find out when the spice or herb was packaged.  On that same page, they provide basic shelf life information.  The maximum shelf life for herbs and ground spices is three years.  The maximum shelf life for whole spices, seeds and extracts is four years with two exceptions – poppy and sesame seeds are only good for two years.  The overall exception is vanilla extract, which never goes bad. 

Something that never goes bad is great for my budget but bad for my brain.  It doesn’t make any sense; edibles rot.  Why doesn’t vanilla extract go bad?  My mother refuses to eat Cool Whip for this very reason.  A storm interupted her barbeque once.  The plates, pies, burgers, buns – they were all destroyed and washed away from the rain but not the Cool Whip.  It survived the storm, and as my mother would say, “That ain’t right.”   

So I went about entering the codes, and most of my spices checked out.  But to my dismay, there were three rogues that have been hiding out since the nineties!  It’s embarrassing and disgusting.  But luckily, 15 year-old spices are only flavorless; they don’t actually make you sick.  I’d know by now if they did. 

To make myself feel better…or worse…to be determined by your responses, check your cabinets and best buy dates.  Comment here and whoever is kind enough to take the Old Spice title from me gets a replacement spice, herb or extract.  I’ll check back on May 1, 2011 to crown the title.  The year to beat is 1996!  

  1. 1. I’ve moved in the last two years and cleaned out my kitchen pantry so I can’t play. My prize is not having really old spices.
    2. Maybe Mom will listen to you. I told her to throw away her old spices years ago.
    3. I don’t think Mom will appreciate being quoted as saying “ain’t” to anything…

  2. Lois Betterton

    Dear Ms. Lettuce,

    How ironic, I got up this morning with the intention of reviewing my spices…and the project evaporated with the daylight. Now I’m inspired…I will check the expiration dates and get back to you…should be interesting and insightful.

    Lois B

  3. First, lol to both of you – S and L. Now, let me say to S that I removed a disclaimer from this post that read as follows:

    Unless she refuses to play, I fully expect my mother to win the Old Spice title. The disclaimer is so I won’t be accused of nepotism if and when that happens.

    Then I added a snarky line about her kitchen sponge being from 1990 and ended up taking it all out because I thought she’d really get mad at me….I don’t think she reads the comments.

  4. I read the comments.

    If the soup tastes as good as it always did, how stale are the spices? And why would McCormick with its vested interest be a reliable source?

  5. Haha! At least I got you to finally comment on my blog!

  6. You have me beat. The worst I had was a jar of thyme from 2003, which is now in the garbage.

  7. Well, it’s May 1 and although there are comments here and on Facebook, no one beat me. I am the reigning Old Spice Queen. Although judging from her comment, my mother is the true queen; she just won’t admit it!

  8. Useful info. I’ll favorite.

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