Food + Drink + HOUSE: New Mexico #3

Setting up a super-efficient spice cabinet.

Spice cabinet - doorsixteen.com

How’s this photo for a teaser? I’ve been living in my house in Santa Fe for almost two years now, and I have yet to blog about it at all (though I have shared snippets here and there on Instagram). I don’t know why, exactly (that’s something for me to ponder in a future post), but one of the things that’s propelled me back into wanting to blog is my excitement over what lies behind these black doors.

A few months ago, I hit my frustration point while making chickpea coconut curry. It’s a simple recipe, but it calls for 7 different spices. That shouldn’t be a big deal, but at the time (and for a long time before that), all of my spices were stuffed into this cabinet in about 50 tiny plastic baggies. You know, the little ziploc baggies they have by the bulk area at grocery stores? Those. With the little sticker (except sometimes without the little sticker, which adds to the fun). And I got my little step stool and started pulling baggies out looking for the right baggies, and then there were baggies all over the floor, and also I had three baggies of thyme because I always think I’m out of thyme (ha, ha), and…baggies.

Baggies are not the answer.

Once upon a time (11 years ago) I had these nice spice racks inside of my kitchen cabinet, and they were great. I think Daniel has them now? Anyway, it was a good solution at the time, but I was only cooking with 18 spices. I’ve branched out into different cuisines since then, and I also cook a whole lot more (funny what happens when you don’t live in New York anymore), so I have greater spice storage needs. And I buy my spices in bulk. I had to come up with something.

Spice cabinet - doorsixteen.com

Enter the OLOFSTORP wall cabinet from IKEA. I would link to it on IKEA’s website here, but because it’s one of the best products they’ve ever made, they of course discontinued it after about two weeks. I bought it in 2014, and it used to hang in my dining room in Newburgh. It’s really nice. It’s perfect for storing oils and spices and stuff because it’s so shallow! Luckily my current kitchen has just enough wall space for the OLOFSTORP in a spot where anything deeper would be in the way. It’s just right. The problem I was having with spice storage wasn’t the cabinet’s fault, it was the containers inside of it.

At first I thought the answer might be 4oz ball jars, but then I tried stacking a few of the ones I have, and it was super unstable. Apparently there are small ball jars out there that do stack nicely, but finding them reliably seems to be a bit hit-or-miss. I also had a vision of my knocking over a whole stack of them while trying to grab the coriander and then having to deal with broken glass. That might be irrational, but once I got the thought in my head, I was convinced that I needed something lighter weight and unbreakable.

I spent a day Googling potential solutions, and I hit upon this post at The Kitchn. Scroll down past the glass jars and the lazy Susan! I don’t know who Jesse is, but PLASTIC DELI CONTAINERS???? Look how tidy! How practical! Jesse is obviously a genius. Thank you, Jesse, whoever you are.

Spice cabinet - doorsixteen.com

TA-DA!!!!!!! Behold, the spice cabinet of my dreams! Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it make you want to cook some complex Indian dish with 15 spices in it?? It makes me SO HAPPY. I no longer dread looking to see what I need before I go grocery shopping. I don’t worry about baggies falling in Fritz’s water bowl. It’s great. The difference this change makes in my daily life is way bigger than I could have imagined, and I really wish I’d taken the time to do it sooner.

Since I knew trying to save up enough reused plastic containers to make this happen would take approximately 60 years, I went ahead and ordered a 24-pack of BPA-free 8oz deli containers on Amazon. It felt weird to purposely buy that many plastic containers, but this was a practical move in a practical endeavor. I’m likely to use these for many years, so I’m not too worked up about it. Since 8oz is overkill for the spices I tend to store in smaller quantities, I also ordered a 20-pack of BPA-free 4oz storage containers with screw-top lids.

Label maker - doorsixteen.com

You know what else I bought? A label maker. My heart was telling me to make cute, hand-lettered labels with washi tape, but thankfully my brain stepped in and reminded me that that would be HOURS UPON HOURS of obsessing over whether my handwriting looked good enough, and wondering whether a torn edge sparks more joy than a cut edge, and then I’d probably wind up with a bunch of unlabeled containers of spices in my cabinet. So I bought the label maker. And I didn’t even get myself stressed over the lack of ability to control the letter spacing. (OK, yes I did. But I got over it.)

Spice cabinet - doorsixteen.com

Spice cabinet - doorsixteen.com

Here are a couple of close-ups for the nosy crowd! I do keep my Trader Joe’s seasonings in their original jars, because those are the things I like to use with a shaker. They look cute all lined up together, too. I hope you can support my decision to alphabetize the two paprikas with the Ps rather than with the Ss. Esses? …pees? Writing is weird.

So, hey. I enjoyed writing this post IMMENSELY. You have no idea. Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my “new” house, and to writing about the things I’ve done to make it a happier, more functional home.

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65 Comments

  • Reply Tiffany February 14, 2020 at 7:32 am

    Woohoo! I love this for many reasons:

    1. This is the spice cabinet of my dreams. And I 100% sympathize with the torn edge vs. cut edge of washi tape and the inner dialogue of how good my handwriting looks (“And should I use all caps? All lower case? Sentence case?”) AHH!
    2. This is the third post on Door Sixteen in a week and I AM HERE FOR IT!

  • Reply Rebecca Sweeton February 14, 2020 at 7:52 am

    I wish I had space in my kitchen for a spice cabinet like this! I do have 3 Joseph Joseph spice racks which is what replaced my little baggie situation with. And I agree with Tiffany, so glad you’re back to blogging!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:47 am

      I just googled Joseph Joseph (it’s not a brand I know)—so many practical storage solutions. Nice!

  • Reply Aslaug February 14, 2020 at 8:10 am

    I’m so jealous! An organised spice cabinet AND a label maker….

  • Reply Kelly February 14, 2020 at 8:38 am

    LOVE THIS. I have the same label maker and it gives me a ridiculous amount of joy.
    so glad you are back!
    (and LOL at the Seinfeld reference)

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:52 am

      Hahahaha, I was hoping someone would get the Label Baby Junior reference!!

  • Reply Hayley February 14, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Love it! And now I need to try that recipe. Thank you.

    • Reply Dianne Mohan February 14, 2020 at 11:45 am

      This is wonderful. Would love this for my hubby..do you know how deep the shelves are/dimensions? The wheel is spinning.hmmm

      • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:57 am

        The shelves are 7″ deep, which is perfect for the larger containers. It also seems to be just the right size to store bottles of oils/vinegars two deep. (This cabinet would be pretty easy to build if you have basic carpentry skills! Let me know if you need any other measurements.)

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:52 am

      It’s SO GOOD. Everything I’ve tried from Richa’s website (and her books!) is amazing.

  • Reply Sarah February 14, 2020 at 10:12 am

    We’re kindred spirits. You also alphabetize your spices. What a beautiful cabinet!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:55 am

      It’s shocking to me that there are people who DON’T alphabetize their spices!!

  • Reply Emme February 14, 2020 at 10:23 am

    I know it’s a minor detail, but I immediately loved the latch on that cabinet.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:54 am

      Isn’t it pretty? I love everything about this cabinet. I don’t understand why they discontinued it so quickly!

  • Reply Susan February 14, 2020 at 10:42 am

    This post makes me so happy — teary almost — that you’re back to blogging, that your beautiful cabinet works so well there and also that you care about the kerning on your spice labels! Nice one! ❤️

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 11:59 am

      I wish I could adjust the kerning, but it’s probably for the best that I can’t!!

      • Reply Maggie February 16, 2020 at 8:00 am

        First of all…so happy you’re back to blogging! Second: an organized spice rack is the one thing I didn’t know I needed until I had it. My bf decided to fix my mess (because it drove him nuts when he was cooking at my place), and the process caused some tension. Because I fought the idea that there could be a better way than baggies piled at the back of the cupboard. I. Was. Wrong. My cupboard is gloriously organized with small mason jars, which are aesthetically boss and stack like a dream. LONG LIVE ORGANIZED SPICES.

  • Reply Amanda February 14, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I can’t wait to see more of your new house! I’ve always been a fan of your style and was constantly inspired by your DIY renovations. I’ve been struggling with a spice solution myself… currently they are stuffed in a drawer which makes for a fun guessing game any time I need anything other than the TJs Everything But the Bagel, because I know that one has a white lid. (haha) And I recently bought one of those retro embossed label makers, which just makes me so happy, so this 4oz jar thing + that might just be my solution! Thanks!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      I almost bought one of those embossing label makers, but I’m still mildly traumatized from an incident in my childhood when, in the process of peeling off the backing, the plastic strip went under my fingernail and detached it from the skin!!! ugggghhhhhh

      • Reply Amanda February 14, 2020 at 1:29 pm

        omggggg. that sounds awful. the backs are pretty difficult to get off. you’d think by now, there would be a better solution!

  • Reply Kristina February 14, 2020 at 11:13 am

    That cabinet and it’s contents are so beautiful. I laughed out loud when I got to the part about the torn edge of washi tape vs the cut edge! So good and so relatable.
    You and Jesse are really onto something with the deli containers. Seems like a much easier way to measure out spices. No waste when attempting to pour the needed amount into the measuring spoon whenever the spoon is too big to fit into the jar. You can just scoop it out!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      Oh, it drives me crazy when I can’t fit a measuring spoon into a jar!! It’s also really easy to consolidate spices or make custom blends with these big containers. I love it.

  • Reply Holly February 14, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Your spice cabinet is admirable. I love it! My DIY card catalog / alphabetical system is pretty janky, but it works until I bring a baggie into the house and don’t remember what’s in it. I aspire to have a cabinet like yours. It is perfect. p.s. I totally get where you’re coming from….oh, that kerning on the “M ARJORAM” label.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 12:02 pm

      DAMMIT, M ARJORAM!! I *almost* reprinted that one, but letting it be was a therapeutic exercise.

  • Reply Kim B. February 14, 2020 at 11:41 am

    This is fab and looks so good!

    I had totally missed your move to Santa Fe — wow! In my mind you were still in ABQ. (I have been off Insta as my personal phone has been on the fritz and I’m not putting my personal stuff on my USG work phone! So I have been missing out!)

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      Fritz swears he didn’t do anything to your phone!!

      • Reply Kim B. February 20, 2020 at 12:27 am

        I was thinking of that as I wrote it!!

        I finally figured out how to charge it (by standing it upright so there is more pressure on the charging connection) so now I am back!

        I do wish that IG was also set up to look good on iPad — if that were the case, I wouldn’t have had this problem!! I am a viewer on IG, hardly post anything, but I love the beauty of what I see there, and I have missed it!

  • Reply Doorot February 14, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    All I can see is Onions Seed / Kalonji is not perfectly aligned with the rest. HA! Just kidding 🙂 I love this. We are in the midst of renovating our soon to be new house and I just can’t wait to do this sort of stuff. Soooo satisfying!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      It’s hard to get the longer labels on straight!

      • Reply doorot February 15, 2020 at 1:10 pm

        Mine would ALL be wonky!!! I’m the worst at these things and it would drive me bonkers. I don’t know how you got them on so straight. Except for Onion Seed :)))))

  • Reply Emma February 14, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    We use plastic deli containers all the time! The quart-sized ones are great for storing grains and beans, I also make my labels like you but for the grains etc I make an extra one with the cooking times (15-20mins etc).
    The pint sizes are great for homemade soups/chilis etc and stack up nicely in the fridge or freezer.

  • Reply Laura February 14, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    Love it!!!
    Since I only have a spice drawer and not an entire cabinet, I buy Simply Organic spices and save the glass bottles. I love that the lids come labeled, so I can easily see what’s in them in the drawer. Then when I run out, I can refill with bulk! Hooray for simple fixes making life better!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      I barely have any drawer space in my kitchen, but I looooooove a tidy spice drawer!

  • Reply Heather February 14, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Beyond amazing!! Love this and I want it in my kitchen!!

  • Reply Ryan February 14, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    An organized spice cabinet in that cabinet deserves its own post and I am loving all the detailed photos. I’ve loved that IKEA cabinet since you bought it for Newburgh and have contemplated copying it for my sister’s bathroom (she needs shallow wall storage. I have alphabetized spice jars but more spices than jars so also struggle with the drawer of bulk baggies. I always thought I’d get matching tall spice jars to streamline the mix and match of jars collected over 20 years but am totally rethinking that plan after seeing the squat jars stacked. Such better use of the vertical space on a kitchen shelf, easier to label/see label AND you can get a spoon in there! We use 8oz ball jars for spice blends but never label them so I’m sniffing spice jars trying to remember what it is – often without complete success.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      Hahahah. Time to start labeling those jars, Ryan!

    • Reply Kim B February 20, 2020 at 12:28 am

      The spoon, the spoon!! It’s the ability to get the spoon in there that takes this solution next level!

  • Reply brenda February 14, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Love this idea for spices – especially because I just ordered various sizes of heavy zip lock baggies with pics of mason jars on them to put spices in (glad I caught this before doing thAt). Something I did along these lines a few years back was to use a drawer that fits upside down straight pint-size mason jars to store things like nuts, dried fruit, etc. so no need for printing nor alphabetizin. Great if you’re a visual person. I know spices are trickier but I am now eyeing a shallow drawer could work in a similar way, I think, if I print just some of the trickier ones and visually create alphabetized areas. I get stressed thinking I have to get things back in alpha order (being slightly dislexic). Also lOve your OLOFSTORP wall cabinet – especially the latch. I think I spotted the same Brelville milk foamer as I have. Any tips on getting consistent results with it? I love and hate mine. Also are you still using your Hurom Juicer? (see what I did everyone – I gave a few ideas for blog posts) … it sure is a pleasant surprise to see you posting again. I keep saying to myself as I’ve the notices, “No. This can’t be – another lucky day.” Hope the break did you good and you come back with great gusto again.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 14, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Have you thought about maybe grouping the spices by the type of cuisine you typically use them in (Italian, Indian, etc.)? Between that and labels, maybe that could help with quick identification. And yes, that’s the Breville Milk Cafe! I don’t drink dairy milk, but after much experimentation I know which plant-based milks froth up the best. Even if I use something that doesn’t froth well, I still love how nicely it blends ingredients. 🙂 (I gave away my juicer to a friend after realizing I hadn’t used it in 7 years. Hah!)

  • Reply Bridget February 14, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Wow this brings tears to my eyes it’s so beautiful 🙂

  • Reply Danyelle February 14, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    I am so happy you are blogging again. Seeing anything from you pop into my Feedly gives me so much joy.
    Siddddeeeee note: Is there anyway you can rerelease your nasty woman t-shirt. I’ve worn my so much most of the letters are gone and it just vaguely says “nasty” which definitely doesn’t give the context I’m looking for. Please!

  • Reply Elizabeth February 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Perfection!

  • Reply Ginger February 14, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    I *absolutely* alphabetise my smoked paprika in the Ps – makes perfect sense! 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer February 14, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    This looks great! I have a spice drawer that was nightmare baggie town and I finally made it all nice with jars and labels, and then I got into Indian cooking and now its all full of baggies again This has inspired me to get it back together! How are those TJs spices?? I’ve almost gotten the vegan chicken one and the Umami a few times but I’m not sure what to do with them?

  • Reply maria del campo February 14, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    yay! blogging!
    yay! more kitchen!
    I’ve loved your OLOFSTORP wall cabinet since you bought it and was crushed when I tried to buy it back then and couldn’t. Lovely to see it up and gorgeously filled with all those spices- that’s an impressive collection.

    I bought the same label maker a few months ago. Now everything I have is labeled. it’s a wonderful feeling. 🙂

    did I say, yay! blogging? ❤️

  • Reply Penley February 15, 2020 at 12:09 am

    That looks just wonderful – and I’m with everyone else in the excitement that you’re back! You know what you need on your spice tubs/pots? A blank label on the back to put the ‘Use By Date’ or the date you purchased the spices. Because… when I say ‘you need’ I really mean I need – I have spices in my pantry dating back to the jurassic period. I never learn and empty the spices from their packets into the pots then forget to date them… years go by, the uncool spices go ignored (I’m look at you asafoetida) and forgotten… how old are they now? Who can say?!

  • Reply Olga February 15, 2020 at 2:45 am

    I have a spice drawer and it’s a mess. It’s a mixture of bags and bottles and they fall over and the bags split open. I don’t have anywhere for a cupboard like yours and not enough work surface to store spices on but I’m going to have to start thinking of a better solution. You have got me inspired. Look forward to your house tour!!!!

  • Reply Sarah February 15, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Glad your back! Jealous you grabbed one of these cabinets. I saw it, loved it, went home to measure the space where I thought of hanging it and then it was gone. Also label maker ftw!

  • Reply Lori February 15, 2020 at 6:54 am

    I am having this same issue with spice organization now that I cook a lot. Sadly, I don’t have the wall space for something like this, but I’m thinking seriously about adding a big recessed cabinet between the studs on one wall where I can’t have something stick out without blocking a narrow walking space. It’s so satisfying to see all of your stuff so well organized & labeled!

    P.S. I’m happy you’re blogging again!

  • Reply Analu Valois February 15, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Yay! Yay! I am so happy just to see a new post here! And to see that you organized your spices pretty neatly! I like neat. I like IKEA too. Just satisfying.

  • Reply Geninne February 15, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    It’s even MORE heavenly in person!!!

  • Reply Marlena February 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Oooh – label makers and organized spices! The bees knees!

  • Reply terese isaacson February 15, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    YAY YOU’RE BACK!!

  • Reply Cussot February 15, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    I love the deli container idea, but what I really lust after are the square ones.

  • Reply Annabelle February 15, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    Omg this immediately solves my spice problem. I LOVE the cabinet we have but my husband HATES it because the spices are always falling out and yes, breaking. I can’t believe how many spice organization posts I’ve read and never seen this trick before.

  • Reply Rosie February 16, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    So many happy-making things: a run of new posts on my favourite blog, a gorgeous discontinued IKEA item (), smoked paprika, organisation, kerning woes… Beautiful, all of it.

  • Reply katerina February 16, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    i remember this cabinet from the first time!!

  • Reply Stephanie February 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Deli containers are so smart and practical! I recently did a whole overhaul of my spices where I could all matching glass square shakers and labeled each one with a clear label. They all sit happily in my wall mounted black metal spice rack. It’s really aesthetically pleasing but I can’t fit my measuring spoons into those tiny openings and it makes me insane now.

  • Reply Susan February 17, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    I did this a while back with my spices, and not much makes me happier. I also have to give a shout out to Penzey Spices- if you don’t have good bulk options near you, Penzey has incredible mail order options- from small to large jars, plus bagged larger quantities, their spices are high quality, and they are a majorly progressive company. You just need to read the latest FB post from their company president to see what I mean. When I was ready to re-organize, I threw all the old stuff out, and started buying from Penzey, adding to my collection as time went on. The half size jars are genius, especially for things you don’t use a lot of. However you choose to do it, a good clean out and clean up is the best!

  • Reply Sam February 21, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Looks beautiful and practical–and it definitely makes me want to cook something spicy! You just inspired me to FINALLY buy another spice rack to hang on the wall (already have one) so i can get the rest of my spices out of the space-hogging set-up on my counter. THANK YOU! And thanks for the recent flurry of posts…your voice is always so welcome in the wilderness that is the interwebs.

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