The best way to tackle a spice/herb cabinet is to understand a little about them.
We'll start with little basics on the difference between a spice and a herb.
Spices are grown in the tropics or subtropics and have colors of brown, red, orange, black or anything other than green. FYI...the word "spice" comes from the word "species" Latin, which were goods brought by caravan from tropical islands of southern Asia. Wares and assorted traded goods were called "species", which became "spice" in English.
Herbs are grown in more temperate climates, Europe and U.S. and are green in color.
The biggest enemy to spices and herbs is light. Spices and herbs are usually sold in grocery stores in clear glass or plastic containers and in large quantities. The reason I've learned, is that spices and herbs can have a longer storage life if they are in dark, cool containers, but that would not sell spices and herbs as frequently as manufactures would like. In reality, we would like to buy smaller quantities because recipes generally don't call for a large quantity of spice or herbs. If you are able to, it's better to purchase your spices in bulk at stores like Whole Foods or other bulk type stores. When you buy in bulk it saves you money and you can buy the quantity you need, especially if you're using a new recipe.
Each person has their more common spices and herbs that are used. It's good to take note of these spices and herbs most used in your kitchen. This will help you to know what you should keep and dispose of or give to a friend that uses that spice.
It's best to store spices in a dark, cool container. The refrigerator is the ideal place to store all spices and herbs. Do not store your spices above your stove, the heat will destroy them.
I love my small tin containers. The containers can be found in most kitchen stores or stores like Bed Bath and Beyond. The tin keeps the temperature cool.
I print out a label and place it on the front of the tin or if you store it in a drawer you can place it on the top. I print a second label with the date purchased, that way I can keep track of how long I've had the spice.
How do you know if the spice and herbs are expired?
Herbs usually loose their flavor after a year or so and get dried out. The oils in the herbs are what gives the flavor. If in doubt you can rub a small amount of the herb in your palm and see if there is still an odor on your palm, if it crumbles and smells like hay, toss it!
Spices keep longer than herbs. If the spices are in whole form, they last even longer, except for mustard seeds and sesame seeds, they can go rancid. If the spices are old, you may need to use more of the spice or you can choose to throw it away and buy new. You may also to the palm check to see if the spice still has a kick.
There are many ways to store your spices and herbs in a cabinet.
** Tiered shelf inserts, they look like little steps and you can adjust the width.
** Stack the tins on top of each other. The smaller tins take up little space.
** Single or doubled turntable, comes in various sizes and materials.
I use a combination of these items in my cabinet. (Photos below)
Check out http://www.thecontainerstore.com/ , look under kitchen category.
Learn more about spices and herbs....great resource "The Complete Spice Book"
Author Maggie Stuckey
My spice cabinet photos:
Spice tins with labels
Tiered spice/seasoning shelf
I put the large Costco seasonings/spices on their side and label the top lid