How Old is the Stuff in YOUR Kitchen?

Please walk into your kitchen. Now open the cupboard where you keep your spices and pull out the dingiest container. How old is it? I bet I have you beat!

Here I am in my very first grown-up kitchen, making a not very grown-up face at the photographer (check out those eyebrows!) Location: Berkeley, California. Circa: many, many eyebrow waxings ago!). Well, I recently needed a dried herb I rarely use: summer savory. I happen to have two five-year-old spice carousels that I love and they came with spices and herbs, but summer savory was not one of them. However, the top shelf of my spice cabinet holds an abundance of rarely touched jars and tin cans, so I climbed up there and voila! I found a little tin of savory, several decades old, from the Berkeley Co-op.

I’ve read that you’re supposed to replace your spices and herbs after six months because they lose potency. Six months or forty years–what’s the difference? I sniffed and tasted the savory, and I have to admit that it tasted like dust, so out it went. (I wish now that I’d kept the tin. A collector’s item). The savory started me wondering about the spices and herbs from my aging carousels. I use them all the time. Of course, my favorites have been replaced often (Italian herbs, basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, chives, rosemary, dill, etc) but the ones I use infrequently (not a big tarragon fan) have been there a while. I tasted it and it still tastes enough like tarragon for me to keep it around another few years. Who really replaces their seasonings all that often? Do you? I think this “every six months” thing was made up by the spice companies. But I guess forty years was pushing my luck.

As a “safe food neurotic”, I love the StillTasty website. It tells you how long you can keep food and it lists everything. (Summer savory: one-three years.) I’d always heard you could keep Worcestershire sauce forever, but it’s only three years, according to this site. Two years if open. I’ve had a false sense of security about that stuff for a long time!

How about you? What’s the oldest food item in your kitchen? I promise not to tell.


  1. Adrienne powers on June 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I love the photo..I use to have eyebrows just like that , tee hee , also the bells N hair. The oldest spices I have tossed…well when the tops are glued shut from the dust on was time. We are all so funny.
    Hugs to you .

  2. Margo on June 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Omigosh, your DARLING Diane!!…Love it!! I never had eyebrows like that, but I did have the long hair and still do to this day…and the bell bottoms, well I had those too.
    We keep our spices forever, unless we open them and they don’t smell right. Same with bouillion cubes. Our soups and things always taste yummy so I think spices have a much longer shelf life than what critics say…some I’ve had for 3 years! I can’t think of a food item I’ve kept forever, but as far as beverages we have some pretty old bottles of wine that seem to be fermenting nicely (-O:

  3. Emilie Richards on June 8, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Love this, Diane. Found yarn recently from our mutual Berkeley years, but no herbs. Still, I found some last year from the early seventies. Time to do a real clean out. Thanks for the website. That looks like fun–and scary.

  4. Gina on June 8, 2011 at 8:31 am

    LOL! You are one brave woman. I don’t think I could put up pictures of myself from way back. You’re adorable. Thanks for sharing. 😉

    By the way, I stopped using dried spices a long time ago. It just got to be too much trying to keep up with what was old and what was new. I only use fresh herbs now. It costs more, but the food tastes so much better.

  5. Mary on June 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I really don’t know the age of my mom use to always magic marker the date on them…If they smell like what they suppose to I use them…lol. If they smell like tea, I chuck them.

  6. mary on June 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I dont know how old per say BUT if any one needs penicillan out there, I have plenty!!

  7. Julie Kibler on June 16, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Once, I found an eleven-year-old box of Hamburger Helper in my pantry. 🙂

  8. Adrienne powers | Heavenandearth on April 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    […] How Old is the Stuff in YOUR Kitchen? | Diane ChamberlainJun 7, 2011 … Adrienne powers says: June 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm. I love the photo..I use to have eyebrows just like that , tee hee , also the bells N hair. The oldest … […]

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