Here's When You Should Really Replace Your Spices

When was the last time you thought to check out the spices living in your spice cabinet? Chances are, some of those bottles have been there for longer than you realize. While spices can't exactly go rotten, without the obvious smell of rancid food it can be difficult to tell if it's time to replace them (via Today). However, spices should be pretty fragrant, so if you take a good whiff and can't smell anything, the spice probably won't be strong enough to flavor your food properly.

If you are a frequent user of leafy herbs such as parsley flakes or oregano, sometimes a change in color is a good indicator that it's time to replace them. However, before you restock, you can still salvage these herbs by adding them to soup or chilli, or just doubling the amount you would normally add to any recipe (via Livestrong).

According to Livestrong, whole spices such as peppercorn, allspice, and cloves can last anywhere from three to four years. Any pre-ground spices can last up to three years, but leafy herbs usually only have a shelf life of about a year.

How to store your spices to maximize their shelf life

Even if they're not quite past their expiration dates, it may be a good idea to check on your spices. When it comes to ground spices, the expiration dates can be misleading. You may want to add your own labels to keep track of when you purchased them (via Food Network).

Another way to keep your spices from going bad is to ensure they are stored in airtight containers, in a dark place away from the heat (via Livestrong). Sprinkling your spices straight from the containers over a cooking pot allows heat and moisture to enter those containers. If you sprinkle the spices into your hand before adding them to your food, the spices will stay fresher longer.

And if you're not afraid to put in a little elbow grease, invest in a coffee grinder and buy whole spices. Whole spices tend to last longer than pre-ground spices because they haven't been exposed to as much oxygen (via Eat This, Not That). By grinding the spices yourself, the oxygen doesn't have enough time to weaken the aroma or flavor. Whether you're team whole spice or pre-ground spice, the more airtight your spice containers are, the longer your spices will last in general.