Last Updated on June 6, 2021 by Kristi Linauer
Have you ever spent weeks working on a huge, exciting project (oh, I don’t know…perhaps like a big walk-in pantry), and then followed that up with a small project that only took three hours start to finish that made you almost as giddy as the huge, weeks-long project? Well, that was me last night when I brought a tiny bit of organization to my kitchen with this DIY tiered spice drawer insert…
If you’ve read my blog long at all, then you know organization isn’t really my thing. But one thing about my pantry project that has me so excited is that once it’s done, I’ll be able to move everything out of my kitchen that I don’t use on a daily basis, and efficiently organize the things that I use regularly. And since I cook almost every day, the idea of having an efficiently organized kitchen really appeals to me.
I have lots of ideas for kitchen organization that are “some day” projects — a pull-out shelf for pots and pans, a pull-out drawer specifically for lids, a large pull-out trash bin, etc. But I decided yesterday that “some day” was yesterday for at least one of these projects. After cooking our lunch yesterday, I was so frustrated. I really dislike cooking in the first place, but I do it because we’re doing the ketogenic diet (I’m down 40 pounds…more about that here and here), and it’s nearly impossible to do keto while eating out all the time. So I cook. Every day. And I hate it.
But yesterday, it dawned on me that while I’ll never be one of those people who thoroughly enjoys cooking and loves spending hours in the kitchen trying out new recipes, I don’t have to hate it quite as much as I do. And probably one reason I hate it as much as I do right now is because I spend half my time searching for things and wrestling pots and pans from stacks that are piled high and shoved precariously into the cabinets. So after my third time rifling through this mess…
…to find the smoked paprika that I knew was hidden in there somewhere, I finally decided that enough was enough. I may not have time right now to build custom pull-out shelves for pots and pans and lids and plastic storage containers and garbage cans. Those will still have to be “some day” projects. But I can certainly wrangle this mess of spices so that I don’t have to spend 15 minutes tomorrow looking for the oregano. So my one and only goal yesterday was spice organization. I’m starting with baby steps.
And in doing so, I decided to use this drawer to the right of the stove, which was another unmitigated disaster.
I’ll deal with all of that stuff later. For now, I just piled it on the countertop on the wall of cabinets and focused on spices.
Now of course, you can purchase ready-made tiered spice drawer organizers, like this one and this one. But I decided to go the DIY route because (1) I was motivated to do this yesterday and didn’t want to have to wait for an online order to arrive, (2) I wanted mine more customized to my particular spice bottles, and (3) it’s cheaper. Cheap and almost-instant gratification is what I was after yesterday.
Now about those spice bottles, I ended up purchasing two of these Kamenstein 16-jar spice racks. Interestingly, I found the exact same spice jars (same brand, same size, and empty) at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $1.29 each. So I opted for two of the spice racks from Wal-Mart that actually come filled with spices (and evidently you can get free refills for five years, although I haven’t read the details on that yet, so I’m not sure how that works) for $19.97 each. I kept the spices I wanted to keep from the prefilled bottles, and replaced the rest with the spices from my own cabinet. I peeled the labels off of the bottles (which, surprisingly, came off very easily and cleanly) and replaced them with chalkboard labels that I found in the scrapbook/paper/sticker section at Michael’s. I used a chalk pen to write on the labels, and then when I got them right (I had to wipe off a few a try again), I sprayed them with a clear coat, let them dry, and then attached the labels to the jars.
To make the tiered insert. I used what are called “hobby boards” from Home Depot. They’re made of poplar and generally cut very straight and square, which makes them perfect for really small projects like this. For the part that the bottles actually lie on, I used 1/4″ x 4″ x 24″ boards, cut to the width of my drawer. And for the risers, I used 1/2″ x 3″ x 36″ hobby boards, which I ripped to two inches wide on my table saw, and then cut to the width of my drawer.
To make the individual tiers, I placed a bead of wood glue on the edge of the 1/2-inch piece…
And then placed the 1/4-inch piece on top and secured it with two 3/4-inch 18-gauge nails.
I made enough of these to fill my drawer, which fit five.
With all five individual tiers put together, I turned those upside down and attached them in the same way (wood glue and two nails each) to form one continuous piece.
And then I inserted that into my drawer. Evidently I didn’t figure just right, because initially it wouldn’t fit. (Geometry isn’t my strong suite. 🙂 ) So I just took the whole insert to my table saw and ripped enough off of that back riser so that it would fit perfectly into my drawer.
I also had to switch out the drawer slide, because as you can see from the picture above, that back row would have been very difficult to access. But it was a simple 30-minute fix to swap out that standard drawer slide for a full-extension drawer slide to make that back row easily accessible.
And then I was ready to load in the spices.
My drawer is 13 inches wide, and it holds 35 spices. Even after filling the bottles with all of my spices, as well as keeping three or four of the pre-filled jars of spices that I’ve never used before but smelled so good that I didn’t want to throw away, I still have room for three more bottles.
On the very first row, I didn’t like how the round bottles had nothing to hold them securely upright, causing them to roll into and lean on each other, so I just added a little piece of wood to give those front bottles something to sit on.
That was an easy fix to a minor annoyance. If you use spice bottles with a square footprint, that wouldn’t be an issue.
It’s a small step towards an organized kitchen, but I’m actually excited to get in there today and cook. Of course, that excitement may be short-lived once I try to dig a certain pot out of the tall stack of pots and pans that’s being held up by the cabinet door, but at least I won’t be rifling through a cabinet for 15 minutes trying to find oregano! 😀 It’s a small victory, and I’ll take it.
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
I hope you’ll join me on my DIY and decorating journey! If you want to follow my projects and progress, you can subscribe below and have each new post delivered to your email inbox. That way you’ll never miss a thing!
LaurieNovember 27, 2018 at 9:43 am
For some of the other stuff from that cupboard, lazy-Susan turntables work very well. I probably have 5 of them in 2 cupboards.
Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!
MARA SMITHNovember 27, 2018 at 9:46 am
What a great small project! I would also suggest alphabetizing them so you can find what you need even faster 🙂
Christine CzarneckiNovember 27, 2018 at 10:20 am
I also suggest alphabetizing. While you are sawing and building, I am cooking and baking, and an alphabetized spice rack (three in my case) is a thing of beauty.
The main reason to do so is that some spices are used for both savory cooking and sweet things, so a particular spice is always instantly found if in alphabetical order.
Perhaps after your pantry is finished and you have put your things in there, it would be the perfect time to have a new look at what you need in your kitchen cabinets to make them easy for you to use.
Janis HillNovember 27, 2018 at 11:28 pm
Christine is right. Alphabetizing herbs and spices will save you even more time.
RachelNovember 27, 2018 at 11:54 am
That was the first thought from my ODC mind as well. 😀
CathyRNovember 27, 2018 at 4:20 pm
My co worker always said he wasn’t OCD, rather “CDO”, because you know, alphabetized😂😬
BeccaSNovember 27, 2018 at 9:51 am
This is great! Surprised how many spices actually fit in there!
DWFNovember 27, 2018 at 9:54 am
Amazing! More, please.
TiffanyNovember 27, 2018 at 9:54 am
I love the feeling of satisfaction from completing little projects like these!
KateNovember 27, 2018 at 10:15 am
Theresa PNovember 27, 2018 at 10:17 am
How deep are your drawers? For some reason I feel like the drawers in my house are very shallow and something like this wouldn’t work.
Julie FlandersDecember 3, 2018 at 12:38 pm
That’s what I was wondering also because I feel like mine are too shallow also.
MelissaSeptember 6, 2019 at 1:41 pm
Same here. Are they standard depth? I LOVE this project. Thank you for sharing.
HeidiNovember 27, 2018 at 10:18 am
What a great little project! I wish I had a spare drawer in my kitchen because my spice cupboard is in a pretty sorry state.
PeggyNovember 27, 2018 at 10:19 am
My spice cupboard used to look like yours, except it was narrow. We replaced it with a pull-out spice cupboard. So much nicer. I wish I had a drawer available though.
Have you thought of using a silverware divider, temporarily, in your utensil drawer? That worked pretty well for me as my utensil drawer looked similar years ago. Could use a wider drawer, but it is what it is.
SueNovember 27, 2018 at 10:26 am
Not only do I have pantry envy, now I have spice drawer envy. I love this and may give this one a try very soon. I do like to cook but my spice cupboard makes me crazy. I think this might help out.
If you aren’t crazy about cooking, check out Pinterest for some ideas on freezer meals. Easy to pull out of the freezer and put in a crock put. More time to work on your home.
GuerrinaNovember 27, 2018 at 10:47 am
Added to top of to-do list! Affordable, quick, and almost instantaneous gratification!!!
chiflipperNovember 27, 2018 at 10:49 am
Quick reminder, spices and oils deteriorate when exposed to heat, best to store only small amounts next to the range. As mentioned, alphabetizing has saved my sanity….”I know I have that…now if I could just find it”!
MarlynNovember 27, 2018 at 10:52 am
I Have a plastic rack in my drawer. I love the idea. How deep is your drawer? Mine gets caught on some of the tops of the bottles and jams sometimes. Thanks for sharing.
SherreNovember 27, 2018 at 10:53 am
I was going to suggest the same as Sue. I like to cook, but not on weekdays when I don’t get home from work until almost 5. Food prep has become my best friend!
I eat fish/chicken/pork 95% of the week, with roasted or steamed veggies and rice or potatoes. I pre-cut all of my vegetables and I roast off my taters on Sunday (they reheat perfectly well for me!). Anything that takes longer than 35 minutes to cook, I usually cook it off on Sunday and reheat during the week. But even just having things like fresh veggies already cut makes it so easy. If I’m starving and don’t feel like roasting and doing dishes, I just throw it in the microwave to steam it 🙂
Your meals probably look a lot different than mine (I love all kinds of different foods but shoot for simplicity during the week), but I really think food prep makes all the difference!!
I also love your little spice drawer. I may have to find some pizza seasoning, that sounds delicious! 🙂
Peggy SNovember 27, 2018 at 10:56 am
Oh yes, these small projects are so satisfying! I love organizing and building, so I’ve done several of thes type of projects. I still get happy when I open a drawer or cupboard and everything is right where I can see it.
BetsyNovember 27, 2018 at 11:38 am
I can relate to a more organized kitchen making one more open to cooking and baking; you are definitely on to something. Like others here, I use lazy susans inside my fridge and for my spices, since my drawers are wimpy. And I organize the containers by type: baking spices together, herbs together, daily-used seasonings together, and then Indian spices together. I really like what you’ve done there, Kristi.
MarciNovember 27, 2018 at 12:03 pm
I also dislike cooking but cook at home a lot also because it’s healthier. On cooking shows – which my husband watches – they always have all the ingredients premeasured and ready to go before they start cooking. It’s a small thing but it makes it easier and you never forget an ingredient or have things overcook while you’re searching for the next item on the list.
Very nice spice rack!
TracyNovember 27, 2018 at 12:19 pm
Funny how something so little can be bring such joy😃. I have this same setup, alphabetized of course, and my husband still manages to put them back in the wrong place😜. I too was going to mention the fact with these large sizes the spices can go bad. If you have ever gotten your spices from one of the specialty spice stores it’s night and day for quality and flavor!
FYI Kristi: was just shopping in high end appliance store this weekend, they were setting up new kitchen display with white appliances (w/ rose gold handles) looks like white is the new trend😃!
JennyNovember 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm
I’m always so impressed with your DIY skills. But I have to say… I’d be alphabetizing those spice jars if I spent 5 minutes in your kitchen. 🙂
JulieNovember 27, 2018 at 2:09 pm
Love it. I’m with the above folks…. alphabetizing saves tons of time cooking. Also, fyi…. spices, herbs are heat sensitive, they degrade. Living in the south with your heat that might be an unavoidable problem but with sun and heat they become less potent.
Curious. I may have missed this…. you don’t use full extension, self closing drawer glides all the time? They are such a god send. Have converted all my drawers now, would hate having the old ones again.
Awesome work as always.
KristiNovember 27, 2018 at 2:17 pm
I use full-extension on any drawers I build from scratch, but my kitchen cabinets were ready-made stock cabinets. I’ll probably switch them all out eventually.
JulieNovember 27, 2018 at 3:32 pm
Ah, that makes sense. Mine were ready made too. Full extension are worth every penny!
BretteNovember 27, 2018 at 2:27 pm
Cool. I converted a divided silverware drawer into a spice drawer, but it has no tiers, Now I know how to make some. Thanks.
CathyRNovember 27, 2018 at 4:29 pm
Love the spice drawer!
Also you referenced your Keto diet and I may be ready to take the leap. Ive done well on WW the past 18 months, but maintenance is hard and I find myself backsliding…with sugar naturally! So, I checked out the links you embedded and saw it’s been awhile since your last ‘personal Saturday’ post. Will you share your progress and any more tips/tricks with us? I know I love the updates especially with your fur babies.
Marianne in Mo.November 27, 2018 at 4:35 pm
I need to build one of those step type spice racks for the cabinet, because I don’t have a drawer I can commit to spices. My husband and I share the cooking duties, but he’s not as tidy as I am, so I constantly have to search for things. I have the habit of putting things right back in the spot it came from, but can’t seem to get him to do the same. At our last house we had a shelf that was half the depth of the cabinet, but then we were blocking it with taller items. I plan to make two step shelves to fit on the sides, one for cooking and one for baking, and leave the middle area open for taller items. I also need to make dividers for my utensil drawer, and a door mounted holder for my food processor attachments. These are all on my “after the holidays” list. Good for you getting that done so quickly – it will take me 10 times longer!
Lou AnnNovember 27, 2018 at 6:58 pm
40 pounds… wow! that is awesome this is not the easiest time of the year, with so many festive foods in the grocery store. I have very few drawers in my kitchen, so I am trying to figure out which one I could give up for a project like this.
Mrs MikeNovember 27, 2018 at 7:26 pm
I did something like with tiered “risers” in my cabinet because I have well over 40 spices and didn’t want to take up more than one drawer. Your drawer looks very handy to grab spices easily!
EmilyNovember 27, 2018 at 7:59 pm
I’m definitely stealing this idea! It came out so nice. I use a white out pen to write on chalkboard labels that I don’t want to erase, it’s much easier than chalk!
Andrea BeuNovember 28, 2018 at 7:20 am
Love this idea. It is so nice and neat and you have amazing handwriting. I was wondering what type of font you used to print those labels before I read that you wrote them. 🙂 Congrats on the keto weight loss as well. I’ve lost about 12 pounds on it myself. Love eating eggs and bacon while losing weight.
Rebecca BNovember 28, 2018 at 12:17 pm
What a great idea! It looks wonderful. Very handy. I may try it. On another note, congratulations on losing 40 lbs! Unfortunately I like food too much.
Sarah McDonnellDecember 2, 2018 at 7:48 am
You. Are. Brilliant!! heart heart heart your ideas!
DonaldJune 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Thank you for posting this! I just spent a lot of time building pull-out shelves for the tall cabinet next to the fridge. I had spices previously organized in small boxes that I could pull out to find things, but the boxes didn’t quite fit nicely into the pull-outs. And the purpose of building the pull-outs was to maximize the space. Your design is perfect! I left off the last tier and used that space for a couple larger items – like the Penzie spice box of curry that my sister gave me.
JackieNovember 11, 2022 at 5:11 pm
I am loving all these organization tips! We are painting our kitchen cabinets here in Western New York & I want to make sure the insides are nice and organized after. Thanks for all the inspo!