Here’s some news you can use – those spices in your cabinet? If they came with the house, it’s time to replace them. Actually, if you bought them more than 12 months ago, it’s probably time to replace them. But you’re not alone! Most people can use some tips to keep their spices fresh and organized. Here are a few tips:

As mentioned above, don’t keep herbs and spices forever. They don’t “go bad” per se, but they do lose their flavor. To be sure — just give a whiff. If the smell is still strong, go ahead and use it. Certainly the spices you use most often will probably be replaced well within their peak flavor time, but some of the older spices that you purchased for a particular recipe…if they’re more than a year old, toss them and replenish. You’ll notice the difference in your cooking. (Idea: write the date on your spice bottles as soon as you get them home from the grocery store. Every few months, you can check dates and eliminate those that are “past due.”)

Store spices in a cool, dark place. It’s tempting to keep your spices on a pretty shelf or in a clever rack on your counter, and this is a great idea if you have a space that does not receive direct sunlight. Too much sun can cause spices to lose their pungency more quickly. Even better, keep spices in a dark cabinet, rack or pantry. One more tip – spices stored directly over the stove or too close to the cooktop can also be a problem. Keep this in mind when locating your spices and keep them conveniently close but away from heat.

Stock-up on the basics. A well-stocked pantry will make it easier for you to prepare everyday meals, and will also make it easier to try new recipes and cuisines on a whim. Here are some great basic herbs and spices every pantry should have:

Basil
One of the super basics, especially for Italian and Thai dishes.

Bay Leaves
A staple in soups and stocks, adding rich and savory flavor. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before serving – their large size can present a choking hazard.

Chili Powder
Season ground beef with chili powder when making Mexican food. Add a little at a time and test the spiciness.

Chinese 5 Spice
This spice mixture varies, but it’s usually a combination of fennel, anise, ginger, licorice root, cinnamon, and cloves. Great for stir-fry and sauces.

Coriander
Mexican food, chili, Thai-style stir fry – a dash of coriander adds the flavor of cilantro when you don’t have the fresh herb on hand.

Cumin Seeds
Commonly found in Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes, giving them a true authentic flavor. Try adding cumin powder and a drizzle of olive oil to liven up store-bought hummus.

Old Bay Seasoning
A Southern favorite, delicious on fresh fish, shellfish and even French fries or popcorn.

Dry Mustard
Great for salad dressings and sauces.

Garlic Powder
Another classic from Mom’s kitchen, great to have on hand when fresh garlic isn’t available. Season flour or crumbs before breading, and add to meatloaf.

Onion Powder
Another one of the most essential kitchen spices, add it as a secret ingredient in hamburgers, casseroles and even add a dash to mac and cheese.

Oregano
A classic in Mediterranean cooking, from Greek to Italian and Spanish, too.

Paprika
Try keeping both regular, sweet paprika, and smoked paprika on hand for seasoning meats and chicken before grilling.

Red Pepper Flakes
Just a little goes a long way, adding a spicy bite to tomato-based sauces or sprinkled on pizza.

Rosemary
Delicious when added to roasted meats before cooking, especially lamb and beef.

Thyme
Super-versatile herb, perfect for chicken and pork, and useful for everything from salad dressings to soups and stocks.