Do you dream of matching spice drawers? I did. After years of thinking about pretty glass spice jars with matching labels, last Christmas I was gifted a set of matching spice jars and all my spice jar organization dreams came true. Kind of. I mean, they’re pretty. Like, really pretty. They make me smile every time I cook dinner, buuuuut something wasn’t quite right. My beautiful, matching, labeled spice jars were in a narrow pull out cabinet and I could barely even see those labels. Their home in my kitchen wasn’t doing them justice until I created a spice drawer with a (DIY) insert!
Problems with my System
The jars didn’t fit nicely within my pull-out cabinet. They were okay, but each time I pulled the slider out, the spices all shifted and got messy. It definitely wasn’t the end of the world, but it was annoying.
Additionally, I worked hard on labeling the jars and I loved the way they looked, but when I placed my jars within my drawer, all I could see was the top of the jar, not my custom labels. I *did* have stickers on the jar lids, but it just wasn’t the same. Plus, the lid labels don’t line up all that well.
What I really wanted was a spice drawer, but I didn’t have any spare drawers where I could lay them out… or did I?
Making Space for Spices
Every day, after dropping my kids off at school, I usually have a routine of responding to clients, cutting custom label orders for my Etsy shop, and writing. One day, I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, I felt like organizing. I started with a few drawers in my kitchen that had been bothering me for a while.
Isn’t it funny how you can live with things for a long time until you just can’t anymore?
Re-purposing a Drawer Divider
My first issue was a bamboo divider that I put food prep utensils in. While it kind of kept my drawer organized, most items didn’t fit right, and I’d had enough. Then my wheels started turning. I had been wanting to take my Ziplock bags out of their boxes for months and hadn’t figured out a practical way to do so without purchasing more bins.
Would my Ziplock bags fit in the bamboo divider?
Yes, yes they would, they fit like a glove. It’s like the small sections were MADE for sandwich bags and the large sections were made for gallon bags. The large divider on the side held my rolls of food wrap—yes, I took them out of the boxes. I just rip them if I need something, it hasn’t been an issue, but I also don’t use a lot of disposable food wrap. #savetheearth
Not only did it fit, but months later it still looks perfect — that’s how you know your organizational system is working!
Reorganizing a Drawer
Now that that ill-fitting drawer divider was out of the way in the utensil drawer, I actually had a lot more room to play around. Could I it be? Would I be able to organize it to make a spice drawer? I couldn’t use an entire drawer because I still had to put my utensils somewhere, but maybe half a drawer?
I removed the utensils from the drawer just to see. I tested all the spices out in the drawer. Laid flat, they took up about half the space.
I grabbed an extendable drawer divider I had in my towel drawer that wasn’t really necessary, in I’m being honest, and fit it in my utensil drawer. I added all the utensils back in the drawer to see if they would fit. It wasn’t ideal, but it was good enough. Plus, I was on the path to the organized spice drawer of my dreams and I wasn’t letting utensils stand in my way.
It was working. But I wasn’t quite done.
I had seen slanted, tiered spice racks for drawers on Instagram and Pinterest, so I went to search for one that would fit my drawer. I didn’t have a standard amount of space to use; it had to be 10.5ish inches wide and 20ish inches deep. Unfortunately, despite the face that there are adjustable options available, nothing was perfect for my space. I also needed 4 rows of spices and it seemed like most of the options available were pre-assembled into 3 rows. I could not find individual rows.
I did, however, have a husband that had extra wood in the garage (leftover shiplap, actually) and a brand new saw he was itching to use.
How to Make DIY Spice Drawer Inserts
Step 1: Share Your Vision
By far the most challenging aspect of any home project I tackle is communicating what I’d like to my handyman, aka my husband, and convincing him to get on board.
I described what I wanted and drew some pictures. I also made quite the push for him to test out his new saw, like… today. It worked.
Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut
Once A Few Times
I measured everything. My drawer was 21 inches deep. I wanted to use about half the width of the drawer, which was 10.75 inches, and my spice jars were 4 inches tall and 1.75 inches wide.
What I wasn’t sure of was how angled each of the tiers should be, so there was some trial and error involved — my husband was thrilled about this part. He didn’t think it was a waste of time or that I should have measured better AT ALL.
We created the angle by cutting a smaller or larger support piece for the larger base piece.
We cut four and then tried the spices out. Nope.
It turned out that we needed to make the first tier a bit wider than the later tiers. The spice jars leaned against the front of the drawer, making them overhang their row and blocking the spices in the row behind. So, back to the saw we went.
Here are the custom dimensions we used:
1st row: 4.75″ tall and 10.5″ wide with a 1.375″ riser
2nd-4th row: 4.25″ tall and 10.5″ wide with a 1.375″ riser
Step 3: Glue the Pieces Together
We cut the wood to the exact dimensions, making sure we extended the first row a bit, and then used wood glue to secure each base piece to the top piece. We kept them clamped for a few painful hours to allow the glue to dry—I just wanted to install my pretty drawer!
Finally, once the tiers were dried, I tried them one more time. They were perfect!
Step 4: Paint the Spice Drawer Inserts
Since there were a few marks from the sawing, I quickly painted the tiers white.
You could probably skip this step if you wanted to, but how lovely and finished does that look? Practically store-bought!
Step 5: Install Inserts & Arrange the Spices
Finally, it was time to install the drawer inserts. They fit perfectly, but there was some room at the back of the drawer which allowed the inserts to shift a bit.
We cut a 2.25” spacer and placed in the back of the drawer to keep the trays from shifting. I put my spices in the drawer (organized in alphabetical order, because why not?) and then took about 400 pictures. Obviously.
The spices arranged in ABC order is a bit much, I know, but I wasn’t trying to be type-A, it just kind of happened. When I put my spices in the drawer in alphabetical order, I kind of did it just because I had to put them in somehow. I didn’t actually expect them to stay like that because they never stayed orderly when they were in my pull out cabinet.
However, they HAVE stayed like that — and not because I’ve gone to great lengths keeping them neat. I think it’s because when I use a spice, there’s an open space in the drawer where I pulled the spice from and it’s very easy to put back in that space since the rows are neat.
When I use more than one spice, it takes an extra second to match the empty space with the correct spice bottle, but it’s still quick and simple.
Spices Organized by Use?
A better way to organize the spices might be by how often I use them. For instance, I hardly touch celery salt or cayenne pepper, but there they are, front and center. Meanwhile, that paprika is hiding in the back row and I use that weekly. When I have a few minutes or when I get inspired, I’ll empty the drawer, give it a good wipe, and rearrange the spices according to how often they are used.
My Spice Drawer with DIY Inserts
My new spice drawer is perfect. I still have the drawer divider in place to keep the spices from shifting over the side and to hold the tiers in place. I can see my lovely labels and find what I’m looking for with just a glance.
Overall, this spice drawer insert project took a few hours—mostly spent waiting for glue and paint to dry — but the cost was negligible since we used scraps and paint we already had. I smile every time I open the drawer, so it’s well worth it.
Considering upgrading your spice jar and adding some spice drawer inserts? Leave a comment below and tell me about it!