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How to Make A DIY Spice Drawer Insert

by - Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Do you organize in January? No month gets me more excited to clean out the closets, organize the kitchen drawers, and purge all of the excess than January. We've been having a lot of cold and snowy weather lately which makes it a perfect time to tackle a messy area in our home and this time, I've set my sights on our spice jars.

We use our spices daily so we needed a solution that provides easy access to our spice bottles and stays organized with little effort. And trust me, I have tried many spice storage solutions from tiered racks to an on-the-counter spice rack organizer to just tossing the spices haphazardly into kitchen cabinet drawers. But I think I've finally found the easiest way to store spices and it cost less than $10!

Note: Affiliate links have been used in this post for shopping convenience.

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Spice Drawer Inserts


Amongst all of the different ways I've tried to organize my spices, having a dedicated spice drawer with a DIY spice drawer organizer has proven to the best and easiest solution.

Spices have a way of moving about so allocating one of your smaller drawers to spices and only spices is a simple solution. The benefits are obvious:
  • You can build a custom spice drawer insert in a tiered configuration that is a perfect fit to your kitchen drawer. Use as many tiers as you need to hold all your favorite spices
  • You can place your spices in a drawer right beside your cooking area and have them within arm's reach
  • You can use your existing spice jars and cut your slanted spice storage organizer to fit their dimensions
  • With a tiered spice drawer insert, all your spice labels are visible and can move the jars in and out with ease
  • A DIY spice drawer insert is a modular system. Only want two tiers? You can do that. Want to remove the organizer and use the drawer for something else? You can do that too.
And, this is a low cost, budget friendly solution. I was motivated to make my own tiered DIY drawer insert when I saw pre-made spice drawer organizers selling for $50+! That seems ridiculously expensive for an insert and knew I could do it much cheaper with a DIY solution.



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Up to now, we were storing our spices in an upper kitchen cabinet on a 3-Tier non-skid spice rack cabinet storage organizer. It had some definite shortcomings. The jars would fall over easily as you reached over the rows and it was difficult to see the spices at the back of the kitchen cabinets. 

I also was not fond of the mismatched jars and how every time we added a new spice, things just kept getting more difficult to keep organized. It was time to give these spices a new home and find an organizing system that wouldn't use as much space and was easier to use.

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The Best Spice Jars


Before I get into how to make a spice drawer insert, let's talk about the spice jars themselves. You should really have your spice jars figured out first, whether you're using your existing jars or moving your spices into a set of new jars, so you can base your dimensions on the jars themselves for a perfect fit.

I've talked about the glass spice jars I use before but let me reiterate why these are the absolute best spice jars:
  • they are made of glass and are easier to clean and more durable than plastic spice jars. You can also place and remove labels on the jars more easily
  • at 4 oz, they are a good size and hold an adequate quantity of most spices
  • they are rectangular and won't roll around in a drawer
  • they have a flip open shaker cap that easily opens with one hand
  • you can flip one side and easily slip in a measuring spoon - you don't need to remove the cap first
  • the jars sit nicely together and have a uniform appearance
  • they are a good price and come as a set of 12. Two sets were all I needed for all of my favorite spices.
I've paired these spice jars with these pre-printed spice jar labels on clear stickers. The white font on a clear background allows me to still see what's in the jar, while giving the spices a neat and tidy appearance.



How to Make a DIY Spice Drawer Insert


This is a quick, small project that is thoroughly satisfying. How do you make a spice drawer insert? It's a surprisingly simple project that uses only a few materials, but you will need to use a table saw (and your math skills!), so be sure you're comfortable with that. 

I've used a 1/4" medium density fibreboard for this project. You can get it in various sizes like 12"x18" or 2' x 4'. I used a 2'x2' panel for this project. It's a good idea to figure out the dimensions of your rows first (see steps 3 & 4 below) and then buy your panel so that you don't have a lot of wastage.

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The instructions that follow are for making a 4-tier insert to fit a standard 12" wide kitchen cabinet drawer. You may need to alter dimensions to fit your own drawer.

Materials Required:

1/4" x 2' x 2' MDF
tape measure
wood glue
table saw

Instructions:

  1. Measure the interior dimensions of your drawer. You will need the width and length of your drawer as well as the clearance. The clearance is the height from the bottom of the drawer to any obstructing frame above. My interior dimensions were 11" wide x 20 3/4" long with 3.75" clearance
  2. Measure the dimensions of your jars. My jars were 4 1/4" high x 1 3/4" wide
  3. Each slanted row is comprised of a backer piece (the long flat piece the jars will lie on) and a support piece (the short piece attached to the backer that allows the backer to lie on a slant). For the dimensions of the backer piece:
    • Take the height of your jars and add 1/2" to get the height of the backer. 
    • Take the width of your drawer and subtract 1/4" to get the length of the backer. 
    • My jars were 4 1/4" high and my drawer was 11" wide so the backer was (4 1/4" + 1/2") x (11" - 1/4") = 4 3/4" x 10 3/4"
  4. For the dimensions of the support piece:
    • Take your clearance and subtract the width of your jars and subtract the thickness of your material and subtract a 1/2". This will give you the height of your support piece. 
    • Use the same length as the backer
    • For my project, my clearance was 3 3/4", my jars were 1 3/4" wide, and my hardboard was 1/4" thick. The dimensions of the support piece were (3 3/4" - 1 3/4" - 1/4" - 1/2") = 1 1/4" x 10 3/4"
  5. Determine how many rows you can have, plus any excess for a spacer piece. Take the interior length of your drawer and divide by the height of your backer. Round off to the lowest full number.
    • My drawer was 20 3/4" long and the backers were 4 3/4" high. I could fit 4 rows and have about (20 3/4" - (4 x 4 3/4")) = 20 3/4" - 19" = 1 3/4" excess
  6. Using a table saw, cut your backer pieces and your support pieces to the required dimensions
  7. Put wood glue along one long side of the support piece. Attach the support piece to the underside of the backer, at a 90° angle. Lay the backer side down on a flat surface and allow to dry overnight
  8. Once the rows have dried, insert them in your drawer. Push them all the way to the back and determine if you need to cut a spacer piece to fill any gaps. I had about 1 3/4" excess so made a spacer piece measuring 1 3/4" x 10 3/4"
  9. Put the spacer piece at the back of the drawer. Insert the slanted rows. Label and insert your spice jars. 
There was one small imperfection with this insert. The angle of the support makes it such that the jars sit slightly away from the caps of the rows below. This doesn't happen with the very first row though - the jars sit against the drawer front. It doesn't cause any problems (the jars move in and out with ease), but if you wanted to be really precise, you could add another support or 'lip' to the front of first row like they have on these metal drawer inserts.

I had already thrown out the scrap materials by the time I figured out this solution so I didn't fix it, but it's not a big deal. This spice drawer organizer is already a million times better than the spice organizing system we were previously using.

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    Moving the spices to the drawer also gave me an opportunity to better utilize the kitchen cabinet for storage of our dry goods. You can see the products I used in this post, but suffice it to say, the food storage containers with chalkboard labels and the non-skid revolving tray have made a 100% improvement in this area.
     
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    This little piece of organization heaven has made cooking much easier and more joyful. I find I'm using my spices more and being more adventurous with spice combinations. 

    I'm not ashamed to admit I get a little thrill when I open the spice drawer and see all the jars full, lined up, and in alphabetical order. Who doesn't love pretty, organized things! Are you ready to make your own DIY spice drawer insert?

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