The other day I blog about some "Super Food Spices", and this brought up some great questions. Fresh vs. dried, storage, organization, ect. So I thought I would answer them in a post. Keep in mind this is how I like to do it, may not be the best way for everyone, but this is my method.
I purchase a lot of my spices at the bulk food store. I find they have a great selection and good prices. You just have to make sure that the store you purchase from has a good turn over rate, to ensure your spices are fresh. Always smell them, they should have a strong smell, and smell fresh. I only buy spices I know that I will use within a 3 - 4 month period (if they even make it that long). I keep my essential 20(listed below) that I use all the time in a spice rack on my counter. The above right picture is exactly what mine looks like. It was given to my by my best friend and I LOVE IT! I also make all my own meat rubs, so I will premix all those and place them in mason jars in my cupboard.
My Essential Dried Spices are; cinnamon, nutmeg, poppy seed, cayenne pepper, basil, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, rosemary, caraway, fennel seed, coriander, savory, celery seed. cumin, onion flake, dehydrated garlic, crushed peppers. paprika. and sea salt.
There are certain herbs that I think need to be fresh. I buy these at the grocery store, use the amount I need for the recipe that week, then freeze the rest in a ziploc bag. If you need to keep them in the fridge for a bit, trim the bad and the bottoms and place in a cup of water. I use the frozen ones in sauces, in the crock pot recipes and dips. The ones I usually buy fresh are; dill, parsley, chives, some rosemary, cilantro.
if you are unsure which spices are best with each other try getting your feet wet with a spice mix. Some great ones are; Italian, five spice, Cajun, Asian spice, and herbes de provenes (french herb mix).