I rarely have criticisms of Aldi…

by Kristen on May 16, 2013 · 80 comments

in Aldi

(And this one isn’t terribly serious anyway. It’s about packaging colors!)

But here it is.

Due to this packaging, I feel certain that I am going to sprinkle cumin in my morning oatmeal by accident one day.

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To be fair, they are ever so slightly different shades of brown, but when you’re grabbing one out of the cabinet in a hurry, nuances like that are easy to miss.

I’ve caught myself in the nick of time on more than one occasion, actually, and it’s a good thing because I really don’t think I could make my way through a bowl of cumin oatmeal.

You know what just occurred to me? I should save a differently colored lid from another sweet spice jar, like a red one, and use that on the cinnamon.

Why did I not think of that until now??

I suppose this blog post is a bit pointless now, but I’m going to publish it anyway, since it’s all written up and everything. ;)

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{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eva May 16, 2013 at 7:15 am

My husband did that very thing last winter. The look on his face was priceless! It put him off oatmeal for a while. I agree with you that they should change the packaging.

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2 Courtney P. May 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

I have the same issue with my cumin and cinnamon. I fixed the issue by moving the cinnamon to another locale. It now sits in the corner of a cabinet that holds our dishes, but it’s located right above where I use it everyday, so it works for our house, and the cumin stays nicely tucked away with the other spices.

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3 haily May 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

This thanksgiving I almost made cumin ice cream instead of cinnamon to go with my Apple pie! But I don’t buy Aldis spices, penzyes brand does the same thing.

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4 Linda M May 16, 2013 at 7:37 am

I accidentally added an odd spice..it was a hot spice…can’t remember which kind now…to my oatmeal several years ago. Needless to say it only took one bite to realize my mistake…no way I was eating that…bliiiiihhhh! So, I put my cinnamon in a different spot….with my baking supplies instead of my cooking spice place. You could also put a piece of colored tape around it. Spices are so easily confused first thing in the morning…soooo understand!

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5 Economies of Kale May 16, 2013 at 7:52 am

I mixed up cinnamon and nutmeg recently, which wasn’t the end of the world. Cumin would be another story!

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6 Jonathan May 16, 2013 at 8:20 am

It is a fair criticism! And, you have come up with a solution that you should share that with the Aldi people as it is in their purview to fix/correct.

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7 Laura May 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

I use a black sharpie and write on the spice jar,cumin oatmeal would definitely be a different flavor.

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8 Katie G May 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

Kristen, you should use a sharpee marker or laundry marker and write”CI” on the bottom of one of the labels in big letters, and write “CU” on the other. It definately helps! I can’t live without my sharpee, obviously. =0)

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9 Tammy May 16, 2013 at 8:55 am

My parents used to buy spices in bulk from Costco, and one time when I was a teen, I used cinnamon rather than paprika. Not a good choice. LOL

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10 Allison May 16, 2013 at 9:01 am

I would write cumin in large permanent maker letters all over the cumin jar. Doesn’t have to be legible, just has to be noticeable.

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11 Rebekah May 16, 2013 at 9:03 am

I buy cumin from Aldi’s but cinnamon in bulk so I’ve never had that problem but I can easily see how you could confuse the two. Just sent hubby to Aldi with a list.

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12 Tina B May 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

My first thought was to put the cinnamon near the breakfast items and the cumin with the other spices. Then I thought, what if you remove the label entirely (I assume it’s paper and can be torn off) and/or use a piece of masking tape or duct tape or whatever to label the contents. That would make it a lot easier to identify even in the early morning “fog” that I frequently experience. I also like the idea of using a different colored lid.

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13 Diedra B May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

sometimes writing is a way to work through a problem
;-)

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14 Kim May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

I have added cinnamon to my refried beans before, thinking I was adding cumin. It was not a good combination!

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15 sarah@everydaylifeonashoestring May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

I have to be really careful with my Aldi cumin too. I bought a cumin jar that was from a batch they must have filled with mixed spice by mistake. The next time I shopped there I bought another cumin jar that was filled correctly with cumin, so now I have mixed spice and cumin in identically labelled jars….I haven’t come a cropper yet, but I just know there’s going to be a day when I do!

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16 carrie May 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

Ha! I have thought the same thing. I put cumin in just about everything..but oatmeal? Nah…

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17 Tara May 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

Kristen have you checked the prices on bulk spices? I have found them to be considerably cheaper, fresher and less packaging. Just FYI

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18 Lili@creativesavv May 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

I can see how that could be a problem.

I keep a small jar of salt to the left of the stove (for adding just a pinch of it when needed), and a slightly larger jar of sugar to the right of the stove (for iced tea, etc). Well, I know which is which, but my daughters forgot once when they were making oatmeal. They added about 1/4 cup of salt (instead of sugar) to the pot of oatmeal! I now have a label on the top of each lid. We’re okay, now, so long as everyone who’s doing any cooking can read!

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19 WilliamB May 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Until last weekend I kept my salt and sugar in identical containers. Salt lived on the counter and sugar up in the cabinet. Last weekend someone gave me Sur La Table store credit so now I have something like these, in different colors.
http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-991661/Italian-Ceramic-Mustard-Pots

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20 Lili@creativesavv May 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

nice! And lucky you!

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21 Kat H. May 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

My boyfriend ate curry powder flavored oatmeal for a while wondering why his cinnamon oatmeal tasted funny. Never mind that the curry powder was yellow.
But it was not a packaging issue.
I will make my own spice mixes for recipes and put the leftover mix in whatever jar is empty (in this case a cinnamon jar) but because I know what is in there, and he had only recently moved in, I was not in the habit of relabeling them and he was not in the habit of double checking contents. It wasn’t until I saw him pick up the jar to put “cinnamon” on his oatmeal that he was informed of this. I spent the next day labeling or re-labeling all of the spices.

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22 Kristen May 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I’m impressed he ate curried oatmeal for a while!

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23 Felicia May 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

I have done that before on the kids cinnamon toast…didn’t go over well. Not as bad as the time when I was a child and my mother got the chili and cinnamon mixed up. =)

Swapping lids out or using a white paint marker to mark the correct lid should work nicely.

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24 Amy May 16, 2013 at 9:41 am

How funny that you posted this today! Less than an hour ago, I nearly sprinkled my Aldi paprika onto my oatmeal instead of Aldi cinnamon, and I held them up to my four-year old son to show him. The paprika is much redder, of course, but early in the morning sometimes you just don’t notice. I was literally seconds away from paprika-flavored oatmeal.

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25 Michelle May 16, 2013 at 9:45 am

I live near a Penzey’s Spices and I love to cook, so I’ve got about a bazillion spice jars in my cupboard! It helps to have each jar have its own “home,” clustered with other similar spices. It also makes it faster to find the one I need, or to browse when I’m trying to decide what the dish needs.

(Although, come to think of it, I’ve got cinnamon and cumin 2 doors down from each other in the rack. But since cinnamon is always at the end of the rack and cumin is always in the middle, I don’t worry about grabbing the wrong one.)

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26 kendra May 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

I usually write the name of the spice on the lid with a black or silver sharpie depending on the color of the lid. I love cumin. It is absolutely my favorite spice, but I don’t think I could eat it on oatmeal.

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27 keisha May 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

I have to chuckle, because McCormick is the same way, though their spices all have the same red label – it’s just that at first glance, cinnamon and cumin look a lot alike… and I HAVE accidentally put cumin in oatmeal because of it! :-)

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28 Dava Unglesbee May 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

I did the same kind of thing with McCormick Garlic Powder and Ginger. Ginger snap cookies. Blecch – and I don’t know why I didn’t catch it with such distinctive smells. I really do smell the spices now just in case – NEVER want to make that mistake again!

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29 Dava Unglesbee May 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

I did the same kind of thing with McCormick Garlic Powder and Ginger. Ginger snap cookies. Blecch – and I don’t know why I didn’t catch it with such distinctive smells. I really do smell the spices now just in case – NEVER want to make that mistake again!

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30 Walnut May 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

We keep baking spices and cooking spices in seperate containers. Another thought would be to put some brightly covered tape around one and label it in large letters.

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31 ~Dorthey May 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

I keep my BAKING Spices separate from my COOKING Spices :)

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32 Shawna May 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

I buy my cumin and cinnamon at aldi too. I have a glass bottle that I kept from a previous organic cinnamon that I tried and I pour mine into that.

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33 Battra92 May 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

My wife and I took all of our spices out of their plastic jars and put them in small 4oz mason jars. My original thought was to use these Ikea jars: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40113613/ but I instead opted for the mason jars since they were cheaper and less likely to tip over in the drawer.

Going forward all spices will be purchased in the little bulk bags from Penzeys or other such stores. No need in getting large amounts of spices only to go stale.

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34 My House, My Rules! May 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

I was thinking you could use nail polish and paint a big red X on the Cumin lid, or something along those lines.

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35 Katie May 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

Gah! I did that once with our refridgerator oatmeal!! Luckily the smell gave it away before anyone tasted it. Now I either pour the cinnamon into a different container or I use masking tape to label them!!!!

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36 Christina Scarce May 16, 2013 at 10:33 am

I have the opposite fear. I’m afraid I’m going to put cinnamon in my chili, tacos or enchiladas. Love the idea of using a different color lid. I’ve nev er thought of that either. And I just emptied a spice jar. :-)

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37 WilliamB May 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

That might not be a disaster – there are a lot of people, in several different countries, that put cinnamon in their chili on purpose.

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38 Beka May 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

We put cinnamon in our chili – just enough to give it a little something tasty, but undefinable. We love it :)

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39 Katie @ Horrific Knits May 17, 2013 at 12:15 am

I use cinnamon, cocoa powder, and penzey’s chili 9000.

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40 Rachel D. May 16, 2013 at 10:40 am

I have that fear as well…so I keep my baking spices (including cinnamon) on one side of my oils on my lazy susan, and my cooking spices on the other side of the oils and then there are my baking powder and baking soda and cocoa in between the spices to keep them seperate.

I do agree though that it is annoying that the colors on the labeling are almost the same.

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41 Erinn Crawley May 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I do pretty much the same thing Rachel! :)

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42 Emily M May 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

I TOTALLY made a double batch of nacho beef topping during freezer cooking with cinnamon instead of cumin – for this very reason! I served it to my family and then we noticed….this tastes strange…

And the worst part was knowing I had another batch in the freezer that we’d have to suffer through. I look more closely now!

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43 Barbe May 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

That is also my concern. I smell the spice now before using. I guess I could just read the bottle in the the time it takes me to smell it, but I don’t always have my glasses on!

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44 Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl May 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

I often get a white sharpie and just write on the top of the lid, like Cinnamon = CI, Cumin = CU. I find it helps for me!

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45 Robyn May 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

You could put a sticker on the lid of one of them. Or put a bright hair band around one of the bottles. :)

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46 Katy Wolk-Stanley May 16, 2013 at 11:32 am

You could spray paint the lid a different color. Or simply put a sticker on one of the jars.

Or . . . you could cultivate a taste for cumin oatmeal. Other similar treats might include:

- Sweet cumin rolls
- Paprika smoothies
- Cayenne pepper toast
- Cinnamon chili
- Curry chai tea

See? The list goes on and on!

Great post, a real thinker. ;-)

Katy

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47 Lindsey C. May 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

We’re only here to help!

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48 Anne Weber-Falk May 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Hey that can happen to anyone. I keep my herbs and spices on a door, sweets on the bottom and savories on the top. This way I don’t grab for the wrong one and there is no searching for what I need.

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49 Margaret Logan May 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Applying a sticker of some sort to the lid of either spice will solve your dilemma. I learn from my mistakes and like to give others the benefit of the lessons I have learned the hard way. :) Lol.
Ps. Kristen I wanted to pass onto you that plastic lids from say, coffee or oatmeal containers make excellent disposable spoon or paint brush rests. Also, the cellophane packaging from cereal boxes can be used for that same purpose. I like to use the cereal and other similar boxes (broke down) as disposable/easily transportable cutting boards also. It’s nice to have one available for slicing tomatoes and such at the picnic site.
God bless!

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50 Erinn Crawley May 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Just a tip….I keep savory spices on one shelf and baking type spices on another. Seems to have helped me stay more organized and cut my time in half looking for a particular spice. For the most part it seems to have worked quite well!

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51 Skirnir Hamilton May 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Heh. That is always how it goes. You figure out what to do about it, as you tell someone the problem. :) Just had to think it completely through.

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52 angelgypsy May 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

You could also put a rubber band or something around one of the jars to differentiate, whichever you use more often.

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53 Maggie May 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

had this same thought yesterday!

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54 Skirnir Hamilton May 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm

My fear is cinnamon verses cayenne pepper, because ours are in identical looking glass jars. And no, I have not done it yet, but came close a time or two. I most of the time aware of the possibility and don’t tend to use cinnamon at breakfast. Now, if I used cinnamon at breakfast, I think I would have done it before. I am not awake before my first cup of tea!

Oh, and I see you have some other Penzey’s fans around here. Yeah!

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55 AFS May 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I use a lot more cinnamon than cumin so different sized containers and no switcheroos in that department.
However, shortly after moving out of my parents’ home I was hosting my first dinner party. Beef Stroganoff was on the menu. I was a bit anxious anyway about entertaining solo. In my slightly flustered state I grabbed the baking soda rather than the cornstarch (both come in yellow boxes)
Picture the foamy saod-vinegar volcano experiment from grade school and you’ll have an idea of what my pot of stroganoff looked like. I’ve blotted the rest of this painful memory out of my mind. I have no idea what the end of the matter was.

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56 Beka May 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I almost did that once! Luckily I smelled it before I poured it, and I was saved that mistake. One time I couldn’t get to Aldi because, well, they close at normal times, and we live on second shift time. So I went to Meijer and got some of their organic cumin in a glass jar. It was actually cheaper than the non-organic, so I didn’t feel too badly about it. Anyway, I saved the jar, and now I pour my cumin from Aldi into the glass jar to be absolutely certain that I have what I’m looking for!

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57 maria @ MeInTheKitchen May 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one. I’ve gotten so many great ideas from your readers. Thanks for the post.

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58 Kathy M May 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Oh, I have done that, gotten spices mixed up. Mine were in large jars and I confused chili powder for cinnamon! Fortunately, I discoverd it before I took a bite.

Maybe Aldi will take note.

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59 jenelle May 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

someone else might have suggested this, but I would put a sticker over one of them with the name of the spice

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60 tina May 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I actually did sprinkle cumin on my kids french toast instead of cinnamon

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61 Meredith May 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I have caught myself doing that exact thing…. at least 3 or 4 times in the past two weeks. Oh, Aldi, way to make my mornings a little harder.

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62 kris May 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I’ve done the same thing but mine didn’t turn out too bad. I needed to put cumin in a rub mix that went on a pork tenderloin, so when I was searing it, I started smelling something like French Toast. About that time my DD came in and asked if I was making French Toast, lol. I was like why does this smell like cinnamon? I picked up the bottle and yep, sure enough it was the cinnamon I grabbed, lol. Luckily for us, it didn’t ruin the pork, instead of smokey, it was a little sweetish/hot. :)

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63 EcoCatLady May 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hmmmm… you could always put a piece of masking tape around one or the other to tell them apart.

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64 The Norwegian Girl May 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

hahaha, that totally reminds me of the time that my mom had made a special type of porridge that we eat in Norway, and she was a bit distracted ( that might have been my fault..) and ended up putting black pepper on, instead of cinnamon…. That meal got thrown out pretty fast!

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65 Kris May 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I have my spices all on 1 shelf. I just labeled the tops with masking tape & marker. I love the Aldi spice containers though – the top with both shake & pour! I refill them with cheaper stuff or bulk.

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66 Katie May 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Do you alphabetize your spice jars? Cinnamon and Cumin will be pretty close to each other in the total scheme of things, but you would know the one on the left will always be cinnamon. Might help.

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67 Kelly @ Kelly the Culinarian May 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I concur! I have made this very mistake more than once. However, cumin-infused oatmeal isn’t nearly as ghastly as it sounds.

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68 Marie L. May 16, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I have done that before so as not to have it happen again, I separate the savory/sweet herbs & spices. I keep all the spices generally used for baking in a separate cabinet/bin and it’s worked!

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69 Katie @ Horrific Knits May 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

My kitchen is being overrun with spices-I live near a Penzey’s and people keep keeping giving them to me (which is not a problem, as far as I’m concerned). Every so often I round them up and put all the partials into Mason jars. I make some of my own spice mixes as well, and I’ve been storing them in the glass jars Starbucks iced coffee comes in at 7-11.

The only spice incident that comes to mind is a batch of chai spiced brownies I made in grad school. But they were actually good enough people wanted me to keep making them.

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70 AmyWW May 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

Maybe you could tie a ribbon or string around the cinnamon bottle to make it instantly identifiable while it’s still sitting on the shelf?

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71 Michelle May 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

I actually did mistake cumin for the cinnamon. We almost feasted on cumin toast for breakfast. Wonder what that would have tasted like? I hated throwing out all that sugar!

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72 Jill May 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

I have had that same concern.

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73 Kim May 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Kristin – I agree that the packaging is awfully similar on those two very different spices and that cumin oatmeal doesn’t sound very appetizing at all.

In the meantime, could you wrap a rubber band around one of them to differentiate? Or, could you take a piece of scrapbook or wrapping paper and make your own label? Both of which are free and use what you already have on hand. (I learned that from you!) Love your blog:)

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74 Jill May 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I have these and did something similar. I was making filling for my cinnamon rolls and poured in cumin instead of cinnamon! I smelled it right away so at least they didn’t make it in the rolls :) I still had to throw out the mix with the cumin.

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75 Emuly May 17, 2013 at 10:16 pm

A friend of mine did the same thing! Curse you, cumin!

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76 Rebecca May 18, 2013 at 5:07 am

MY mom used to have her spices alphabetized and once they got mixed up and we had cloves in some spaghetti instead of chilli powder. Not good.

And I used to have my dishwashing liquid in a fancy “olive oil esq” bottle on the counter till my new husband thought it was olive oil and ruined an entire beef tenderloin roast with his mistake!

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77 Kristen May 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Ohhh, that’s so sad! It wouldn’t have been so distressing if he’d ruined, say, a bunch of roasted carrots. At least they’re cheaper! =P

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78 Amber May 18, 2013 at 10:30 am

Oh yes, I did it. I made my poor daughter “cumin” toast instead of cinnamon toast. She was definitely a little more than surprised.

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79 Brenda B June 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I did that! I mistook cumin for the cinnamon! I can’t remember now what the dish was but was able to scoop most of it out and it was salvageable, lol.

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80 Emily M January 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Ha, just seeing this now! Yes, I have this struggle on a regular basis, ha!

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