I rarely have criticisms of 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.


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. ;)


  1. says

    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.

  2. Courtney P. says

    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.

  3. haily says

    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.

  4. Linda M says

    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!

  5. Jonathan says

    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.

  6. Laura says

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

  7. Katie G says

    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)

  8. says

    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

  9. Allison says

    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.

  10. Rebekah says

    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.

  11. Tina B says

    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.

  12. Kim says

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

  13. says

    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!

  14. Tara says

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

  15. says

    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!

    • Kat H. says

      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.

  16. says

    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.

  17. Amy says

    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.

  18. Michelle says

    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.)

  19. kendra says

    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.

  20. says

    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! :-)

  21. Dava Unglesbee says

    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!

  22. Dava Unglesbee says

    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!

  23. Walnut says

    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.

  24. Shawna says

    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.

  25. Battra92 says

    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.

  26. Katie says

    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!!!!

  27. Christina Scarce says

    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. :-)

  28. Rachel D. says

    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.

  29. says

    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!

  30. Barbe says

    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!

  31. Robyn says

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

  32. says

    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. ;-)


  33. Anne Weber-Falk says

    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.

  34. Margaret Logan says

    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!

  35. Erinn Crawley says

    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!

  36. angelgypsy says

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

  37. says

    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!

  38. says

    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.

  39. Beka says

    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!

  40. Kathy M says

    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.

  41. jenelle says

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

  42. says

    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.

  43. kris says

    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. :)

  44. says

    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!

  45. says

    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.

  46. Katie says

    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.

  47. Marie L. says

    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!

  48. says

    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.

  49. AmyWW says

    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?

  50. Michelle says

    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!

  51. Kim says

    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:)

  52. Jill says

    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.

  53. Rebecca says

    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!

    • Kristen says

      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

  54. Amber says

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

  55. Brenda B says

    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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