SOS: Save our spices! Organize kitchen seasonings in uniform glass

Is it ironic that I am going to begin a post about how I came to organize my kitchen spice shelf with pointers to a product that I did not use for this purpose?

Canning jars—domestic Ball jars or European Weck jars—are one excellent way to store seasonings. I use them all the time for grains, freeze dried food decanted from large #10 cans, and leftovers, but they weren’t the best option for my spices.Food storage in use jars

Before I tell you how I did end up organizing my seasonings, protected from light, yet on an open shelf approximately 35″ x 12″, allow me to share one specific solution others on the internet seem to have missed.

Solution to deli container spice storage: the plastic vs. glass dilemma

Articles like this one from TheKitchn suggest deli containers for space-efficient storage of relatively large quantities of spices for cooking. You can fit any measuring spoon in them, even those big round Tablespoons!close up of spices in Weck canning jar and store packaging

I stumbled upon blog posts where people liked the deli container notion while not wanting to keep sensitive foods in plastic. Plastic, of course, can leach chemicals into foods with unknown health effects, especially in the presence of heat.

Do you ever set your spice jars down next to—or right on top of—the stove?

For those disinclined to worry about chemical exposure from plastics and their effect on human health, I recommend reading Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race by Shanna H. Swan, PhD.

Plastic is also prone to static, an annoyance with expensive dry powders like most spices.

If you want to store your spices in “deli containers,” but you prefer the non-reactive nature of glass to the typical deli dish’s plastic, what you want are 1/5 L Weck Mold Jars in style #740 ($17.25 for a set of six, but shipping is extra and glass is both heavy and fragile.)8 oz Lucerne sour cream tub shown next to similar sized Weck 1/5 Mold Jar 740 with a yogurt cup inside of that for comparison

The 1/5 L Mold Jar is about the size of a cream cheese or sour cream tub. It’s just shy of two inches high.

The taller, same diameter 1/4 L Weck Mold jar #741 ($18.50 for a set of six) makes another good choice for really serious cooks. If you store even larger quantities of your most used spices, this one is similar in size to a cottage cheese tub. This size is about 2 ¾″ high.

Six #740 jars with six plastic lids and shipping to my zip code would total $34.35 for a cost of $5.73 each as of April 2021.

My family uses both of these sizes of Mold jars to put away our leftovers. This fridge photo shows the 1/5 L Mold jar full of beans stacking neatly atop a plastic deli tub of applesauce; next to that, a 1/4 L Mold jar holds a partial tomato under its glass lid.View into fridge with leftover beans in Weck 740 jar stacked on similar diameter deli quart of applesauceNote that these are European canning jars, so the included lid will be a round of glass that merely sits in place until sealed via heat processing around its separate rubber ring (not ideal for your dry spices!) For that reason, you will also need to purchase a plastic (size Large, 85¢ each), cork (size Large, $1.20 each), or wood (size Large, $3.50 each) lid for each glass container for which you want an air-resistant* seal.

4 available Weck canning jar lids shown side by side: plastic, cork, wood, and glass

Only the glass and plastic lids are dishwasher safe, but all the glass jars can go in the dishwasher.

It should be noted that even the 3- 7/8″ Large lids sometimes slipped through the top rack grid on my Bosch** machine, and they can warp after too much exposure to the higher heat on the bottom rack. The lid on the far right was warped when it fell to the bottom of my dishwasher.

I love the interchangeable nature of these lids. You can buy Weck jars going all the way up to 2.5 L in size. Americans, that’s a large enough canister for a supermarket bag of sugar. One could store all necessary spices and most other common baking ingredients in attractive, non-reactive, stackable containers where the loss of a single lid doesn’t render any one useless.

If ordering Weck jars for the first time, pay attention that your selections use the same size lid if you share my obsession with owning just a few lids that fit all of your containers.

The Weck “Mold jars” most similar to American plastic deli packaging use lids in size Large, 3 7/8″ ∅. Size chart for Weck large size lid, fitting some Mold, Tulip, Deco, and Cylindrical jars

At this point, I own Small and Large opening Weck jars, using both all the time, but I started out with only narrow ones. I was specifically shopping for juice jars sometime around 2004 when I discovered them at a specialty kitchen retailer.

The manufacturer’s US website eventually gave me a much broader selection of shapes and sizes from which to choose.Weck jars lids narrow neck - 1

Weck jars are made in Germany. Because they are designed for use in canning, they are thick, sturdy glass, resistant to thermal shock, suitable for either a boiling water bath or storing food in a freezer.

Just not directly from boiling to freezing, please, to avoid shattering; it’s still glass!

My kitchen is warm & bright, bad for spices if nice for people

All of this talk about storing spices in wide, shallow deli containers, yet the Mold jars I already owned weren’t a great choice for my own kitchen needs. We enjoy a bright, sunny, southern exposure, but all that light speeds degradation of herbs and spices.

Clear plastic or glass spice jars should ideally be stored in a cupboard away from light—and heat, whether from the sun or the stove—to maximize each ingredient’s useful shelf life.

I don’t have much available cupboard space available on the side of my kitchen that houses the stove, but I do have room for a shallow, folding bookcase about six feet away from the cooker’s heat. It’s ideally located and doesn’t require me to reach too high or low when my joints are flaring or my shoulder has locked up, but it is an open shelf bathed by the light of a sunny wall of glass.hand holding a small white wire basket containing four assorted spice jars and tinsI use a little wire basket to gather what I need, carry it over to the island where I do prep work, and then return the spices en masse when I’m finished with them.

Before I started using the basket, it took too many trips to put everything away. When you live with a chronic condition that includes painful, arthritic toes, saving steps can mean the difference between being able to cook or having to rely upon someone else to do so.

Sensible storage—and thoughtful use of carts or baskets to spare similarly impaired finger joints—is a tool of self-empowerment!

Frugal & fairly good: the 12 × 7 × 5 coffee shipping carton

So my seasonings live on an open shelf about six feet away from my stove top. That location is the best compromise I’ve found between “close enough to grab while cooking” and “hotter spot than it ought to occupy.”

If I simply stacked clear containers there, however, my spices would suffer from direct sun for at least part of the day for most of the year. Two walls of my kitchen are more than 50% glass. I don’t want to degrade my ingredients before their time!

Before this latest organizing project, I solved the exposure to light issue by repurposing a shipping carton.

It turns out that a 12″ × 7″ × 5″ box is the perfect size for 18 standard, commercial seasoning jars. Though different stores carry brands in a variety of bottle shapes and sizes, they tend to fall within a similar range of diameters and heights for use in widely available spice racks and cupboard storage solutions.

Tip: The two boxes I re-used for spices both came from shipments of my favorite mail order coffee beans from Thanksgiving Coffee Co. in California. If you are interested in this free storage option, pay attention to the carton if you order in your caffeinator of choice.

Lake Champlain Chocolates has also shipped something delicious to me in the same size package.Shipping box

If all of my spices had come from the same brand—or if I purchased a set of matching bottles to standardize the lids (more on this notion coming up in the next section!)—this solution might even have been aesthetically pleasing enough for me to keep long term.

A plain box can always be covered in attractive paper, after all, and one can get crafty with some decoupage.

While an environmental win and very economical, the same solution was less effective for my non-standard sized flavorings. These were living in a repurposed paperboard shoe box, a little wider and a little shallower from shelf to open top.

Costco sized bulk shakers of spices in open topped box with various jars and tins including short bottles almost hiddenAside from looking plain in mismatched paper, the opaque boxes made it very difficult to find any of the half-height, mini bottles that are a sensible grocery store choice for seasonings one uses rarely.

Spices only remain fresh for about two years, after all, so if one doesn’t go through a full half ounce of marjoram in that amount of time, the frugal cook should stick to smaller packets.

One issue I have with buying some large and some small spice bottles—never mind the little plastic envelopes!—is that I prefer to keep all of my seasonings in alphabetical order. As an inveterate bookworm since childhood, it’s simply the most intuitive system I have for quickly finding particular items in an array.

Attempting to merge alphabetical order with varied packaging sizes and shapes has led to at least one unnecessary purchase of a spice I didn’t actually lack.

The final problem I personally encountered with my cardboard box storage method was the total weight of one carton full of 18 jars—almost 7 pounds.

It’s hardly an herculean effort to lift it, but it can be a bit much for me because of my autoimmune arthritis. Sometimes, cooking a meal consumes all the physical energy I’ve got for a given afternoon. On a bad day, even sliding out and shifting through 18 bottles in one box was too taxing for my limited strength.Box of spices on kitchen scale showing weight of 6 pounds, 15 ounces

Fully able bodied chefs would probably find 12″ × 7″ × 5″ to be a very manageable size for handling spice jars. It was too heavy for me.

Then again, lightweight and maneuverable can save strain on anyone’s delicate joints, and also prevent repetitive use injuries. Many of us who have adapted to disabilities used to be perfectly healthy, too. Designing thoughtful, sensible storage options while young and fit makes aging in place easier later on.

Considering universal design at every stage of life—even in the bloom of life—is never a wasted effort, though I wish every reader as many years of robust good health as possible.

Standardize bottles for tidy storage, perfectly or close enough

I discovered that Amazon has listings for a brand of glass spice bottles that claims to be exactly the ones used by some of the major national brands: SpiceLuxe.

I had already surveyed the commercial spice jars I owned, recognizing my preference for the larger, squared off shape of Simply Organic brand packaging. Smaller, but with a similarly pleasing form, Whole Pantry and Trader Joe’s bottles tied for second place in my heart.

While not identical, I can happily intermix these two sizes within a bin to keep larger and smaller quantities in alphabetical order.

The larger jar is a 6 fluid ounce container which might hold over 4 dry ounces of seasoning salt; the smaller one is a 4 fluid ounce container which would hold closer to 3 oz of a similar salt.

Online reviewers frequently misunderstand the distinction between fluid ounces measuring volume and ounces as a fraction of pounds as a measurement of weight which Americans use for flour, sugar, etc. I strongly suggest reading the linked TheKitchn article before buying any containers if you don’t understand the difference lest you end up frustrated by what you get.

All of my supermarket glass bottles came with different colored lids, and each has an annoying raised ring embossed into the top of said lid.

I prefer to affix labels to the tops of my bottles to find them easily while protecting the glass from light inside a bin. The bumps on the supermarket lids therefore cause a practical hassle, not merely an aesthetic one.Spice jar tops with raised ring on green Simply Organic lid, silver Whole Pantry lid, and black plastic Trader Joe's lid

Fortunately, the sets of bottles offered on Amazon come with a choice of lids. They are marketed by color, but both the product listing photos and user review images show that most of the offerings have flat-topped lids. Sadly, my first choice for color, metallic green, was the only option that had those darn ridged rings.

To repackage all of my spices, I ordered one set of 12 large spice jars with white lids, two sets of small spice jars with white lids, and one package of 12 extra white lids.

The product listing for these aftermarket lids says, “Fits Glass Spice Bottles by SpiceLuxe ONLY,” but I now believe they are exactly the same as the supermarket brands I mentioned. I had no trouble replacing mismatched green metal, silver metal, or black plastic lids from store brand spice jars to new SpiceLuxe bottles, nor SpiceLuxe lids to most of my supermarket bottles.

Priced at $29.99 for a dozen with free Amazon Prime shipping, that works out to $2.50 per spice jar. The set of 12 lids alone was $9.99.

Alternatively, order direct from the SpiceLuxe site at the same or slightly lower prices, though I did not try this option to offer a review.

Every order of SpiceLuxe bottles includes a flexible funnel, a set of internal “shaker” lids sufficient to add one to every jar, and free labels listing the most common spices.

The funnel may be silicone; it was not separately packaged or labeled inside my shipping box, and, as a “free gift,” there were no details in the product description.

This funnel is useful for filling jars, but I prefer the metal one(s) I already had. There’s less static with a metal funnel than with the included flexible one.

Then again, I didn’t want to mix spices, potentially ruining a whole jar via cross contamination, so having more than one funnel meant I could fill a few bottles at a time between dishwasher runs. I would have been hand washing that funnel many times—then impatiently waiting for it to dry completely to avoid ruining powdery spices before re-use—if I hadn’t gotten the freebie funnel with each set.Funnels designed for filling flasks or oil jars are well sized to refill seasoning bottles

Now that my spice jars have all been replaced, I will probably donate two of the three free, flexible funnels in my next batch of outgrown clothes and housewares sent to a local charity.

Personally, I pry off and toss away the internal sifting lids from all of my spices. Taking them off to stick a measuring spoon inside followed by replacing the inner lid annoys me too much. If I want to sift a spice, I pour a small amount into the jar’s lid then tap the product out to simulate sifting.

Or I use a mini strainer on those rare occasions that I really, truly require a sifted seasoning.sifting powdered sugar into small bowl with handheld stainless sieve

The final freebie—the sheets pre-printed labels with spice names—appears designed to adhere to the front or side of each jar, not to its lid according to SpiceLuxe’s own marketing photos. My only requirement for labeling was an aesthetically pleasing, round, legible one on each cap.

The 1 ¼″ label size might fit within the bounds of the smooth white caps I chose, but they would be too large for the ridged green lid option. You would need a 1″ round label to ensure it works on every possible SpiceLuxe cap or for commercial jars with ridged lids.

I discarded the pre-printed labels which were also repeated in each of the three sets. I didn’t care for the aesthetics of the large, italicized font or their silver color. I also didn’t want to hand write labels for which no pre-printed option was provided, and I prefer the specificity of adding the Latin botanical name to distinguish between, say, common Cassia and true Ceylon Cinnamon.

In order to create my own labels for the lids, I ordered Avery Waterproof 1″ Round Labels (36579) compatible with my laser printer. I used Avery’s web-based label creation software to create and print my labels as well.

Avery Template Presta 94500 worked out perfectly for the tops of both sizes of SpiceLuxe jars.

Self printed Avery waterproof label on SpiceLuxe jar lid

Here’s a PDF copy of my own Avery 94500 size Spice Jar Lid Labels for anyone who would prefer not to work with the template software.

Make sure to print at 100% size if you’re using my PDF or printing labels you design yourself!Clear label with black text reading Better before 2022 applied to glass seasoning bottle

I used my Brother P-Touch Model PT-1400 Label Maker and a black-on-clear TZ Tape cartridge to add best by dates to my new bottles. I didn’t bother to print an exact date for every bottle since spoilage is a lesser concern in this context than gradual degradation of flavor quality.

I batch printed the appropriate quantity of “Better before 202x” tags after sorting and counting the actual seasonings present on my spice shelf.

Bins shade bottles from damaging light

Having bottled my seasonings into a full set of similar containers, I turned to Akro-Mils AkroBins to protect those glass bottles from the sun streaming into my kitchen.

AkroBin 30230 turned out to be the perfect size for my shelf; each 30230 bin will hold two columns of four large or five small SpiceLuxe jars.

Here’s a photo of my finished project:

Wooden bookshelf with 7 AkroBins 30230 holding spice jars and other seasonings

I purchased a set of 12 AkroBin 30230 from Amazon.com in February 2021 for $53.28.

That works out to only $4.44*** per bin. The manufacturer lists multiple retail and wholesale partners on its website if you prefer not to do business with Amazon. Excerpt from Amazon.com invoice for a dozen Akro-Mils 30230 plastic containers sold for $53.28

The lowest price I observed in early June 2021 for any color set of bins from the same source was $61.55 (or $5.13/bin), so it may pay to shop around or wait for a lower price before doing this organizational project.

It must be noted here that the AkroBin 30230 also makes a great organizational solution for an existing array of disparate grocery store spices in their original containers. I really wanted the visual simplicity of a field of similar white lids, but my kitchen would have looked better even if I had only replaced my mismatched paper and cardboard boxes with a set of these bins.

Compare for yourself from these two photos:

Rows and columns of identical—or even just similar—jars are much more appealing to my eye, though the slight variation in heights between the two sizes of SpiceLuxe jar is close enough to please me.

How many SpiceLuxe jars fit in one Akro-bin 30230?

Eight of the larger SpiceLuxe 6 fluid ounce jars will fit in two columns of four rows in an AkroBin 30230.

View from above showing 8 6 fl oz jars in a bin

Up to five rows (10 total spice jars) can occupy the same if at least one bottle per column is the smaller 4 fluid ounce size. The jar at the front end won’t sit completely flush as you can see from the left-most column of the  photo below. One jar will sit slightly raised up where the bin’s interior curves upward.View from above showing ten SpiceLuxe jars in a bin

Three larger jars (6 fl oz) combined with two of the small (4 fl oz) ones is the maximum that fit per column without any wobbling or tipping in this bin. See the right-most column in the photo above.

Once you have created your own set of matching spice bottles, make the switch and refill them by purchasing in bulk or lightweight packets in the future. Shop at a local grocer with bulk bins, or buy online from Thrive Market or Penzey’s.

TL;DR Overview of better spice storage

Spice jars represent one of the few products where many major retailers offer already really excellent, sensible, space-conserving commercial packaging right off the grocer’s shelf. Buying only squared bottles by the same maker could give you a streamlined look in your kitchen with nothing else needed.

If you must buy rare seasonings in mismatched packages—or you already own a hodge-podge like I did—SpiceLuxe brand empty, square-shaped glass jars are available from Amazon. These will let you decant what you have into similar containers with a space-saving form factor.

The same brand, SpiceLuxe, sells sets of lids alone. I had good luck fitting them onto almost every brand’s spice jar that was already in my kitchen.

Use new lids to standardize the tops of your existing grocery store bottles. Simply adding top labels to new lids without disruptive ridges made it easier to find what I need without lifting every spice out of its home in a container on a shelf.

Finally, group your spices into space-efficient, light-blocking plastic bins by Akro-Mils if, like me, you want to protect what’s inside clear glass containers from damaging UV light coming through a nearby window. AkroBin style 30230 will fit from eight to ten spice jars per bin for most grocery store brands.

#10 (number ten) cans are quite large, sealed storage containers that resemble jumbo soup cans… the size of your head! Coffee cans are sometimes this size. Those who’ve worked in food service or gone to summer camp may have seen them in commercial kitchens. I believe that average people should keep at least a few weeks’ worth of shelf stable food on hand to guard against emergencies. When the pandemic hit, I was grateful to have freeze dried fruits, vegetables, and meats, plus dehydrated milk on hand so I didn’t have to visit local stores or vie for scarce delivery slots during the peak shortage of grocery items.

Here’s a screen grab of the shopping cart that gave me those numbersWeck jar shopping cart showing item cost and totals for six jars and lids

* Don’t assume that any of these lids are “air tight” the way a jar processed in a hot water canning bath would be. I can say from experience that the plastic and wood lids seal much more firmly on my Weck jars than the cork ones do. Consider the cork a mere “stopper,” readily lifted away with hardly any force. Since I think cork is meant to “breathe,” I don’t see this as a failing for this type of cover.

** Now defunct, my Bosch SHU66C dishwasher has been replaced by a modern Miele G 7316 SCU model. The Miele’s much narrower spacing between its baskets’ grids of bars has so far kept even small plastic items from reaching the bottom of its stainless steel tub.

Countertop mini dishwasher offers quick fix for dead appliance in pandemic-mode home

It is only with tongue firmly in cheek and a deep respect for the fact that I have enjoyed a relatively safe, comfortable, and very happy life that I state—cue swell of melodramatic music—the worst possible thing has happened:

My dishwasher died, mid-pandemic!

Red NO symbol crossing out broken stainless steel appliance

My dishwasher died, mid-pandemic!

This feels like a catastrophe because we run that appliance roughly four times most days with everyone working and/or learning remotely from home.

The Bosch dishwasher we got with this house no longer powers on following a few weeks of intermittent-but-increasing button-press failure. Our non-expert analysis of what was under the hood kick-plate didn’t reveal any obvious reset to try on our own. We have ordered a replacement.kickplate removed from stainless steel dishwasher showing hardwiring and soldered copper pipe instead of flexible tubing

For those who don’t already know me well, now is when I confess to being a thoroughly disinterested cook. The one time I directed a full kitchen remodel where my preferences reined over popular opinion, I bought almost literally the cheapest electric coil top! stove from Sears whilst splurging on a high end, German-made Miele dishwasher.

My priorities may not be common, but I’m quite clear on what they are.

The dishwasher is the most used appliance in our home excepting the stalwart, always-on refrigerator. It follows only central heating, running water, and refrigeration in my estimation of the crowning virtues of everyday technology.

Pandemic shortages & risks still affect appliance purchase, delivery & installation

Fortunately, more than half of our household of six is at least partially vaccinated, lessening the risk to us of having a plumber in to install a new machine. Risks to essential workers dealing with the public day in and day out remain much higher than those of their customers.

Since our atypical home includes a kitchen one story above ground level, we will also require delivery well inside the threshold. I imagine dishwasher delivery generally requires more than one single person. The model I chose weighs 107 lbs (48.5 kg.) That’s two more contacts outside our bubble.

Accomplishing this dishwasher replacement will mark the first time any tradesperson—let alone three outsiders—has entered our home since before the first shutdown began.

All of these health-preserving convolutions must also be viewed within the broader context of commerce in 2021. Plumbers were hard to book before COVID; getting one to show up now is beyond difficult.

Supply chains all over the world have been disrupted by the scourge of coronavirus infections. The Miele that I elected to replace my defunct Bosch SHU66C may have benefited in production from its maker’s domestic parts manufacturing, but getting the finished product from Germany to New England remains fraught with delays as of May 2021. The one I wanted due to arrive a few days after I contacted my favorite local appliance store is now back-ordered.

I’m not sure when I will get the new machine I’ve purchased, let alone how soon I can book professional installation by a qualified plumber.

I sought a short-term solution to maintaining household peace—and sanitation!—in the interim. A portable, countertop dishwasher is what I found.Aikoper countertop appliance on kitchen counter

Typical portable dishwasher requires standard faucets to accept adapter

I opted for an Aikoper Compact Portable Dishwasher with 6L Built-in Water Tank & Water Hose Inlet (Model KOP-DW2605A) ordered from Amazon.

Countertop dishwasher manual and warranty card

There were a few “portable” dishwashers available locally, but all were variations on the design I know well from my first apartment: full- or almost-full-size models that roll up to the sink and connect with a special “quick connect” adapter that screws onto a standard faucet. These adapters replace an aerator (i.e., a little mesh screen that twists off easily) and are widely available in hardware stores and online.

The issue with any of those models is that we installed a modern “pull out sprayer” faucet when we moved here.

Pull out spray heads are great for everyday use. I like the option for one fewer hard-to-clean protrusion from the countertop, eliminating the off-to-the-side sprayer I grew up with

Or, as we did in this home, integrating the spray function into the faucet itself frees up that existing counter cut out for installation of a plumbed in, multi-stage water filter. I find the tap water in our community distinctly unpalatable without filtration beyond a carbon block pitcher.

Either way, I didn’t want to change my self-selected faucet to accommodate short-term daily use of the countertop dishwasher.

My purchase of the Aikoper Compact Portable was also influenced by the fact that we have historically hosted at least one very large Thanksgiving banquet each year. I see this little machine as a way to more quickly zip through the multi-day process of cleaning multitudes of party dishes at holidays in the future.

For both cases, I would have to ditch the faucet design I prefer to accommodate use of most portable dishwashers. There’s no way I’m going to swap out my faucet in either scenario.

Tank based, compact dishwasher alternatives exist & solve common issues

On Amazon, I found a different portable dishwasher design.

Tank-based dishwashers like these seem to universally? include the option to connect via the adapter I’ve already described, yet they also incorporate a holding tank for the fresh, clean water that will be used to wash the dishes. A user can fill that tank via a pitcher or my preferred pull-out faucet, pouring water into the vented, screened hole on top after removing the loose-fitting white debris cap.

Once filled, tank-based machines complete their wash cycles without blocking access* to the kitchen sink throughout the run.

The included plastic pitcher and wide, flat funnel aren’t strictly necessary to manually fill the machine, but the funnel (marketed as the “pouring water assistant”) is particularly nice to have. Filling pitcher included with appliance, 1.8 L capacity

Since the pitcher is marked to have a 1.8 L capacity, you might expect that filling it just over three times and emptying into your dishwasher tank might be sufficient to prepare the appliance rated as having 6 L capacity. It seemed to require at least five pitchers-full the first time I ran the machine to test its functionality.

Filling with a pull out faucet sprayer is much more convenient, especially for those of us who lack hand strength and become exhausted easily lifting full pitchers of water. I found it annoying to fill the appliance via a pitcher.Filling funnel included with appliance

With the dishwasher sitting on a kitchen counter, it is a little bit high for me to reach over and fill, so I can’t see exactly where I’m aiming the water. The funnel helps channel every drop right into the receptacle where it belongs.Water flowing from pull out spray head into dishwasher filling hold

A 61 inch long water supply hose was included in the Aikoper box. The water supply hose has a right angle connection on one end which should help with keeping installation very close to a back wall. Remember that you will need a faucet adapter not included to install with this option.

If installing with the water supply hose option, your water pressure must be between 0.04 MPa and 1 MPa, per the Aikoper manual.

Because the water supply inlet and drain pipe outlet are set into an indented area at the back, bottom edge of the dishwasher and the supply hose has a right angle connection, the included hose should not require any additional clearance behind the appliance.

A side benefit of pre-filling the dishwasher with water, then letting it run without any connection to the household water supply, is that it eliminates that chilly scenario when a family member starts a built in model while someone else is showering.

In 2021, no one should live with plumbing that routinely scalds or runs cold, but that kind of annoyance remains common in many older homes.

Draining the used, dirty wastewater is also necessary. Tank-based dishwasher models like my Aikoper Compact Portable allow one to route the drainage hose into an adjacent sink or a large bucket.

The drain hose pictured was included in the Aikoper box. It’s about five feet long.

Because the water supply inlet and drain pipe outlet are set into an indented area at the back, bottom edge of the dishwasher but the drain hose has a straight connection, about one inch of additional clearance may be required behind the appliance if you’re trying to get it as close to a wall as possible. I have found replacement hoses with a right angle connection on Amazon, but I haven’t purchased one to confirm this gap could be eliminated.Ruler and cardboard showing gap between back of appliance and bent drain hose as if pushed back against a wall

A small suction cup on the hose is supposed to keep its end inside your grey water bucket, but mine does not stay fixed to even the smoothest plastic waste container I’ve tried. Happily, the exiting water does not seem to flow with enough force to cause the hose fly around spraying filth, as was my initial fear.

Obviously, if you drain your dishwasher into a bucket, remember that you’ll need to lift the receptacle for emptying. With the machine’s approximately two gallon (6 L) capacity, expect a weight of about 15 lbs (6.8 kg) of grey water to dispose of after running each load of dishes.

Those of us with arthritis or other physical limitations will benefit from emptying the waste bucket midway through a wash cycle. Doing so reduces the effort required vs. lifting a full bucket. I’m careful to keep a second, smaller dish handy to put the wastewater hose into while I do this, however, lest the machine discharge additional grey water at an inconvenient moment and flood my kitchen with filth!

dirty grey water in Rubbermaid Commercial square containerMost people probably have a sturdy office sized trash can, five gallon bucket, or other suitable container for catching wastewater in the quantity required. If looking to purchase a new, highly suitable receptacle, I’d suggest a Rubbermaid Commercial Crystal-Clear Square Storage Container in the 8 quart size which will accommodate more than 7.5 L, large enough to prevent splash-over messes.

The 6 qt size pictured above in the same product line is sufficient to the task, but only just, and mine ended up perilously full when I used it without taking care to empty mid-cycle. You could make this container work for the task if you have one on hand, but I wouldn’t recommend its purchase for this particular job.

A bucket with a handle or handles will be easier to lift and empty.rubber cap stuck on appliance with strapping tape

A small, black rubber cap stoppered the drain port on the back of this dishwasher. In order to avoid losing this small piece, I used the tape that had been employed for security during its shipment to adhere the cap to the back side of my appliance. It will be useful to avoid inconvenient drips when moving the Aikoper immediately after use. Small amounts of water are likely to remain inside the machine for hours or days after the last cycle.

Dishwashers save water vs. hand washing

This seems like the right time to point out an easily overlooked fact: full size, modern (post-1994) dishwashers clean an entire load with about 5 gallons of water. Hand washing a sink full of dishes consumes more than five times as much—up to 27 gallons of fresh, potable water—while not offering any improvement in results.

The mini sized Aikoper Compact Portable uses just 1.6 gallons (6 L) per load though, to be fair, an overflowing double sink full of dirty dishes might take two cycles to get through.compact dishwasher settings shown: Normal, Hygiene 162 F, Fruit

Typically, dish-washing machines increase water temperatures to a sanitizing 140-150 °F, well above suggested water heater settings designed to protect children from scalding while saving energy.

The U.S. EPA recommends setting hot water heaters to 120 °F.

My new Aikoper Compact Portable dishwasher uses 162 °F for its hottest cycle, well above the temperatures at my tap. In 2021, even a little appliance such as this one includes an internal heating element to optimize wash and rinse temperatures and improve hygiene.

Growing up in the American West, I was taught to wash dishes using two basins for soapy and clear water; we never let the faucet run throughout the task! My family appears unable or unwilling to internalize these habits, so my search for a backup dishwasher has an altruistic motive as well as supporting my hatred for manual household chores.

Energy use—according to the Energy Guide yellow card standard with all American appliances for almost as long as I can remember—compares as favorably as one would expect between my broken-down Bosch and my new portable.

The U.S. Government suggests the Aikoper Compact Portable will consume 150 kWh/year of electricity.

Keep in mind that compact and full size dishwashers are not directly comparable using this system. Also, due to the years that passed between issuance of the Bosch label and today’s Aikoper label, average electricity rates grew from 8.28¢/kWh to 13¢/kWh whereas natural gas averages went from 65.6¢/therm to $1.05/therm in the same period.

My broken, full size Bosch was expected to consume 430 kWh/year vs. 150 kWh/year for the much smaller Aikoper. By comparison, the new, full size Miele I’ve ordered is rated at 230 kWh/year according to the manufacturer’s website.

Aikoper Compact Portable: Do dishes come out clean?

More than any other fact or feature about the Aikoper Compact Portable Dishwasher, what most want to know first is, “Will my dishes come out clean?”

I always had to scrub or re-wash the spoons before. That doesn’t seem to be necessary with the new dishwasher.”

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BraceletStreet offers accessible necklace manageable by arthritic hands

I like to wear a little jewelry even when I’m “only” visible to my household. The pandemic hasn’t affected my daily wardrobe at all!

Rings, watches, and most bracelets feel to me as if they interfere with my daily activities, but earrings and necklaces make me happy. Adding a little sparkle—and even more color—to an outfit is something I do for myself, not to show off or impress others.NZ capsule wardrobe jewelry - 1

Yet another annoying side effect of systemic arthritis is the sometimes unpredictable stiffness in my fingers that makes tiny clasps difficult to manage. It’s no accident that all the earrings in my photo above are hooks that don’t require attaching itty bitty backs!

Add slightly paranoid tendencies to even mild physical disability, and I can end up feeling frantic* about a necklace that I can’t get off when I want it gone. This scenario triggers my claustrophobia, in fact.

For this reason—and because my only simple, black vinyl? pendant cord c. 1994? recently broke, leaving me with no aesthetically pleasing option for wearing a favorite amber bead—I went looking for a replacement with an easier to manipulate clasp. I wanted to upgrade to a thin, genuine leather strap with a magnetic fastener.

Et voilà!

Bracelet Street 15" black leather 3mm necklace with magnetic claspI turned to Etsy, though I often struggle on that site to identify actual self-employed artisans vs. foreign outfits with unknowable labor practices. I ended up buying two leather necklaces with magnetic fasteners made by Bracelet Street USA, a woman-owned business in Kentucky if I’m reading their About page right. I’ve had no personal contact with this company aside from making the single online purchase.

First, allow me to admit that I feel like an utter fool for having waited this long to seek out more manageable jewelry clasps. Obviously, it could be costly or impossible to retrofit a large collection of mostly inexpensive, costume jewelry, but there was nothing preventing me from making this useful discovery except my own lack of attention.

Sometimes, the steady barrage of failures that come from living with autoimmune disease can prevent me from even trying new solutions that turn out to be easy fixes.

When everyday life confronts you constantly with “trivial” activities you can no longer manage for yourself, it is easy to become disheartened and just give up on stuff. This sometimes applies to things you love. Even silly little victories—like wearing a favorite pendant—enhance the texture of life’s fabric, and are worth pursuing.Pendant necklaces: amber bead on black cord, ammonite fossil pendant on brown cord, blue stone on bronze cord

For those with fully able bodies, some of the visible manifestations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can seem excessive or superfluous—“too many” empty handicapped spots in an otherwise packed lot, or the lift at the public pool that a healthy observer never sees used—but the reality is that, for those who have been cut off from so many common daily tasks, accommodations like these make the difference between feeling welcome to participate in the world at large…or not.

My new necklaces aren’t going to suddenly empower the disenfranchised or fundamentally change the world, but they do look nice, work precisely as they should, and offer me the dignity of doing one more thing for myself. That makes the purchase money well spent.Etsy order confirmation for two 3mm round leather necklaces with magnetic clasps

I ordered two magnetic clasp, 3mm diameter necklaces, one a #25 Natural Black (15 inch) and the other a #3 Bronze Metallic (18 inch), paying $26.56 including tax. I was sent a third (18 inch Metallic Tamba) for free as an unexpected “gift with purchase.”Bracelet Street 18" leather cord, magnetic clasp necklace with 3mm diameter in Metallic Tamba color

I’m assuming such little additions are par for the course with this company. Bracelet Street could have had no way of knowing I am a blogger** who might write about the purchase. I didn’t even login to my existing Etsy account since I was accessing the site from my phone instead of my desktop and I couldn’t remember the password. I wouldn’t have seemed like a special customer of any sort.

Bracelet Street USA shipped their products in sufficient, simple packaging that protected what was inside without creating too much superfluous waste. Each necklace came in a labeled mini zip top plastic pouch. I save these for use to keep earrings separate and chains untangled when I travel, so they will be re-used.

The inclusion of a hand-written thank you note made an impression on me, and very much increased my desire to share my positive experience with the company. I appreciate a human touch to my purchases, especially when I’m buying hand-crafted items online. I always hope I’m supporting small businesses with satisfied employees, but it can be so hard to tell who you’re doing business with on the web.

If you plan to wear an existing pendant with one of these magnetic clasp necklaces, be aware that I had to have a larger ring added to my amber bead in order for it to fit over either end of the Bracelet Street USA 3 mm leather necklace. The non-opening end of the simple metal “springring” clasp on my old vinyl cord was smaller.

Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law is a hobbyist jewelry maker, so it was easy for her to add a larger link to my pendant. Actually, I believe she gifted me all three of the pendants featured above on my new Bracelet Street necklaces. If, like me, you are buying magnetic clasp necklaces due to a lack of dexterity, you may need a friend or loved one to help you attach a larger bail to some of your own pieces to make them compatible with these thicker fasteners.Close up of Bracelet Street magnetic necklace clasp slot end

I would also like to add that the little bump or nubbin on the insertion side of the fastener is not a button requiring fine manipulation. I wasn’t sure how it worked when I first looked at it. The two ends of the magnetic closure will “snap” together on their own due to the magnet’s attraction, but you aren’t quite done when it does! A slight twisting motion slides the nubbin into the slot on the other side. This seems to provide extra security to what could otherwise be a “breakaway” clasp.

Breakaway jewelry might be ideal protection if you’re operating a lathe, but it’s kind of a bummer when you’re wearing the pendant great-grandma carried with her from the Old Country.

With a lightweight charm, I believe you could get away without the gentle twisting required to get the clasp fully closed, but I did have a heavier pendant (the ammonite fossil visible in my photo above) fall off into my lap before I’d quite mastered the fastening process. Since I learned to fully secure the clasps by twisting, this hasn’t happened again. To be clear, though, I rarely wear heavy jewelry as it exacerbates the discomfort from my systemic arthritis.

If you’re looking for a simple necklace that can be put on and taken off in spite of mild- to moderate-dexterity issues in your hands, I recommend those sold on Etsy by Bracelet Street USA. They are fairly priced, functional, and the company really seems to care about pleasing its customers. Each has a clean, simple aesthetic—appropriate for anyone, masculine or feminine—with 36 colors available in lengths ranging from 12 to 26 inches. I can’t speak to longevity after just a couple of weeks, but my initial impression of the three necklaces in my order is that they offer good quality for the price.

* Even my kids have been subject to my sudden demand to “help, help, help me get this off before I have to start yanking on it!” Since some of my jewelry was my departed mother’s finer stuff, ripping it apart would be less than ideal…

FYI, “Metallic Tamba” as a color name doesn’t mean much to me. I’d describe the shade as a multi-hued, warm-toned, mostly dark brown metallic melange

** Frankly, I’m also not a very significant blogger, so I’m not sure “knowing who I am” would have any effect on the way any merchant would treat me!

I had to look up the proper name for the round, metal circular fastener with the tiny lever you have to pull with a fingernail to open it, pulling an itsy bitsy wire out of the center of the hollow hoop. The internet told me it is a springring clasp, invented around 1921.

The best “Thermos” insulated food jar is a LunchBots brand Thermal

My search for a replacement insulated food jar when Thermos dropped the ball

I bought Thermos brand food jars in 2010, then again in 2015. These 10- and 16-oz jars have interchangeable lids and have served me well enough for a decade. After 10 years, however, I’m down to six jars and four lids having purchased seven in total between the two sizes.

Thermos insulated food jars, 10 and 16 ozYou can find reviews out there by people who have done scientific measurements of heat retention over time in this type of container, but my requirements are very simple. To wit, if I send a hot meal to school or work in the morning with my loved one, does the food stay warm and enjoyable until lunchtime?

Venerable Thermos brand no longer signifies quality

My first choice would’ve been keeping my existing jars in service with a few new replacement lids. Thermos in September 2020 replied to my email query, however, saying that I was out of luck. Thermos discontinued my jar model(s), and they have no replacement lids to offer.

I made it clear I would purchase lids if necessary, and that I was not asking for extended warranty coverage for old products. Thermos customer service appeared to give little attention to the details of my query; they don’t seem to care about my business.

I got a boilerplate email response indicating only that one item of the two I’d mentioned with model numbers and dates of purchase was out of production, and welcoming me to peruse their current offerings to find my own replacement. No notice was given to my specific question about sustainability or offering replacement parts in the longer term. No attempt was made to point me to the closest current model that might meet my needs.

Total customer service fail by Thermos!

Lids without plastic inside may be a healthier choice

Seeking a totally new product, I discovered that there was no Thermos food jar listed on their consumer site that day with stainless inside the molded plastic lid where it will touch the heated food therein.

BPA free plastic is a red herring; all plastic in contact with warm food should be viewed with caution, but not paranoia. The health effects of plastic use with hot food remain dubious yet suspect. Read up on this case of regrettable substitutes in National Geographic.

Instead of focusing on quality or innovation, Thermos seems to be competing with no-name international brands offering cheap products designed to fail and be quickly replaced. Today’s Taiyo Nippon Sanso* owned Thermos brand is obviously a poor fit for my eco-conscious, health-conscious consumer preferences.

I looked to a pair of modern, sustainable food container brands that I already trust for a suitable replacement to these insulated staples of my lunch-packing arsenal: LunchBots and U-Konserve.

LunchBots Thermal is the best insulated food jar for my family as of 2020

The best insulated food jar for my family turned out to be a LunchBots Thermal. I bought two, in September, 2020—one 12 oz and one 16 oz—from Amazon. I paid retail price, but I did use an Amazon coupon to save a few dollars off the order.

Amazon invoice for LunchBots order including Thermal food jar and insulated stainless steel water bottle Continue reading

Kitchen compost bucket solutions to tame the sticky stink

I’ll have to begin with the bad news: if you fail to take your compost out, eventually, there will be odors. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Fundamentally, we’re talking about the process of decay by which food scraps become nourishment for future cycles of growth. It’s all good, but you’ll notice there’s goo in good

Biology gets sticky and stinky. Mathematicians know it.food in kitchen compost pail including gummy bears, coffee grounds, oatmeal, and seeds

Having accepted that taking out the compost is at least as important as removing household trash, here are my simple ideas for a less messy, less smelly, less likely to leak composting experience.

I recommend:

  • an 8-10 quart food storage container with tight fitting lid
  • 4 gallon compostable liners for the kitchen compost pail
  • a household paper shredder
  • scrap paper and cardboard shipping boxes destined for recycling
  • 13 gallon compostable liners for the curbside bin

Snapware food storage bin and lid lined with UNNI compostable bag with cardboard

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