These are the bare-bones basics, just to get you started. And please note, your spice cabinet should not become an ancient history museum exhibit. Replace ground spices every 2-3 years.
  1. Ground cinnamon
    From flavoring breakfast standards like oatmeal and cinnamon toast, to pepping up coffee (put a little in the filter with the ground coffee for a warm, autumnal cup), to perking up stir-fries and Indian or African curries, this popular spice is a must-do.
  2. Ground cumin
    Mix with chili powder and salt and you have instant taco seasoning (say goodbye to those little packets). Also great for Indian curries and sauces, and well as chilies, enchiladas, and many tomato-based Mexican or South/Central American dishes.
  3. Ground chili powder
    Mild enough to use in foods served to children or people sensitive to spice, but still rich in flavor. Use in stews, chilies, rubbed on meat before grilling or roasting, or stirred into sea salt for a spicy sprinkling salt.
  4. Chinese five spice
    I cook chicken bones, garlic, and ginger with this spice in a pot of water for impromptu pho broth nearly every week. It's also great rubbed on chicken or duck and roasted at a high heat.
  5. Ground nutmeg
    You most likely know it from all things pumpkin, but this warm spice also go surprisingly well with earthy vegetables like mushrooms and eggplant, as well as Nettie cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan. Stir a dash of it into your mac and cheese and prepare for a dish that tasted even more intensely cheesy.
  6. Curry powder
    Great for curries, sprinkled onto chicken or egg salad, or stirred into mayonnaise or yogurt for a delicious quick dipping sauce. Even better, it contains bright yellow turmeric, which has known anti-inflammatory properties.
  7. Herbes de Provence
    I am not a fan of dried herbs in general (I prefer them fresh) but this combination of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lavender leaves is wonderful mixed with a little sea salt and rubbed all over chicken before roasting it at a high heat. It's also great stirred into biscuits or scones.
  8. Red pepper flakes
    I put these on absolutely everything. Not only do they add an amazing pop of color, the spice gives foods just the right amount of kick. Hint: you can probably get away with never actually purchasing these if you just hoard the little containers that pizza delivery places give you.
  9. Cayenne pepper
    Good for so much more than that weird lemonade people drink for The Master Cleanse. Chilies, stews, sauces, and even just a light sprinkle on anything you want to give a little kick to.
  10. Smoked paprika
    I think liquid smoke is a little gross, so I use smoked paprika for smokiness instead. It's sweet, a little bit spicy, and imparts a delicious smoky flavor. Sprinkle it over deviled eggs, rub it on chicken or beef, add a pinch to avocado toast, or sprinkle on an omelet.
  11. Peperoncini Secchi
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    Not talking about those green pickled peppers! If you can get your hands on these, they are like red pepper flakes, only 100 times more delicious. Crush them and add them to anything, especially pasta sauces (Just make sure to wash your hands after!)
    Suggested by @corey
  12. Kosher salt/sea salt
    Maybe this is TOO basic but I've been to many a friend's place only to discover the only salt they have is iodized table salt.
    Suggested by @eatthelove