One of the keys to cooking from scratch is having a good supply of quality spices. There can be sticker shock when shopping for spices but a little goes a long way. Keep an eye open for sales, buy spices in large containers from a warehouse store, or by weight in some health stores and refill your spice bottles. You can also grow some of your own herbs and use them in cooking. Substitute about 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs for 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
We order herbs and spices in bulk online. The cost savings is HUGE.
There are three places we use the most: Glenbrook Farm (www.glenbrookfarm.com ), The Spice House (www.spicehouse.com ), and Herb Cupboards (www.herbcupboard.com ).
If you look online you can find several herb houses. The best quality we found was (if memory serves me correctly) from The Spice House. Having said that, the others were still good.
We've never been dissatisfied with a purchase. Glenbrook Farm generally adds something free to each purchase (small bag of cinnamon sticks, lavendar, bay leaf, etc.).
Each site has various sizes available so don't worry that you have to order a pound of dried oregano in order to make a purchase.
The advice I'd like to add is keep an eye on how fresh your spices/herbs are. You can go to the trouble of making a homemade meal but have less than desirable results if your spices are old! Also, I have bought the cheap spices and not been that satisifed. You get what you pay for and you really have no idea how fresh those are. I prefer to spend more and buy McCormick or some other good brand. If stored properly, they last a long time and I just think they work better in recipes. Oh and don't store your herbs & spices near the stove or other heat source and they are best kept out of direct sunlight.
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