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When buying herbs and/or spices, do so a tablespoon or so at a time, rather than the higher priced "packaged" ones. This means you will have fresher, and it costs far less. Also, look in Mexican aisles as they often have smaller packages of herbs/spices that are far cheaper than in the "American" ones; and from what I understand many can be found far less expensive in Asian markets as well!
If you do not have older spice bottles, look at places like the "as is" Goodwill store, use baby jars that are cleaned, or check freecycle or other local recycling places!
It's easy to make "tags" for your new spice containers. I use "season greetings" tabs I got for a dime at a yard sale and they work great! You can easily "make" your own from blank paper, old envelopes, piece of typing paper, etc. Simply put on with scotch tape. This way the spices and herbs are used quickly and don't have the time to get "old" on you!
Also if you come across an excellent buy, but aren't sure how you would ever use that much say, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice,. you can give to others to use.
I found out about checking out Asian markets when checking recipes online
By katrina from Medford, Oregon
Two markets I frequently shop at (Sprouts and Vons/Safeway) provide complimentary seasoning when you purchasing meat or poultry. They can season for you. I usually ask for some seasoning on the side in a baggie to bring home.
Check your local market to see if they have a sign-up, or ask if they have complimentary seasoning options.
All cooks have their own secret ways to make the dish special. This time of the year, we are using spices that may have not been even thought of in 10-12 months. Bottles of spices that make everyone's dishes a little bit different probably have been on a shelf waiting to be used again.
You may have heard spices are only "good" for six months. I believe this is not true. They have been dried and can be used for up to a year (sometimes more). So never buy the biggest container if it's used only a couple times a year. One reason things may not have that familiar flavor is the spices are old. I have saved so much money buying mine in whatever form they may come in at the 99 Cent store.
Being dried is a way of preserving them. It also makes the "bang" go to what I call asleep. They are easily woken up, if you simply put the spices in palm of your hand, instead of putting them directly onto meat or into a dish. Rub the spice for several seconds. If adding 2 or more like I do, you can put them all together and rub them back to life for a minute or so. The friction of heat caused by your rubbing them brings back what has been sleeping. You will notice the smell come to life. Sounds funny but in layman's terms that is what has happened.
My other trick with using spices that may be older (never know how long they have been dried) is to add a fresh anything to preparing your dish or meat. Even chopping parsley into very small bits makes the dried spices come alive; being more potent.
Cloves or cilantro works well also. It does not have to be part of the dish. You use a small amount so that fresh ingredient doesn't take over the seasoning blend you desire to have. After you do this, all of the other spices will come back to life with the smell, which is why we use spices.
If what you are cooking calls for garlic or onion, that also works if added to spice. If it calls for dried celery, onion flakes or garlic, etc., use a small amount of fresh of these. It will have same result not costing you a bunch of money.
Spices can be expensive, so I just could not throw away a half used container when this simple solution prolongs the life of any spice. Make sure you taste it. With chilies, some bring heat while others have a more smokey flavor. If spice is old, this may have changed a bit. You can make up for that before putting in your favorite dish.
This year I have noticed you can buy citrus zest where we get all of our spices. If it calls for a lot of this, buying the container is good. If not, use the fresh zest off of the citrus. Using the juices of it to add a little something extra to the sauce or gravy. No need to waste, add it to a glass of water. Tastes great!
Cooking is trying new things. So save a bit of money on your spices or watch how they suddenly have that desired taste you remember.
Source: My grandma, like almost everything I know. Living in the South, I became accustomed to hot and spicy since while still loving that. Spices we use before adding the heat is what makes everyone dishes have a signature.
By Luana M. from San Diego, CA
When I use up a jar of herbs/spices, I wash the jar and remove the label. When I buy new herbs/spices, I buy the cheaper, bulk packaged brand. I put the herb/spice in the saved jar.
Save a bundle the next time you buy spices. Instead of reaching for the Spice Islands or any other brands that put spices in a jar, shop at stores that sell spices in bulk.
Are you making a new recipe that calls out for seasoning or spices you don't have? Instead of purchasing each new seasoning or spice jar, which can get costly especially if you may not like the recipe, my thrifty tip is to purchase in bulk where you can scoop the amount you need into a ziplock or plastic bag.
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.
Shop for spices and flavorings in the international foods section of your grocery store. You could get twice as much for half the price. Recently I purchased almond flavoring, ginger and onion powder this way, saved a few dollars on each.
One way to save on your food budget is to buy your spices in bulk. They are available this way from various markets and on-line. This is a page about buying bulk spices.
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
Spices can be expensive. So first I hit Dollar Tree, Big Lots or Aldis for the ordinary spices. I save small glass jars for the bulk spices I buy at local health food shops and online at MySpiceSage.com. I usually save about 80% over normal grocery prices.
By Carole from Indiana
Agree with the posters on checking the ethnic food aisle. In our area, Goya and Badia ( to name just a couple) spices are a fraction of the cost in the conventional spice section (Mc Cormick, Spice Islands, etc.) and taste a whole lot fresher.
I'm a little iffy on the Dollar Store/ Big Lots spices - have tried both and they seemed to have a shorter shelf life to me. You've gotta remember that these big-big-box stores often don't pass along savings to customers just by being able to buy in large quantities; a lot of times you're getting a deal because they got a deal on almost-ready-to-expire stuff - or lesser quality items. ( Saying this from experience - I was a retail manager for 25 years).
The Hispanic cello packet spices are also generally offered in smaller quantity than the mainstream spices; the advantage to this is that if it's an occasionally used spice, your chances of using it up while still at its peak - six months, tightly capped or sealed - are better. (01/29/2010)
At WalMart and most grocery stores check the Hispanic foods section. There was ground cumin for 84 cents for 1 1/2 oz. McCormick's ground cumin was 2.82 for 2 oz.
The Hispanic Food section for cinnamon and oregano and other spices can save you at least $1.00, and probably more.
Source: Always checking the bottom line and being frugal (cheap)!
By Annie Rios Hill from Columbia, MO
Wow! Great tip! I never thought to check a different aisle! (11/30/2009)
You are absolutely correct! I've been doing this for about 8 yrs now. Only after moving to Arizona from Alabama and finding that things there were triple what they were here, I looked up and found a local Mexican grocery store in AZ with many bargains. The spices and foods were much, much cheaper for some reason. I made that particular store my regular grocery store and only bought the items that were on sale at the other stores.
The spices were the best! I still have some of the peppers and now that we can get a lot of Mexican products here in Alabama and Georgia that were in AZ. I am now able to afford all the spices I love to keep on hand again now! (12/01/2009)
Tips for saving money on spices.
I was surprised to find sea salts for only 23 cents per pound at my local co-op! I couldn't believe how cheap it is there, and I'll never buy it elsewhere again.
Visit your local bulk store where you can buy only a little bit of the spice you need at a time. When you get home, place it into a small sealable jar (I use little tupperware containers that hold 1/4 cup, but baby food jars would work, too.)
If you go to the grocery store, you have to buy a jar of the spice. Then the spice will probably sit in your cupboard for years before you will be able to use that amount.
Buying bulk will give you the ability to buy as little as a few teaspoons at a time and you'll always be able to have FRESH spices in your cupboard. Just compare the prices, you'll be amazed at the money you save by buying at the bulk store.
The health food store here sells spices in bulk. You can buy as little or as much as you need with the minimum being 25¢. I buy all my spices there and store them in the little tiny jars that come in Jelly sampler packages that one usually receives at Christmas time. Or you could use empty pill bottles with the labels stripped off to store them.
I buy mine at our local health food store. I even buy yeast for the bread machine. 3.69/lb compared to about $20/lb in the grocery store. The first Thursday of every month you get an extra 15% off your order. Can't go wrong!
Look for a bulk food store (not a warehouse store) in your area. This is where you can purchase any amount you need at less per ounce/pound than you would pay for prepackaged at a traditional store. There is one not far from where I live so I stock up on spices I use frequently.
I buy most of my spices in the Mexican food section. I keep small jars from old spices to put them in because they are always in cellophane packages. They seem to be larger amounts but at a smaller cost!
Order spices in bulk online from places like Emergency Essentials http://beprepared.com/category.asp?c=944
Pure garlic powder, 7 dollars a pound instead of 4 dollars for a 4 ounce bottle. Salt-free "Mrs. Dash" type seasoning, 7 dollars a pound instead of three dollars for an ounce and a half. Whole black pepper for pepper grinders, 7 and a half dollars a pound instead of...
Too much for your own use? Split the cost and the spices with a friend.
Get together with some friends and order them by mail order from http://www.bulkfoods.com, so that you get them very inexpensively, plus you don't have to drive anywhere to get them.
My local dollar store has name brands for a buck, sea salts, mustard seeds. Learn to make your own blends. What a savings! For me, it was taco seasoning, blackened mixes, chili powder and ranch mixes. I make my own now and save loads. Garlic powder is not that hard to make, plus there is no filler. Same with grow your own, no stems only the best of the plant, plus great taste. A small package of seeds will give lots of parsley, basil and such.
We have a tiny store that sells spices, noodles, flours, different types of sugars, just about everything that you can imagine for cooking in small scale. They buy in bulk and break it down. I'm in west Tennessee. If anyone is in this area I'll be glad to furnish the name and town where this store is.
I buy large salt and pepper grinders at Costco for much less than at the grocery store. I also stock up on larger containers of the herbs and spices I use often, like thyme. I just refill the little container in my spice rack as needed. For less used spices, I buy what I need in the health/bulk section of Fred Meyer. I grow rosemary and basil and experiment each year with different herbs. Oh, and mint! I have more mint than I know what to do with.
Jess in Portland, OR
Buy spices in their whole form if possible. Like whole nutmeg will keep almost indefinitely; where ground nutmeg loses it's punch fast. Then grind your own as you need it. I have a coffee grinder that is dedicated for herbs and spices. That way I don't get a unusual taste in my coffee (which I also grind fresh)! They are inexpensive to buy new and turn up at garage sales, thrift stores frequently too. Once you taste the difference of fresh ground spices you will never go back to buying the pre-ground type! Believe me there is a big difference!
Never buy spices at the grocery store. You have no way to know how long those spices have been on the shelf and the staff will not know anything about them, nor can you buy small amounts. Scout out local co-ops and health food stores that have a bulk spice area where the spices are sold fast enough to keep them fresh and the help should be able to help you with questions you may have and may even share a favorite recipe with you. Ask your friends where they shop for spices and ask questions at the stores too about the age of the spices where they came from, etc.
Grow your own. Few will be able to grow a nutmeg tree but you can easily grow basil, chives and many others in your yard in the summer months, on a bright window shelf or under lights in the winter.
Freeze or dry your extra harvest for later use. Freezing fresh herbs like basil in a little water will keep a lot of the color and flavor too. Put your herbs chopped in a ice cube tray with enough water to cover, freeze and you will have "fresh" basil whenever you need it.
While your buying your spices in bulk here are a few spice blends to make up and keep on hand. With the great prices you are getting these should be wonderfully cheap.
Mexican Spice Mix Recipe
Combine all and mix well. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place up to four months.
Fines Herbes Seasoning Mix Recipe
Fresh herbs: Chop finely and combine. Because these herbs quickly lose their flavor when heated, add to the cooked dish at the end of the cooking process.
Dried herbs: Combine dried herbs in equal proportions. Place in a glass airtight container and store in a cool, dark place up to four months
Herb Salt Substitute Recipe
Combine dried herbs and spices and mix well. Place in a glass airtight container and store in a cool, dark place up to four months. Use on all types of savory foods. Yield: about 1/3 cup months.
Poultry seasoning mix
Combine ingredients. Mix well, rub into poultry before grilling.
A Little Italian Seasoning
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients. Process for 30 seconds until finely ground. Transfer to a tightly sealed container, label, and date. Store in a cool dark place for up to 3 months
Buy the smallest amount you can, especially spices you won't use much.
If you do a lot of cooking, then buying the more common spices in bulk is perhaps prudent. (01/26/2007)
Buying in Bulk is only prudent when you are making large quantities of food and right away, AND if you don't mind using more than you would because the spice is older. Generally health food stores that sell in bulk are very aware of how long a spice is considered "fresh" and then just past it's time. Dollar store herbs are past past their time, you'd be amazed at the difference between a pinch of Cayenne pepper from the dollar store versus the bulk bin at the health food store.
I drive 50 miles (ok, I visit my Grandfather too) to go to a health food store in Santa Cruz, CA that sells bulk vanilla, it's cheaper than those nearly $10 bottles of Real Vanilla in the grocery store and SO good, my daughter and I use it in lots of things. We always buy tons of bags while there, new things to try (can't beat the bulk bins for that) and to add to our spice cabinet. Sometimes the stores even have bottles that you can fill right there (ex. for vanilla, pb, honey and sometimes even spices). Coming from my Mom whom is a chef at a "Nuts and Granola" college in AZ, I've learned the value of good spices, drying takes some of the punch, but AGE takes a LOT of it. Buy often and you'll be surprised at the difference you'll see in your foods! (01/27/2007)
It depends if you are talking about saving on herbs or spices. (Herbs are things like rosemary, sage, etc, while spices are mixes usually using herbs.) I'm not sure about the herbs but if you look around, esp on the net, you can find recipes for the spice mixes. (01/28/2007)
Dollar General sells spices at 50 cents a jar. I think they are about 6 oz. or so. (02/06/2007)
Buy a vanilla bean and a bottle of inexpensive brandy. Cut the bean lengthwise along the middle, then into 1-inch strips and put the whole thing into the bottle of brandy. Try to get all the tiny black seeds into the bottle. Shake, then store. Once in a while, shake it again.
In a month, you'll have mild vanilla flavor - three months for strong. It keeps till the brandy's gone and keeps getting stronger. Use it just like real vanilla extract in your recipes. The alcohol bakes out. (11/12/2007)
By Robin Payton