14 Sassy Spice Blends to Stretch Your Grocery Dollars
When you find yourself needing to fall back on basic ingredients for meal planning, don’t forget that a savvy flavor solution may be as close as your pantry. The proper spice blends can go a long way towards adding the extra flavor your family is craving. Here are 14 basic ones that can easily be worked into most household budgets and add the extra zing you need to keep from feeling deprived. (See also: Cheap Ways to Add Big Flavor to Your Food)
As spice blends go, zaatar is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the seasoned, cheesy breakfast flatbreads I loved to purchase before work in the morning when I lived in Kuwait. It can also be mixed with olive oil for a fun spread to serve on breakfast toast and is one of my favorite sandwich flavorings to use with bulk mozzarella. Simply mix it into a paste with olive oil, spread onto the top and bottom of a cocktail sandwich roll, and fill with sliced Roma tomatoes and a medium slice of mozzarella. I usually make these in large batches when I’m having people over and want to have a meatless sandwich offering. You can also put some zaatar inside your grilled cheese for a bit of unexpected flavor.
2. Garam Masala
This Indian spice blend adds phenomenal flavor to grilled chicken, roasted cauliflower, and even certain baked goods. The next time you’re near an Indian grocery store, consider purchasing a large bag of garam masala to store in one of your extra glass canning jars. You’ll have it on hand when you need it and you won’t have to worry about air getting into the bag.
3. Five-Spice Seasoning
In addition to traditional Asian recipes, you can use five spice seasoning to flavor a number of other items. From sugar cookies and glazed nuts to gourmet popcorn and exotically seasoned chicken or beef on the grill, there’s plenty to do with this spice blend.
4. Curry Powder
As someone who feels like I always have to have a wide variety of Thai curry pastes in my fridge to handle any possible culinary emergency, I often forget how far a basic container of Madras curry powder can take a meal. Whether it’s adding to your list of easy Crock Pot recipes by tossing in some chicken leg quarters, onions, carrots, and coconut milk with the desired amount of this spice blend, or whipping up some sauced lamb, curry powder is one of those spice blends that can add a great deal of flavor to a meal that is otherwise only comprised of a protein, a starch, and one or two simple vegetables.
5. Italian Seasoning
Whether you’re making your own pizza sauce, whipping up a homemade salad dressing, or trying your hand at something like baked eggplant or linguini marinara, Italian seasoning is a handy spice blend to have on hand. It’s incredibly affordable when you purchase it in bulk at the warehouse store, and it stores well for long periods of time, provided it is sealed well between each use.
6. Taco Seasoning
Many families just use taco seasoning for ground beef or chopped chicken and call it good. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, taco seasoning is something you can absolutely get more mileage out of. For starters, I like to use it heavily when I’m using lentils for a filling for a meal of vegan tacos. You can also go a little more traditional and put some taco seasoning in a crock pot with tomato sauce and beef, and then shred the beef once it’s done cooking. This gives you more of an authentic taco and allows you the time flexibility necessary for things school soccer schedules and after-work networking meetings. Putting tacos aside however, there are other things you can use this spice blend to create. Spice up your cheese sauce for sassier nachos, season your refried beans for a zippier Mexican layered dip or burrito, and sprinkle some in your quesadillas for added flavor.
7. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Holiday pies aren’t the only option you have when it comes to utilizing pumpkin pie spice. You can add it to your waffle batter if you want to enjoy breakfast for dinner, sprinkle it on some winter squash, or even sprinkle a bit in your coffee or tea once the weather starts to cool. There are also a variety of other seasonal dishes this spice blend can be used for, including several in this cooking with canned pumpkin article.
8. Poultry Seasoning
It’s no secret that one of the easiest ways to pinch poultry pennies is to prepare your own at home. Having a container of poultry seasoning on hand to sprinkle on top of a roast bird adds a depth of flavor and keeps things simple. You can also use it to flavor homemade stuffing, jazz up a chicken and veggie pot pie, or enhance your homemade soup stocks.
9. Lemon Pepper
Great for seasoning steamed greens and other cheap weight loss foods, lemon pepper can also be used to create your own breaded fish filets when mixed with flour and cornmeal, dress up a baked chicken, or even to enhance the flavor of steamed vegetables.
10. Greek Seasoning
If you’re a Greek salad fan like me, then you are likely already aware of how well this spice blend works in a simple salad dressing. However, there are other ways to use Greek seasoning as well, including in grilled gyros, veggie dips, and even roasted potatoes.
11. Tony’s Seasoning
You may have run across Tony’s seasoning before while exploring various Cajun recipes. Etouffee, Jambalaya, gumbo, and even red beans and rice can be flavored with this zippy spice blend. It’s also pretty darn good when roasting a turkey breast. The flavor that it adds to the skin is exceptional, and it provides the flavor profile necessary for successfully pairing your poultry with sauced black beans and other Latin or Caribbean fare.
12. Mrs. Dash
Dress up your reheated rice or enjoy as a salt-free spice on your baked potatoes — either way, Mrs. Dash adds quite a kick to even the most basic dinner plates. You can also use it to season dips, bread crumbs, and even bean-based vegan sandwich spreads.
13. Steak Seasoning
14. Salt and Pepper
You can prepare your own mixture in advance to use just like the sandwich artists at Subway, or simply grind the two spices independently into a small food prep bowl when you are ready to start cooking. When you are trying to pinch pennies, there’s not much that can’t be enhanced with a bit of freshly ground salt and pepper. This includes baked potato wedges, pork chops, green salad, and more.
These spice blends are some of the more affordable ones available at basic grocery stores. Try a few out to see which ones suit your family’s preferences, and get as creative as you’d like.
What are your favorite spice blends to keep in the pantry? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below.