Cutting the Grocery Bill: Reducing the Cost of a Good Spice Rack
I’ve managed to cut my grocery bill in half, but I’ve struggled with one set of expenses more than I ever though possible. I use a lot of spices and every time I turn around, I feel like I need more cinnamon or basil. I’ve been investigating my options and in the past two months I’ve made a dent in the amount I spend on my spices. That dent only adds up to a few dollars so far, but if I can keep at it for the long haul, I think I’ve found another way to be frugal without feeling like I have to give something up.
1. Buy in bulk.
There are a lot of things I don’t like buying in bulk because I just don’t have room to store them. Bulk for spices, though, still means a container a third of the size of a cereal box. While some experts say that spices only last about six months, most spices can actually hold out for a whole year (and since most spices are only harvested once per year, that ‘new’ batch of oregano may have already been in storage much longer than you’d think).
2. Dry your own.
If you can pick up fresh herbs at your local farmers’ market, the price will be significantly less than the dried stuff at the supermarket. Dry them with a dehydrator or other drying process in order to extend their shelf life.
3. Grow your own.
I got the idea to go one step further from drying my own herbs to growing my own. This year, I’m only doing a few pots out on my balcony , which works just fine for my apartment, and I can’t guarantee what the breakdown between what I actually produce and the time and effort I’ll put in to it, but I think it will be worth it.
4. Buy online.
There are plenty of spices that I can’t produce on my balcony, from issues of room to issues of pollination. There are plenty of options, from very inexpensive to premium. Even tried-and-true Amazon has a good selection, as long as you’re willing to buy in sufficient quantity. The only point I would bring up is that quality is crucial for spices, and purchasing from a reputable seller can be worth a premium price. I routinely buy in large quantities from Penzey’s for just that reason.
No matter which of these approaches you are considering for stocking your spice rack, make sure that you have airtight containers to keep your spices in. Whether you buy in bulk or dry your own, you’ll need your own spice containers. I reuse old ones, save jars and use single serving yogurt cups.