Variety is the spice of life. And a variety of spices makes for quite a spicy menu. Cooking is all about the flavorings, the spices, herbs and seasonings that we keep on hand to enhance flavor or add zest. Purchasing spices at the local grocery store can add up in no time, especially if you are stocking your first kitchen or need to replenish several at one time.
You can choose between national brands and store brands to save a good chunk of money. Then there are generic varieties which can save you even more. Often you cannot find the variety of spices or blends when you look among the generics as you can when shopping the name brands.
Another option is to buy in bulk from a warehouse superstore, again with limited selection, or to resort to the internet. There are numerous internet sites offering bulk spices for your consideration. Whole Foods and Spice World are among the more reputable I’ve found. Still, many of these can be quite high priced too.
My favorite way to save on herbs and spices is to grow my own. This might sound like a lot of work but it really isn’t. You can even grow your own herbs if you live in an apartment as long s you have a window that gets a fair amount of sun throughout the day.
Individual pots or one long flower box type of planter can be sufficient to grow your own herbs for the whole year. Some you can just pick and use fresh as you need them like parsley and basil. Others you can dry on baking sheets in the oven or in a dehydrator and save them for later use.
I have a garden and a small section of it is an herb garden. Here I have grown parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, several types of basil and cilantro. I also grow several varieties of mint and use them to make different tasting teas.
During the growing season, I pick some fresh as I need it. I also keep the plants trimmed back enough that they don’t go to seed and stop producing new leaves. Give the surplus away or sell it at a farmer’s market.
Toward the end of the season, I start collecting leaves for drying so I’ll have herbs all winter. Choose only whole leaves that sow no sign of insect or disease damage. Set the oven to a low temperature, less than 200 and spread the leaves on a tray in the oven. Turn the leaves every so often and check for crispness. They should be just crumbly but not turning brown. Place dried herbs in resealable plastic bags, glass jars with tight-fitting lids or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Label each container so you’ll know what’s inside.