Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

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Saving$
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Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Saving$ » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:23 pm

In an effort to be more Bogleheadish and hopefully also healthier, I'm attempting to eat in more and buy fewer processed foods.

Turns out that whenever you look up any recipe, they call for 1/4 tsp of this spice, pinch of that spice, etc.

I don't cook often enough to go through the jars of spices. The age of some spices in my pantry is probably in the double digits. And the cost of each jar is about $6. So, as I embark upon this attempt at cooking from scratch, I am wondering the following:

1. How long can one keep one's spices? Can Bogleheads get away with keeping them longer? Some friends say no more than 2 years. This means almost all spices need to go. Almost all spice jars are 3/4 or more full.

2. What is the affordable way to acquire spices? The containers at the grocery are so large - I can't imagine using them up in 2 years (I'm not going to do THAT much cooking). They are also quite expensive. I've googled spice sets & samples on Amazon - they want over $100 for a starter set. This seems unreasonable expensive to me, and the jars are unreasonably large. Does anyone sell really small jars for really affordable cost?

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VictoriaF
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by VictoriaF » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:26 pm

America was discovered on the way to spices. You should show them more respect.

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

Birdie55
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Birdie55 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:31 pm

Grocery stores with bulk bins usually have bulk spices too. Winco is one grocery with bulk bins where you can buy just a little bit of the spices you want. Whole foods also has bulk spices, but I think they are all organic, so maybe more expensive than non organic.

Spices lose some flavor over time, but I also have some ages spices in my cupboard. They might not be as strong as they were once, but I can always add more if they seem to be not strong enough. I have read that we should replace spices every 2 years too but I do not.

minerva
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by minerva » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:39 pm

Hi - someone beat me to it, but the bulk bins are definitely the way to go.

Many spices start deteriorating at three months or so. This is not much of an issue for things like peppercorns, for example. But it is for many others.

Food coops, Kroger, etc. usually have the bulk bins in addition to places mentioned in other responses.

Even the super $$$ spices are very cheap when you're getting just a a couple of tablespoons!

Trader Joe's has frozen mini containers of basil and possibly coriander which I find convenient and reasonable pricewise too!

Happy cooking.

Saving$
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Saving$ » Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:19 pm

Bulk bins! - Brilliant.

Do you save the old spice jars & refill, or buy refillable ones? Glass or plastic?

MIGIHIDARI
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by MIGIHIDARI » Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:24 pm

Following spices need not be thrown in at least 10 years:
Grind only the amount you need. Rest will last for ever.
Cloves whole
Cardamoms in pods
Cinnamon sticks
Black pepper whole.
Some whole Red chilli peppers
Dry mango powder
Some more I can not think of.
If you need spices at reasonable prices, walk into ethnic stores like Thai or Indian stores. They have small amounts at reasonable prices.
Don't buy from regular Supermarkets in pretty looking bottles!
I cook at home and love spicy food. Remember Spicy does not always mean hot!
Cooking is a pleasure for me and a sort of meditation!

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LowER
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by LowER » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:31 pm

Try Savory Spice and/or Penzeys. Both have brick and mortar and online options. Buy in bulk and save, or not. These have both spiced up our lives!

Birdie55
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Birdie55 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:56 pm

I save my old glass spice jars and reuse. If I didn't have a spare jar I would just keep the spice in the plastic bag I get at the store.

jlawrence01
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by jlawrence01 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 12:26 am

Saving$ wrote:2. What is the affordable way to acquire spices? The containers at the grocery are so large - I can't imagine using them up in 2 years (I'm not going to do THAT much cooking). They are also quite expensive. I've googled spice sets & samples on Amazon - they want over $100 for a starter set. This seems unreasonable expensive to me, and the jars are unreasonably large. Does anyone sell really small jars for really affordable cost?
Even though I cook very frequently, I agree that it is hard to use up all of the spices on a timely basis. What I do is to purchase most spices in the smallest containers from Penzey's Spices. In MOST cases, I can use that amount in 1-3 years.

http://www.penzeys.com/


The problem with supermarket spices is that the sizes are larger than you really need and you never know how long it has been on teh supermarket shelf.

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Riceman
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Riceman » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:02 am

Indian grocery stores, either online or in person, have very cheap spices. Ditto hispanic or asian groceries.

kksmom
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by kksmom » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:24 am

History!!
Columbus was trying to find a route to india in search of spices. Dont miss that boat :happy
Visit a local indian grocery store...get cheap, fresh spices. Buying from supermarkets seems to be a waste of $$s.

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bardenay
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by bardenay » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:51 am

jlawrence01 wrote:
Saving$ wrote:. Does anyone sell really small jars for really affordable cost?
Even though I cook very frequently, I agree that it is hard to use up all of the spices on a timely basis. What I do is to purchase most spices in the smallest containers from Penzey's Spices. In MOST cases, I can use that amount in 1-3 years.

http://www.penzeys.com/
I've used Penzeys for years. Their small jars are great for infrequently used spices such a sage and thyme, the standard size is good for common things such as basil and garlic, the refill bags are good for bulk spices such as pepper and chili powder. I usually buy spices once a year and plan on spending about the cost of going out for a nice dinner. If you are close to a store, I recommend a visit. They have their spices in testing jars so you can smell them.

A couple of plugs; Penseys' Fox Point blend is extremely tasty and versatile and their chicken base is flavorful without being salty.

jebmke
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by jebmke » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:33 am

For commonly used herbs (basil, thyme,rosemary,oregano, parsley ...) try growing your own. They aren't difficult to grow and don't take much space. Even a large pot will work. Any still left at the end of the growing season can be easily dried, chopped and stored for the winter.
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Mike Scott
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Mike Scott » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:48 am

We use a lot of spices and often buy them in 1 lb bulk packs from a local food coop for little more cost per lb than a single small containers at grocery store prices . Keep some in a small jar in the spice rack and the rest in the freezer. Most of them will keep for years and years. If you don't use many, buy them as you need them for new recipes and they will slowly accumulate. Do you have a friend you can share/trade/swap new spices to try until you know what you like?

Woodshark
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Woodshark » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:27 pm

Spices don't last forever. My advice is to trash anything that is two or three years old except peppercorns or whole nutmegs. If you live in a large metro area then seek out the larger farmers market. Most of them have bulk/cheap spices that sell for about 20% of what you are paying in a grocery store.

Once a year I go to the largest market in our area and replace all of our spices with fresh ones for less than $20.

If you don't have one then the next several times you dine at the local asian or mexican market ask the server to ask the chef where they get their spices, then go there. It might be a little "basic" but the prices are well worth it.

YttriumNitrate
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by YttriumNitrate » Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:20 pm

Saving$ wrote:1. How long can one keep one's spices? Can Bogleheads get away with keeping them longer? Some friends say no more than 2 years. This means almost all spices need to go. Almost all spice jars are 3/4 or more full.
In general, spices don't really go bad, they just become less flavorful as time goes on. Whether or not you should continue to use them really depends on what you're spicing up. While I wouldn't think twice about using a double dose of 5+ year old spices for a pot of rice and beans, I'd use newer stuff for seasoning blue fin tuna. :D

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frugaltype
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by frugaltype » Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:24 pm

I keep a lot of spices for years - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, etc. I use enough dried onion and garlic so that my problem with them is running out. Dried stuff like parsley and similar herbs are not worth buying, in my opinion, since they deteriorate so quickly.

I just looked on peapod, and most of the McCormick spices are $2-$5. Over two years, this is not even worth worrying about for most people. i can't imagine what amazon is selling for $100; perhaps they've decided to turn a profit via spices.

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Watty
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Watty » Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:36 pm

Riceman wrote:Indian grocery stores, either online or in person, have very cheap spices. Ditto hispanic or asian groceries.

Even in a regular grocery store the ethnic sections will often have spices that are much less expensice than on the spice isle.

We just threw out most of our old spices and bought a new spice rack that already had filled jars of spices.

One trick to use is to find a list of spices on the internet that are listed by what they go on and tape it on the inside of your cabinet so you can see ideas of what different spices you might want to try on things like chicken.

vveat
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by vveat » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:48 pm

You didn't say what kind of cuisine you prefer. It doesn't seem you cook that much, if you have preference for some spices or types of dishes that will already narrow down your choices. I see very little value in "kits" as many people use only a few spices. Also there are mixes for certain cuisines, maybe you could consider that, they would go faster.

So, my 2 cents
#1 figure out the 5 or so spices that see most use and just get the best, don't worry about their [minimal] cost
#2 buy just a little from a spice shop or bulk store for others that you may need, don't buy in advance though only when you do need them
#3 if you cook a lot of a certain type of ethnic dishes buy a mix
#4 substitute. if you use your favorites you may not get the described dish exactly but you may actually enjoy it more

We cook a lot, 99% of meals are at home, but we favor a small selection of spices. I grow parsley, rosemary and tarragon, and have cumin, dill, thyme and paprika on hand for frequent use. Everything else gets used so rarely that it's not worth bothering to keep a fresh supply. For example I use coriander only a few times a year and I know it's stale by now, but toasting helps a bit.
Oh, and I get a variety of dry mushrooms from the local spice store, they are my [pricey] indulgence and never stay around long enough to go stale :sharebeer

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AustenNut
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by AustenNut » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:24 pm

International markets. Or pick them up while traveling internationally. :D

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frugaltype
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by frugaltype » Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:56 pm

"About 12 percent of spices brought to the United States are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and other things, according to an analysis of spice imports by federal food authorities...

Spice imports from Mexico and India have been found to have the highest rate of contamination. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India, according to the F.D.A."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/healt ... finds.html

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englishgirl
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by englishgirl » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:54 pm

Well, you could always ignore what it says in the recipe and use something kinda sorta similar. If you limit the number of different things you have on hand, you are more likely to be able to use them up quickly.

I've got by for many years on the following:

salt
pepper
hot sauce
Asian (as in, Chinese-style) spice mix
Curry mix
garlic
saffron
balsamic vinegar
soy sauce
olive oil
bouillon (stock) cubes or mix
fresh herbs that I either grow or buy from the supermarket as needed - rosemary, cilantro, basil, and mint, mostly. I get a silly amount of joy from grabbing fresh rosemary from the yard and throwing it onto anything that I'm roasting. Rosemary + olive oil + salt = heaven.
fresh ginger

The saffron is a total indulgence just because I am obsessed with it, and love risotto. I buy the giant jar when I can find it in Costco and then mourn when I run out. You probably wouldn't need to have it!
Sarah

Easy Rhino
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Easy Rhino » Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:44 pm

if you really want the supermarket size, I'd recommend dollar stores.

I second the ethnic market idea.

sscritic
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by sscritic » Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:48 pm

[Inappropriate cooking suggestion removed by admin LadyGeek]
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that almost 7 percent of imported spices over a three-year period were contaminated with salmonella.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:56 pm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that almost 7 percent of imported spices over a three-year period were contaminated with salmonella.
sscritic wrote:[Inappropriate cooking suggestion removed by admin LadyGeek]
[Hint on inappropriate cooking suggestion removed by admin LadyGeek]

Victoria
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frugaltype
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by frugaltype » Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:22 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that almost 7 percent of imported spices over a three-year period were contaminated with salmonella.
sscritic wrote:[Inappropriate cooking suggestion removed by admin LadyGeek]
[Hint on inappropriate cooking suggestion removed by admin LadyGeek]

Victoria
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Saving$
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Saving$ » Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:42 pm

Update: Kroger around here does not sell spices in bulk. Only in $5-$6 jars. Went to two Whole Foods. Neither sells spices in bulk. They did have small jars for $1.99 which is quite an improvement over my neighborhood grocery, which was also shocking. However, also surprising was that neither Whole Foods had all of the spices needed for my first recipe I want to try. Seems to me it calls for normal spices, but what do I know. I called a local organic coop who assured me they have all of them. Going there this weekend - it is nearby.

To the people who suggested substituting spices - I would have NO clue.
I agree that the starter kits are probably not a good idea. In addition to my aversion to their cost, I agree I would probably get alot of spices I would never use, which is also not cost effective, and is wasteful.

I really like the bulk idea - will only buy those I will use per recipe, and that way they will be fresh. If I start to make a recipe alot, I can buy three months worth of the spices for that recipe.

livesoft
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by livesoft » Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:51 pm

We get a ton of spices from folks moving out of the area. It seems that everyone just wants to dump the stuff in their pantries on us.

As for the NYTimes report, I think it is wrong. I'd estimate that 100% of the spices used in this country are contaminated with insect and rodent parts. For all practical purposes it is impossible to keep critters out.
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Gretchen
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Re: Spices for Cooking - Cost, Duration, etc.

Post by Gretchen » Thu Oct 31, 2013 8:02 pm

Ditto on the ethnic markets. Our nearest ethnic market is Armenian. They have all the herbs and spices I consider normal -- basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, etc. -- plus quite a few I wouldn't know how to use (sumac?) Prices are amazing -- typically $2-3 for a seven-ounce bag. They also have excellent produce at unusually good prices.

Trader Joe's has a limited selection of herbs and spices, but the prices are good.

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