Spices can transform an ordinary piece of chicken into a mouth-watering morsel...but at a cost! Spices are not cheap, particularly at the grocery store. Coupons and sales will occasionally coincide to give you a good deal on a jar or two, but I hardly ever buy spices from the grocery store anymore.
I've found some alternative (read: cheaper) sources for spices, and in every case, I've been happy with the quality. Keep in mind that not every source below will carry every spice, and some spices are cheaper at Source A while other spices are cheaper at Source B.
So, where else can you buy spices?
1. Your local dollar store. A jar of spices for a buck? It's almost impossible to beat this price, but the selection will vary depending on the store and time of year.
2. A restaurant supply/wholesale store. We have GFS Marketplace in our area, and they have a decent selection of dried herbs and spices. The only drawback is that the spices come in fairly large containers.
3. Costco. Of course! They have a limited selection, but carry the basics as well as some odd spices.
4. A health food store. The one near my house sells spices in 1 oz bulk packages. Most of them are 99 cents...which makes some of the spices a great deal, and others not so much.
5. A flea market. We drive a few hours to the Shipshewana Flea Market almost every summer....but not just for spices, so it's worth the drive :) One of the booths carries every spice I've ever heard of, as well as many that I haven't heard of! Most of the jars are only $1, but there are some specialty blends and larger jars that are higher-priced...and still a great deal.
6. A bulk spice supplier. This is one I haven't tried...but I'm going to soon. Penzey's Spices comes highly recommended to me by a cook I trust, and they happen to have a retail store on the other side of town. You can also order spices in all different amounts and varieties from their on-line store.
7. Your backyard. Sources 1-6 all refer to dried herbs and spices. But if you want fresh herbs and spices, it's cheaper to grow them yourself! I tried basil and cilantro this summer. I tried really really hard. But, not surprisingly, the plants didn't do so great. I might try again next year...but regardless, if your thumb is even slightly green, you can probably grow some herbs for pretty cheap. If a recipe calls for dried herbs/spices, there is plenty of conversion information available online, allowing you to substitute your fresh, home-grown herbs.
Where do you get your herbs and spices? Have you tried any of the sources I listed? Do you have a source you would recommend?
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