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Dried herbs and spices are a great quick and easy, cheap and healthy way to liven up otherwise plain and boring dishes. They add a surprising amount of useful nutrients to your diet, and of course lots of flavor! Once you know what spices generally go well with what foods, it’s easy to experiment and change up your favorite recipes to create more enticing aromas and flavors.
Unfortunately, though, spices can be expensive, especially if you shop for them at a grocery store or a specialty shop. However, there are less expensive sources for herbs and spices that are readily available to anyone and are suitable for any home cook. Here are my top 5 places to buy herbs and spices at reasonable prices (hey, that rhymes!):
1. Amish Market
OK, so perhaps this isn’t easily accessible to everyone, but if you happen to live anywhere within an hour or two of an Amish community, it’s worth going once a year or so to their markets. Certain Amish brands and farms sell herbs and spices by weight in both small and large quantities. My DH and I just returned from a weekend trip to Lancaster, PA, where I stocked up on cinnamon sticks, granulated onion, celery seed, cumin, bay leaves and more. I spent only $1.00 or $2.00 on each package and was able to fill up my existing spice containers and have plenty left over.
2. Badia Spices and Herbs
Badia, an Hispanic brand based in FL, is available in many grocery stores and at Walmart Supercenters. They sell spices and herbs both in small quantities for less than $1.00 or in larger containers for equally inexpensive prices. This is great for spices and herbs (like saffron, for example) that you use very rarely or only on occasion, because you can buy a small quantity and use it before it loses its flavor and potency.
3. Warehouse Club Stores
My local Costco sells real vanilla and organic herbs and spices at phenomenal prices. The catch is that they come in large quantities, so I only buy the items I use a lot. I usually purchase my cinnamon, vanilla, whole black pepper and some Italian herbs at Costco because I use those items pretty much every day, and I go through a whole container in less than a year.
4. Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s sells smaller quantities of the most common herbs and spices at a fraction of the usual grocery store price. Because they are a smaller grocery store, they only carry the most common of spices, though, but it is a great source for those spices you use a lot. Oddly enough, though, I’ve found that Trader Joe’s is absolutely the best source for saffron, which can be sometimes over $10 at the grocery store, but I have found it in the past for $5 or less at Trader Joe’s (I don’t know what their current price is as I haven’t bought it in a while). Aside from Costco, Trader Joe’s is also the least expensive source I’ve found for real vanilla.
5. Grow Your Own
Even if you only have a balcony, like me, you can still easily grow a wide variety of herbs in pots or in a small kitchen garden. Most herb plants are easy to maintain and will thrive all summer long, even all year long if you have a nice sunny window inside. I wasn’t very good about it this past summer, but I like to dry herbs throughout their growing season so I have them on hand during the winter. Some fresh herbs can also be frozen. Plants are widely available in spring, anywhere plants are sold. I especially like to pick mine up at local farmers’ markets.