Friday, February 24, 2012

Bulk spices

I've been doing my best to buy in bulk for a while now, but the one area that I have consistently forgotten to even look in the bulk section is for spices. Well, not anymore. I needed cayenne pepper the other day for our red beans and rice (since I make my own creole spice mix) and finally brought a little plastic container (saved and washed out from restaurant leftovers--I don't like plastic, but it can be handy to re-use as a take-out container or for some bulk items which can't go into a bag, like spices and olives; glass is too heavy, you have to get the tare and that takes a while) and checked out the bulk section. Holy crap! It's cheap! At first I saw the price and thought, "8.35? Is that even worth it?" But that's the per pound pricing. I got about the same amount that I would have bought in a little bottle for $.91, making it about $4-5 cheaper. When I looked at the rest of the prices, they were comparable in their relative cheapness, and Safeway has a good variety. (I think Fred's does, too, but I happened to be at Safeway.) Most of our commonly used herbs will be easy to grow myself (like oregano and basil) but spices only grow in specific places. Buying them in bulk was a total revelation.
Additionally, you can often find better quality spices in bulk. Now that we have a micro-plane grater, we can buy and use whole cinnamon sticks and nutmeg, star anise, things like that. Whole spices also last longer, with better quality. And after all, if you're making a lovely meal for your family or yourself, you want to use the best ingredients possible.
As far as how to get them and take them home, I'll probably continue to use the small plastic container until I can think of something better. It's light enough that I don't feel the need to get the tare, and it's easy to remember to grab. When I get home I can transfer the spices to a glass container with a masking tape label.


  1. How are you going about the tare process? It's the next big step I need to take in buying without packaging, but I just haven't gotten around to figuring it out. Customer service counter? Guessing?

  2. I haven't been using the tare process at all. That's why I used a plastic tub, and I've been re-using my plastic bags for bulk items so that they don't need to be tared. The only place that I have actually gotten the tare for something is at HG Market, because a couple of times now I've remembered to bring glass canning jars to carry meat home in. It's caused some questions, but the people there are super friendly and didn't mind the one extra step.