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How Do You Beat the High Cost of Spices?

Hello fellow cooks and cook wannabes! My name is Janet and I am a senior editor here at The Penny Hoarder.

For a long time before I came to The Penny Hoarder I was a newspaper food editor, which means I cooked and baked a lot for stories and photos. I still do a lot of cooking but, wow, the cost of spices keeps me from making some recipes.

I don’t know about you but I get sticker shock when I look at the prices in the spice aisle. A small container of poppy seeds for $4 or more. Almost that much for turmeric. And have you checked out vanilla extract lately? Gulp.

One way that I keep a lid on spice prices is to stay organized. This way, I don’t end up double or triple buying a spice. I learned my lesson when I found four containers of cream of tartar lurking in various unorganized spaces. Now, I have a shelf of what I call sweet baking spices — cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc. — and another shelf of savory spices — onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, etc.

Before I put a spice on my grocery list, I look through the shelves to see if I already have it. If I have the spice, I check the date that I bought it. How? I write the purchase date on the cap with a Sharpie after I unpack the groceries. (I understand I am getting into serious nerd category here.) If it’s more than two years old, I buy a new one. Manufacturers say their spices last a year but I think they are good longer.

If a recipe calls for a small amount, ¼ teaspoon or less, of a spice I don’t have, I leave it out or Google a substitute. Ground nutmeg can stand in for a small amount of ground cloves.

So, I am curious. What do you do to get around the high cost of spices? And what I really want to know is how old is the oldest spice in your cabinet?

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