Buying spices to put in your pantry can be an expensive proposition depending on the amount and number of items you need to stock your pantry completely. The good news is, there are several things you can do to minimize the costs of stocking your pantry with the necessary items you need to make most of the recipes that you and your family enjoy.
One of the easiest way to reduce the costs of stocking you pantry is by purchasing your spices in bulk. One of the best resources for finding spices at affordable prices in bulk is at your local ethnic market. When I mention ethnic markets I am referring to Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Korean, and Hispanic markets. As I live in East Texas there are plenty of Hispanic markets in my area, but I have to drive to the Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) area to find a good Indian, Pakistani, Korean, and Chinese markets. So I generally keep a running list of the type of spices that I need to purchase to keep my pantry supplied and then when we make a trip to Dallas to visit my nephew and his family we go shopping.
When purchasing spices, it is best to buy whole spices whenever they are available. Whole spices that you can process with a mortar and pestle or in a small coffee of spice grinder will keep there flavor profile longer than powdered spices. By grinding your spices just before you need them will ensure you get the best possible flavor and essential oils of the spice. Having said that, I often buy spices that are already ground and use them until I run out. In some instances it may be a year or two before I need to restock my supply. Now, many chefs will tell you that powdered lose some of their strength and flavor over time, but as most cooks I really do not notice the difference. Besides, before serving any food to my friends or family, I taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. So maybe I use a little more if the powdered spice is older, but such is life.
I have found that when it comes to purchasing dried spices, few markets tend to have the variety that I need like 'Indo Pak Market' an Indian/Pakistani Market in Richardson (suburb of Dallas). Here I purchase: paprika, coriander, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground nutmeg, turmeric, red pepper (cayenne), fennel seeds, cilantro and many others. The great thing about purchasing spices from here is the price savings. Generally for the price that of a 2oz package of spices at my local Walmart, I can buy an 8oz or larger package at 'Indo Pak'. Ethnic markets generally have a larger selection of spices at prices that are quite a bit cheaper than your local supermarket.
So let's look at the cost comparison of the spices I purchased on my last trip to the Indian/Pakistani market when I needed to buy spices to replenish my pantry. While I purchased several spices besides the ones listed, I am only going to perform a price comparison of the spices that are available at my local Walmart.
|One of Four Isles Dedicated to Spices at Indo Pak Market in Richardson, TX (DFW Area)|
Paprika – I use it a lot, especially in chili, Tex-Mex food and of coarse Indian and Caribbean dishes. A 7oz bag of Nirav paprika is $2.99 ($0.42 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 2.5oz container of McCormick paprika is $2.96 ($1.40 per ounce) at Walmart. That's a savings of 70% buying it at Indo Pak.
Red Pepper (cayenne) – Used in more dishes than I can think of, A 7oz bag of Nirav red pepper is $2.99 ($0.42 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 8.7.5oz container of McCormick red pepper is $5.94 ($0.66 per ounce) at Walmart. That's a savings of 36% buying it at Indo Pak.
Turmeric – I use it primarily for curries, yellow rice, Spanish rice and any Tex-Mex, Indian or Caribbean dishes for both flavor and color. A 7oz bag of Nirav turmeric is $2.49 ($0.35 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 2oz container of McCormick turmeric is $4.63 ($2.32 per ounce) at Walmart. That's a savings of 92% buying it at Indo Pak.
Cumin – As with the paprika, I use cumin a lot especially in Tex-Mex and Indian dishes. A 7oz bag of Nirav whole cumin seeds or ground cumin is $2.49 ($0.35 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 2oz container of Great Value ground cumin is $2.48 ($1.24 per ounce) and a 1oz package of Fiesta cumin seeds is $0.78 at Walmart. That's a savings of 85% on the ground cumin, and a 55% savings on the whole cumin seeds buying it at Indo Pak.
Mustard Ground and Seeds – As an avid canner, I use mustard seeds in most of my pickled dishes, it is also used in Indian and Pakistani dishes, ground mustard powder is a ingredient I use a lot of when making barbecue sauces. A 7oz bag of Nirav mustard seeds is $1.49 ($0.21 per ounce), whereas a 7oz bag of ground mustard powder is $3.49 ($0.50 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 1.4oz container of McCormick mustard seeds is $2.48 ($1.77 per ounce) and a 2oz container of Badia mustard powder is $2.48 ($1.24 per ounce) at Walmart. That's a savings of 88% on the whole mustard seeds, and a 60% savings on ground mustard powder buying it at Indo Pak.
Ground Nutmeg – I use it primarily when baking, making sausage and when cooking Indian and Caribbean dishes. A 3.5oz bag of Laxmi ground nutmeg is $3.99 ($1.14 per ounce) at Indo Pak. A 1.1oz container of McCormick ground nutmeg is $4.44 ($4.04 per ounce) at Walmart. That's a savings of 72% by buying it at Indo Pak.
On our last shopping trip to the Indian/Pakistani market, we purchased the same spices that were available at my local Walmart for 69% less money, that's a pretty amazing. Just to make sure you understood me, we saved 69% off our food bill by shopping at the ethnic market. As for the quality of the spices, I have not found any of them to be of less quality than those at my local supermarket, and in some cases the quality is both better and cheaper. The name brands may vary (Laxmi, Dewan, Nirav etc.) depending on your location. The great thing about Indian and Pakistani spices is they are all labeled in English as the primary language, unlike products at the Korean or Chinese markets which tend to less often have English translations.
If you are fortunate enough to have an ethnic market close by then I highly recommend that you check it out as they can be a valuable resource in helping you save money on your food budget. Buying spices at your local ethnic markets can save you a considerable amount of money when re-stocking your pantry (we saved 69% on our last shopping trip). You can even see additional savings if you share the cost of your pantry supplies with friends and other family members (i.e. buying in bulk and dividing the spices amongst yourselves). In all of my years of cooking I have never found any of these spices to be of inferior quality, however price and brands vary per supermarket. Remember for best shelf life buy your spices whole when possible and grind them yourself just before you need them.
If you are looking to find additional ways to stretch your food dollars, be sure and check out some of my other articles on the subject on our blog. And as always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us on friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.
Additional Resources On our Blog
Buying More With Less: Strategies To Stretch Your Food Dollar. http://culinaryyou.blogspot.com/search/label/Dollar