Keep a Well Stocked Pantry: Buying Herbs and Spices in Bulk

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Did you know that buying herbs and spices in bulk is an excellent way of saving money while stocking your pantry?

It’s true. When you buy herbs and spices in bulk, the savings can be significant.

If you’re not familiar with buying herbs and spices in bulk, it typically means purchasing food items by weight, not a unit price.

Depending on where you live, you may have plenty of bulk food stores near you or have to look to online shopping to make bulk purchases. Here in Upstate New York, we are fortunate to have many Amish and Mennonite-owned stores specializing in bulk goods.

Usually, at bulk food stores, you will find large and small quantities of dry goods in containers that have been packed and weighed by store employees or self-service bins, where you select the exact amount of each item you want, bag it up, and weigh it and label it.

Aromatic spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg on a wooden table.

Why Buy Herbs and Spices in Bulk?

Herbs and pices are a great way to add flavor and character to your favorite dishes, and if you buy them in bulk, the savings can be significant. Buying spices in bulk is a fantastic way of saving money while stocking your pantry. I like to stock my spice cupboard once a year. My big shopping trip usually takes place mid-to-late fall, so I can be sure I am well stocked on my baking season essentials!

Keeping a well stocked pantry helps me avoid processed and prepackaged foods, save money, and make my family real food meals, and avoid multiple trips to the store when I run out of essentials.

A while ago I started to experiment with homemade substitutes and pantry staples, and found that many foods that my family consumes daily or weekly can be made from scratch with basic ingredients at a fraction of what it costs to buy prepared. I have shared a few of my favorite recipes here, and am planning on sharing more in the future.

Before Stocking Up

Because I only buy my herbs and spices once a year, before I go shopping I like to take everything out of my spice cabinet, inventory what I have, and what I am running low on, and wipe down my shelves. It’s a simple process, but actually kills two birds with one stone. I am able to tidy up that cabinet and make a shopping list so I don’t forget anything.

  1. Start by taking inventory of the spices you already have on hand. 
  2. Weed out any spices that have passed their prime. Generally speaking, any ground spices over 1 year old should probably be tossed. They begin to lose their potency after about 6 months.  Although I always use the highly scientific “sniff test” to gauge freshness, and determine if I should keep or toss.
  3. Round up storage containers and labels. Store spices in airtight containers. I prefer glass jars, and use mason jars, The plastic cases or bags that bulk spices come from get messy in your pantry pretty quickly.

Where to Buy Herbs and Spices in Bulk

Amish and Mennonite Food Stores in Upstate New York offer an incredible selection of herbs, spices, and other dry goods, and are one of my favorite places to shop. If you don’t have one of these stores near you, Azure Standard, Amazon and the Spice House are great online sources for bulk herbs and spices.

Grow Your Own Herbs

You can also grow your own herbs at home. Start with Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Dill, Rosemary, and Sage in your kitchen garden. If starting plants from seeds aren’t your thing, you can pick up started plants pretty inexpensively at the beginning of the growing season at your local home and garden store.
There are several ways to dehydrate fresh herbs. You can simply hang them to dry, and some people like to put them in a low oven until they are dry. I like to use a food dehydrator. I have the Nesco Snackmaster Food Dehydrator. It’s affordable, and it works well for herbs and also fruits and veggies!

Whole Spices Last Longer Than Ground

If you want your spices to last as long as possible, buy them whole. Peppercorns, nutmeg, and other spices available in the whole form will stay flavorful for years, while ground spices lose their flavor in about 1 year. Whole peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and cloves have a wonderful flavor shortly after grinding! To grind your own spices, use an electric or manual grinder like the Mueller Austria HyperGrind Precision Electric Spice/Coffee Grinder Mill– I love mine, and it is perfect for grinding any spice just before use!

Tips for Storing Bulk Herbs and Spices

Ensure longevity by keeping your herbs and spices in a cool, dark place in an air tight container. Moisture can easily ruin spices, so avoid using wet utensils or shaking the container over a steaming pan. Glass jars are preferable to plastic since they’re not porous. Also, make sure your jars have well-fitting lids!

One of my favorite storage containers is recycled glass containers to store your spices. Salsa, spaghetti, and other glass jars commercially made products are packed in make great and free storage containers!

You can also purchase some cute jars and keep your favorite spices on a spice rack insight, so you know what spices you have.

Essential Herbs and Spices for Your Pantry

  1. Basil -Read how to Dry your own basil in this post
  2. Oregano
  3. Bay Leaves
  4. Rosemary
  5. Thyme
  6. Dill Weed
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Ground Mace
  9. Smoked Paprika
  10. Ground Cumin
  11. Ground Nutmeg
  12. Ground Ginger
  13. Ground Cloves
  14. Cloves
  15. Allspice
  16. Red Pepper Flakes
  17. Cayenne Pepper
  18. Garlic Powder
  19. Onion Powder
  20. Celery Seed
  21. Ground Mustard
  22. Black Pepper
  23. Cardamon
  24. Chili Powder
  25. Parsley- I love dried parsley, but really don’t consider it essential. But because I use it so often I wanted to include it here. It’s great for adding a color to dishes and livening them up. I dry my own from my garden to use in soups, stews and sauces all winter.

Resources on how to make your own spice blends at home if you’re feeling adventurous!

Many people like to use spices and herbs to make their own spice blends. The Internet has many resources on how to do this, a few of which are listed below:

Favorite Recipes for Homemade Spice and Seasoning Mixes

These herbs and spices will cover a lot of ground, from everyday homemade convenience mixes to baking up sweet treats around the holidays. But I have put together a few of my favorite seasoning mixes using these spices and herbs:

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  1. Thanks for the suggestions but I do believe that #8 and 9 are the same as #19 and 20. Did you happen to mean garlic salt and onion salt? Just wondering.

    1. Trisha, thank you for catching that! I must of omitted 2 things while I was trying to organize the list a little. I rarely use garlic salt and onion salt, I like to be able to adjust the salt in recipes indepently because I have a family member on a sodium restricted diet, but I agree under normal circumstances those are usually pantry staples 🙂

      I had to go back through my pantry and try to figure out what I left out, and have come to the conclusion it was Mace and Dill. Mace I use in some recipes like apple pie, apple sauce, and cakes. It tastes a lot like nutmeg, but a little lighter and sweeter.