If you were to walk into my kitchen and ask me what my favorite thing was in it, can you guess what it is? Drum roll please.....my spice rack. In the midst of Marc and I wielding our scanner guns around Macy's for our wedding registry five years ago, I paused and saw this beautiful stainless steel swivel spice rack. I lined up my scanner gun, hit the button, and added that beauty to the list! Five years later, our spice rack is still holding up well; however, the contents of that spice rack have changed dramatically.
A few years ago it donned on me that I had no idea what quality of spices lie in my spice rack. How long have those herbs been sitting on the Macy's shelf before I bought them? Are they organic? Where are those herbs from?
My first impulse was the dump out off the herbs, but thankfully my husband reminded me replacing all of those herbs would be pricey, So one by one over the next year or so, we replaced the herbs with freshly dried, organic herbs. As we did so, we also realized there were herbs in there we never used and ones that were not in there that we used frequently. Here enters the wonder of a label maker to change that spice bottle from nutmeg to chives :)
As I mentioned in this post and this post, we love to use herbs and spices in our for not only flavoring our food but reaping the health benefits. We choose organic herbs for the same reason we choose organic produce, meat, and dairy. Check out page 99 of Living Wellness for Growth Groups for a little more info on why Living Wellness values organic. We mentioned the EWG's dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists in our Eating Healthy on a Budget series. These are great resources to consult to prioritize what produce to by organic and which are okay to buy conventional.
If want some further reading on why to choose organic herbs specifically, check out these articles:
Here at Living Wellness we're all about giving you resources to support your journey of health. I'd like to quickly share how I've transformed my spice rack which once had old, questionable-quality herbs in it to one that is full of freshly dried, organic herbs.
I first learned of Mountain Rose Herbs from another blog I follow. I went to their website and was immediately intrigued by all the herbs and natural product options they had. As I started adding herbs to my cart I quickly became overwhelmed by how many herbs I wanted and the dollar amount, so I closed my browser and didn't look back....for a few months. I started looking at organic herbs in our local grocery store and felt better spending $2.99 or $3.99 on herbs until I calculated price per ounce of herbs at the store vs the prices I found on Mountain Rose Herbs.
Back to the website I went. I then discovered their Specials page and my personal favorite the Bulk Discount. I set a dollar amount limit in my head and prioritized what herbs I wanted to replace right away and what could wait. I also asked my sister (Ashley Darkenwald :) and my mom if they wanted to split a pound of cilantro and dill weed in order to get me to 10% or 15% savings bracket. I now place an order quarterly or twice a year.
You may be wondering, do I buy all of my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs? No. For some of the herbs I use more sparingly the price for a small bottle at Whole Foods is better than online. Also, I try to stay on top of making of list of herbs we're running low on so that I know exactly what to order next, but, life happens and sometimes we run out of herbs and spices like my beloved onion powder. Since it's most cost effective to buy several herbs on Mountain Rose Herbs, I will typically then just buy a small bottle at the store to hold me over until my next order online.
Not convinced that bulk prices could be better? Let me give you our biggest savings surprise: bay leaf. A bottle of organic bay leaf on amazon is $5.86 for 0.14 ounces. This is pretty comparable to what you'd find at Target or Whole Foods. This small bottle may be perfect for you if you rarely use bay leaf. I wouldn't describe our bay leave usage as excessive, but we'd empty that sized bottle every few months with pot roast, lentil dishes, etc. On Mountain Rose Herbs, 1 ounce of bay leave is $3. Okay, yes the sticker price is less but did you catch how much more bay leaf you get for $2.86 less on Mountain Rose Herbs? 7.14 times more! If I wanted to buy 1 ounces worth of bay leaf in the bottle linked above on Amazon, I'd end up paying $41.85!!!! (Here's the math: 1 oz/0.14 oz. = 7.1428 x $5.86 = $41.85). Not all price comparisons are this dramatic, but it at least shows you it's worth doing the math.
Quick, funny story about their bay leaf: I had no idea how much 4 oz. of bay leaf was. I really thought my bottle of bay leaf from the store said 4 oz. so that's what I bought on Mountain Rose Herbs. This is the bag we received (this picture was taken after using the bag for a year and a half)!
I looked back at the bottle from the store. It was the same one I linked above on Amazon. I had missed the 0.1 listed before the 4!
Quick summary of what I love about Mountain Rose Herbs:
- All herbs are organic
- Mountain Rose Herbs discloses the country of origin for all of their herbs right on their website
- Each bag of herbs from Mountain Rose specifies when it was packed so you know how fresh your herbs are (see if your store bought bottle has that...mine doesn't!)
- Specials and my personal favorite the Bulk Discount
Here are my Top Tips for Buying Herbs and Spices:
- Grow your own herbs whenever possible
- Check out your local farmer's markets for fresh herbs and don't hesitate to ask how they were grown
- Dried herbs:
- if you have the patience, skill, and time to dry your own herbs please consider writing a guest blog post on here to share with me your secrets because my herbs got moldy! Or check out this article for how to do it yourself :)
- If drying your own herbs just isn't in your skill set, considering buying bulk through companies that focus on quality and transparency such as Mountain Rose Herbs.
- Save your store bought glass spice bottles for your bulk herbs or to share with others.
- Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry area. I like to organized mine in bins labeled Herbs A-F and Herbs G-Z in our pantry (they're not split evenly because there are so many herbs that start with C!)
- Freeze fresh herbs using this simple method
- Watch for hidden ingredients in spice blends. Read more here and here.
Do you have any great ideas for saving money on herbs? Please share below!
Happy cooking! You are worth more than mediocre. You are worth exceptional health!
Caitlyn J. Hanson
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.