Spices are a great way to make a dull, ordinary meal a little more exciting. I use spices on my omelets, potatoes, meat, rice, oatmeal, and in many other dishes. I’m eating at home more often these days to save money and I’ve found myself reaching for the spice rack more frequently. The other day I ran out of ginger so I went down to my local supermarket. Naturally I went to the spice aisle to grab a little bottle of ground ginger.
After looking out over the sea of spice bottles I found the ginger I needed. Needless to say I got a little sticker shock when I calculated that the little bottle of ginger I needed worked out to just over $40 a pound. I had often reached for these little bottles of spices without ever stopping to think about the cost. I decided to find a cheaper way to buy spices.
I knew I could go to Costco but you need to buy spices in larger quantities and they only carry a few varieties. Instead, I decided to check out Winco Foods which has a large bulk foods section to see which if any spices they carried.
Buying Spices from the Bulk Bins
I was pleasantly surprised to find over 50 varieties of spices in their bulk food section, and was even more pleased when I saw the prices. I decided to compare the price of spices from the bulk section with those you can buy packaged off the shelf.
The price differential was so large I even went back to double-check if I recorded the prices correctly. The reason spices from the bulk bin work out so much cheaper is because you’re not paying for the expensive packaging. Many of the off-the-shelf spices come packaged in glass bottles, but even those that just come in simple plastic containers cost significantly more than buying spices from the bulk bins. If you wanted to you could go out and buy little spice containers at a dollar store for fifty cents each and still come in at under half the price of the off-the-shelf spices.
I’m sure the spices at Costco and Sam’s Club are significantly cheaper per oz. than the little bottles you buy off-the-shelf, but you have to buy in much larger quantities than you may otherwise need. For many spices I find I only use 6-8 oz of a particular spice a year. Spices can spoil quickly making buying the 27 oz. containers from Costco infeasible for me.
Where to Find Bulk Spices
For bulk spices I shop at Winco which is a West Coast chain of supermarkets. I’ve heard that some Whole Foods have a bulk spice section. You can also check out ethnic supermarkets as they often carry bulk spices particular to that ethnicities cuisine. If you don’t have a store near you that carries bulk spices you might try searching “bulk spices” on the web as some online stores offer spices for cheaper than you can find at the supermarket; just keep in mind shipping costs.
I find myself most tempted to buy off-the-shelf spices when I’m in the middle of some recipe and find out I’m out of some key ingredient. It’s then that I usually hop in my car to the nearest supermarket to buy one of those little bottles of spices. A great weekend project is to be proactive and measure out each of the spices in your spice rack and come up with a shopping list to top off each of your spices from the cheaper bulk bins rather than being rushed to buy them off the shelf.
Editor’s Note: Readers: Do you have any tips on saving money on spices? Where do you buy your Spices? Drop us a line in the comments below. Thanks!