Bulk Spices!

For various reasons of the plot we spent several hours driving home through New Jersey today, and we stopped at a large flea market. There were no fleas but the highest-turnover store appeared to be primarily produce and imported goods like spices.

Putting what I’ve said before about spices to good use, I spent quite some time perusing the spice buying options. These bottles were 2 for $5, and they were pretty sizable.

This is the time of year when my family tends to go through a lot of “fall spices” in mixes, so I picked up a bottle of Apple Pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove) and Pumpkin Pie spice (similar but with the addition of ginger). If you’ve ever tried to cook squash or apple dishes in the fall you know how expensive these spices are, so I was thrilled to get them! I’m going to try to figure out how to use them in home-brewing coffee to make a sugar-free pumpkin pie latte without selling my soul to Starbuck’s.

You gotta read the labels. A great deal on poor food is no deal. There was a bottle of “cock seasoning” which attracted my eye for obvious reasons. The second ingredient was sugar, the third ingredient was MSG. No thanks! But these labels indicated they held only the spices indicated. They’re already ground, so they won’t last for years and years, but they’re cheap enough that you can use them even for experimental cooking and they’ll last you through the season and you can’t feel bad even if your Mocha Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Souffle doesn’t turn out the way you hoped!

I also got a bag of chipotle peppers for $1.99. Chipotles add a great flavor to chili and the dried peppers last virtually forever. Just snip off pieces with scissors, scrape out the seeds if you want to minimize the heat, and snip into the dish. Magic!

This is also the best kind of store to get dried goods in bulk. I couldn’t help but notice the pinto beans:

If you want to buy such items cheap you can’t beat a place like this. If you’re worried about the freshness or quality, look to make sure the items aren’t too dusty and that the store is busy. This store was in a flea market mall that was almost dead – but there were four to eight people waiting to check out at any given moment. Lots of turnover. Another store down the hall was selling expired cans of sardines (which I would NOT EAT) but this store was selling fresh, new sardines that wouldn’t expire for another FIVE YEARS (that’s a significant difference in the age of your canned goods, people!) for 4 for $5. Good deals!

As we go into fall don’t forget to look for a store you’ve never tried before and check out their deals! Stocking up on items that won’t go bad on you is like money in the bank, as long as you remember to use them every once in a while. You’ll rotate through such long-lived storage goods and the savings will offset your regular food bill every week!

So let’s say in a regular week I made chili once (using my chipotles and my pinto beans) and refried beans once (using the beans). There’s two meals where a significant bulk ingredient is already on hand and therefore reducing my immediate food bill.

This buying ahead doesn’t reduce your food bill immediately but it does down the road, once you have a stock built up. Just remember to rotate through it! Go “shopping” in your stores once a week; look through your goods and take out a couple of things to cook with through the week and you will reap the benefits of storing wisely.

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