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Having moved quite a few times, I’ve had to go through the exercise of sorting through my spice cabinet more than I like to admit.  One key aspect to keeping your grocery budget down that we have not yet addressed is the need to have a functional spice cabinet so that you don’t find yourself continually buying very expensive seasonings at the grocery store.  As long as you have a good array of spices, you can make most any dish taste decadent for as little money as possible!

What do you need in your cabinet?

  • Salt and Pepper– these 2 items are the basis for 99.9% of flavors that you will put onto any protein, grain, or vegetable, so don’t skip over them.  The dollar store will have a pack of salt and pepper shakers as well as a large (26 oz.) container of iodized (table) salt.  I’ve also seen kosher and sea salt in the 26 oz size at the dollar store along with 3.5 oz containers of ground black pepper.  This means that you don’t have to compromise on your favorite salt because of cost.
  • Seasoning Blends- seasoning blends are the number 1 way to flavor your cooking without having to buy up the entire spice aisle.  Depending upon what your preferences are, Italian, Cajun, Mediterranean,  Adobo, Caribbean Jerk, Curry, etc., there is an herb or seasoned salt/pepper blend for you!  If you know what herbs and spices go into the blends, then you will be able to substitute them for the individual herbs in any recipe that you have and make sure that you don’t have to get many ingredients to make what you would like to eat.

The following list of spices is a good array of basic items that are used in a lot of different recipes.  A few, like the Cilantro and Mint, are items that you won’t use every day, but the flavors that they give are very difficult to substitute, so keeping a supply of it in dried form affords you the flexibility to try many new recipes.  I have given a link to the Wikipedia page for each spice to give you an idea of what they are typically used for, but there is no law against experimentation 😉

I am by no means advocating that you rush out and buy every one of these spices.  That would be prohibitively expensive.  I am, however, saying that these are the ones that you should slowly add to your inventory.  The standard usage of all of the seasonings I’ve listed makes them readily available at your local Dollar General or Wal-Mart, so you do not have to mortgage your house over this and I promise you that you will pay more for these at the grocery store than you really need to.  The only things that I would tell you to do a little bit of taste testing on are the seasoning blends and the vanilla extract because they all taste different and the cheapest may not be your favorite.  Sadly, not all vanilla is made the same and this is one item that I will purchase from a specialty store if I need a specific flavor profile for a dish.  Let’s face it, sometimes we buy thinking only about the price and end up with something that we will never use because we hate it.  Don’t do that with your spices!  If you don’t like the way that it tastes (and I’ll assume that you’ve given it a fair try), then don’t buy it!

Spices for Cooking-

Spices for Baking-

That is all for now, but stay tuned!  Our next discussion will be about how to stock your pantry and which types of sauces are must haves for all of us 🙂