Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thrifty Kitchen: Spices

I live in a neighborhood that has a very high Latino population. One of the unexpected perks of living here is the abundance of grocery stores and the increased diversity in food products; there's a little mercado every quarter mile or so, and even the "mainstream" (read: white-owned) grocery stores have more selection than they did in the suburb that I grew up in.

However, as you may know, Latinos eat many of the same foods that everyone else in the US eats. This leads the amusing practice in some grocery stores of offering the same product from both Latino brands and "regular" brands and pricing them differently. Often times the Latino version of the product is significantly cheaper, for whatever reason, and one area in which I've taken advantage of this quirk is with spices.

One of the grocery stores I patronize sells San Miguel brand spices in addition to the standard McCormick and Gourmet Collection brands. They're hidden - they're not with the regular spices, nor are they in the "Hispanic Foods" aisle. They're in the produce section, on an unassuming wooden rack near the bulk beans and rice, and while the selection isn't quite as broad as in the regular spice aisle, if it has what I need I can buy it at a greatly reduced price.

When I buy San Miguel spices, it comes like this:

Eight whole ounces, and for a fraction of the price that a two-ounce McCormick container would cost! Because I'm usually cooking just for myself, this one bag will probably last me for years. Pretty awesome, huh?

The problem, though, is keeping my spices fresh. San Miguel spices come only in simple plastic bags, and once I open one it's hard to keep airtight. If I'm not careful, my spices could go stale long before I'm even halfway through them.

Fortunately, I hit upon an easy solution:

I save old glass jars (pickles and jam, mostly) to store leftovers. They can also keep my spices fresh. A bit of masking tape and a marker helps me track which spice is which, too. If I wanted to get really fancy, I could apply some of that chalkboard paint to the jars and label them that way. But I don't know where to get that stuff, and I'm lazy anyway.

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