Saturday, June 18, 2011

My List of Essential Spices, Plus a Tip For the Frugal Wannabe

If you look over the list of meals in my three month supply plan, you'll notice that I tried to include a fair bit of variety. The menus may be heavy on the rice and beans, but the flavors range from Indian to Italian to Mexican-inspired.

One thing that you need to have as part of your food storage if you value variety (and sanity when you're existing only on wheat, beans, and rice, for that matter) is spices. The more kinds you store, the more options you give yourself.

The problem with stocking spices is that they have a relatively short shelf-life. Confession time: up until recently, I had a jar of Chinese five-spice powder that I bought over a decade ago. It was almost like a keepsake at this point, but I did finally pitch it. Whole spices last a lot longer than ground spices and storing them in a cool, dark place helps prolong their life. You can repackage spices in canning jars and vacuum seal them for additional shelf-life. One tip I read on the Granny Miller blog is to put a piece of paper towel over ground spices in a jar to avoid jamming up your FoodSaverwith particulates.

I usually go the cheap route and buy spices in bulk at Sam's Club. Unfortunately, Sam's does not carry bay leaves, a key seasoning for many of the soups and stews in my food storage plan. I could have bought a bunch of those little jars they sell at the grocery store, but I instead got a decent deal on 4 oz. of bay leaves from Penzey's Spices.

Ever wonder how much 4 oz. of bay leaves is? It is enough to pack 3 quart sized canning jars. I don't think I'll be needing to buy bay leaves anytime soon!

Bay leaves and my two freebies

You all probably know this tip, but I'm new to this whole frugality thing and I want to share this with my fellow clueless souls. I just now figured out that you can find all kinds of discounts if you simply google "coupon code" along with the name of whatever Internet retailer you are buying from. I found a coupon code at that got me that jar of chili powder for absolutely free. Penzey's also included a sample of their BBQ 3000 seasoning.

Penzey's carries over 250 different spices. I have somewhere around 40-45 that I keep on hand, but the following list contains the ones that I store in bulk. These are the seasonings that we would really miss after TEOTWAWKI.

My Essential Spices and Seasoning Blends:

Oregano (You'd never have guessed, right?)
Garlic Powder
Bay leaves
Chili Powder
Black peppercorns
Curry Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Taco Seasoning
Cajun Seasoning
Italian Seasoning
Lawry's Seasoned Salt
Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning
Worchestershire sauce

I also stock chicken and beef bouillon. I do not use them on a regular basis since I prefer fresh or canned broths, but they are valuable because of their extensive shelf life and space saving vs. cans of broth.

Lastly, here's a test to see if you share my twisted sense of humor. When Penzey's shipped my order, they included a bumper sticker with their slogan. This is how it appeared when I opened the box:

Just what kind of survivalist do they think I am?

Unfolded bumper sticker

What are your "must have" seasonings? How much are you storing?


  1. Generally, my family doesn't like a lot of exotic foods. We are pretty much standard meat and potatoes type folks. I, however, LOVE italian food. So basil, garlic powder, parsley and oregano are always stocked in my cabinet.

    We do eat a bit of tex-mex or mexican foods, too, so I always have chili powder and cayenne pepper.

    I keep a pretty big spice cabinet, actually, but I rarely use most of the spices.

    I buy my spices in bulk from a farm market. I transfer and store them in pint canning jars with the screw-top plastic lids.

  2. My spice list is very similar to yours, I'd just add nutmeg and ginger to the list. I buy my herbs and spices from spicebarn dot com, and love everything I've ordered. I food-saver them in quart canning jars. I have oregano that's going on 5 years old that smells like it was dried yesterday.

    Oh, I have to add homemade vanilla extract. 2 vanilla beans split down the middle in a big bottle of vodka, shaken every once in a while, and top the bottle off with more vodka when it starts getting low.