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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where Do YOU Buy Your Herbs and Spices?

$.18 for  1/2 ounce of dried thyme!
I mentioned in my last post that I was in Austin this past week-end.  I always go to Central Market for any specialty items I can't find in the lower Rio Grande Valley.  I could rave endlessly about Central is an H.E.B. gourmet grocery store - and the first one was in my previous home of Austin, Texas (now they have two)...lots of organics, interesting and unique items, excellent Choice and Prime grade meats, an outstanding seafood market, huge wine and beer selection, cheeses from around the world as well as local, bakery extraordinaire, deli case that will knock your socks, produce that rocks my WORLD.  Ahhh, you can see I am a fan :-)

Central Market is not cheap.  I can spend $100 faster than you could blink an eye and not even have a whole bag of groceries.  Today's excursion, though, resulted in some really good bulk bargains as well as some difficult-to-find veal shank (so I can make my Osso Buco for Valentine's Day dinner), apple wood smoked bacon from the meat case, and a beautiful pork tenderloin to wrap that bacon around!  The BEST buy, though, of all things in the entire store, are the bulk herbs and spices.  If I can avoid it, I don't buy many bottles of spices.  I buy little packets from their bulk section.  Today...Thyme and Sesame Seeds.  The thyme was 18 cents...yes EIGHTEEN cents for .48 ounce.  For more volume than comes in the McCormick .37 ounce plastic jar, which I pay any where from $2.49 to $4.00 per bottle to purchase.  THAT is a savings!

I wanted to make some Sesame Catfish so I bought an amount sufficient to make the recipe...for FORTY-EIGHT CENTS people! 

Sesame seeds in bulk - the only way to go!
If you have access to bulk herbs, nuts, baking chocolate, dried fruits...I can almost guarantee they are cheaper than buying a pre-packaged amount.  Check it out...I bet you are surprised! 

Besides the cost savings, it is THE way to keep your herbs and spices fresh.  If I pay $4 for a tiny bottle or tin of something...I'm much less prone to throw it (and all of its compadres) away at the "recommended 6 months to a year after opening".  Until I started using bulk spices I had spices for YEARS.  Now, it is easy to say "okay, today is bulk spice replacement day"...and I don't have an issue with throwing away the remnants of something that cost a quarter or two.  I know I have used them up over the year...and whatever is left can go away.  I replace the whole kit and caboodle for under $5 to $10.  It's an excellent solution.  I also can keep a stock of small bits of rarely used spices on hand for a most reasonable cost!

My other bulk purchases this week were organic roasted soy nuts (we eat them for snacks and we eat them in our own home-made trail mix the teen takes in his lunch instead of chips),

Organic roasted soy nuts -
my salty snack of choice!

Callebaut milk chocolate (for those upcoming Valentine's confections)

Yum - I'll be happy to chunk this bad girl up
into luscious ingredient-size pieces
(with a nibble here and a nibble there!)

and Callebaut semi-sweet chunks for some special chocolate chunk cookies ($4.99/pound in bulk - compared to $10.95 for 12 oz. package at Williams-Sonoma).

Callebaut Semi-chocolate chunks - a great buy!
I love Central Market - I love shopping - I wish to high heaven they would put one in somewhere south of San Antonio!!!  Until then, I'm happy to grab what I can on my somewhat frequent excursions to see family in Austin.  (Got to see the 7-year-old granddaughter play basketball on Saturday - she shot, she scored!  That was the real treat of the day!)  If you have knowledge of a similar resource for herbs and spices down here in South Texas - please share!!!  There is a small bulk section (not herbs and spices) at the HEB in Harlingen...but the soy nuts I bought there were hard as a rock - which bespeaks low turnover.  That's a problem, so buy sparingly the first time you try a source.  For those who live elsewhere, I know Whole Foods has a great bulk seems to be more common in the co-ops and natural foods resources I have seen as we've travelled.  Check your area, because it's a great thing once you find it!

I can't wait to search out some recipes to utilize my fun purchases...and to make the recipes I planned to make when I bought some of the others.  Considering we have an abnormally frigid cold front roaring towards the Texas Gulf Coast, I'm thinking a few days in the kitchen is a very good way to stay warm!!!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

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