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10 Tips for Using Herbs and Spices (Cooking Matters blog)

10 Tips for Using Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are must-have ingredients in every healthy pantry.

They help you kick up the flavor without adding a lot of salt and fat. But how many times have you bought fresh herbs only to watch them turn brown in your fridge? Or passed over a recipe because the spices listed were just too pricey? Never again! These tips make herbs and spices work for your budget and your life.

1. Plan out your meals for the week.

Your biggest enemy with fresh herbs is waste. If you’re making a meal that calls for basil, parsley, or other herbs, plan at least one more meal that week that will use those same herbs.

2. Store fresh herbs well.

To help them last longer, wrap the stems in damp paper towels. Store in a plastic bag in the produce bin of your fridge.

3. Don’t let your herbs get out of sight.

They will quickly get “out of mind” too. After you’ve used them once, pull fresh herbs out of the bin and up to the front of the refrigerator so you know what needs to be used up.

4. Freeze fresh herbs.

Still not able to use up all your fresh herbs before they go bad? Chop them up and throw them in the freezer. Try freezing them in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a freezer-safe bag. This way you can pull out just what you need the next time you cook.

5. Use dried when you can.

Dried herbs are typically cheaper than fresh – and they last much longer. Try using them in place of fresh, particularly if the recipe only calls for a small amount of the fresh.

6. Store dried herbs well.

They should be stored away from heat – so don’t put them above the stove. Also avoid moisture and direct sunlight. Stored properly, dried herbs should last about 1 year.

7. Look for dried herbs and spices sold in bulk.

Buy just the amount you need for the recipe. This is particularly helpful if you do not use this spice often.

8. Make your own spice mixes.

You will likely use the individual spices much more often than you’ll use a mix. Remember, the idea is to avoid waste. Try these ideas for homemade spice mixes.

9. Check ethnic food aisles or stores.

They often have much cheaper prices for the same ingredient.

10. Substitute with more commonly used herbs or spices.

Whether fresh or dried, if a recipe calls for something you don’t have on hand and probably won’t use again, use a more common item. Never heard of cardamom? No problem – use ginger or cinnamon instead. Check out these common herb and spice substitutions (PDF).


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