Gingerbread cookies in the oven. Hot chili steaming on the stove. The spicy smells in your kitchen can trigger strong emotions and memories (hopefully good ones). And that’s even before you put the savory food into your mouth. If you’re going to take the time (or is that thyme?) to cook up a special recipe, you might as well do it right. Spice it up! There are many ways that spices can be a sensory and low-waste addition to your kitchen.
Buy what you need
If your recipe calls for a pinch, why buy a pound? Most grocery stores have a bulk food section that allows you to buy just what you need. You can also bring your own container to some stores, and boom! You have bypassed any excess packaging. Remember to read the recipe and check your cupboards for ingredients before heading to the store. Make sure your staples are stocked: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper if you like the heat, etc. Then, write your shopping list and stick to it!
Keep it fresh
Fresher is better, so no need to stock up on the Cream of Tartar—who knows when you’ll need that again? After buying just what you need, keep your spices flavorful by storing them in airtight containers, preferably in a dry, dark environment with a consistent temperature.
Chili powder, paprika and other red pepper family spices can stay fresher when stored in a refrigerator, but as a general rule of thumb, avoid the humidity of refrigerators and freezers. (Fresh herbs, on the other hand, may be frozen to extend their life.)
Spices are attractive and colorful, so show them off. You can get your own storage containers and dress them up with custom labels. Display them in a classy counter-top rack—in a spot out of the sun, with consistent temperatures—or just give them a place of honor in your pantry.
Most spices are safe to eat for a long time but lose their aroma and potency after one or two years. If you’ve kept them for longer, try to use up what you have. Trust your nose and sense of taste, then maybe add a little more of, say, dried basil to your pasta sauce to get the right flavor.
If you have discovered a dusty, sad container of Cream of Tartar in your cupboard and can’t think of anyone to give it to, you can compost the spice and reuse the container.
Next time, you will only buy what you need because now you know better.