Throw Away and Replace Those Old Spices…

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by adam

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I have read many many times that spices over 6 months old should be replaced because their power and effectiveness diminish over time.  So how may people actually go out and replace their entire spice cabinet every 6 months?  Or what would it cost to do so?

While I always feel bad about keeping my spices for way too long, I just don’t need an entire jar of ground mustard or nutmeg very often.  And there’s the cost – the prospect of replacing all of my spices just seems expensive.  But what would it really cost?  Well, I decided to actually figure it out.  My approach was to identify the spices in my spice drawer , estimate the quantity I actually used in the past 6 months, and price the cost of obtaining new spices from Penzeys - a spice company with both an internet / mail order and retail presence in Washington (Rockville, MD to be exact).

Spice Size Cost
allspice ground 1/4 c jar 2.69
ancho chili powder 1/4 c jar 2.59
basil flakes 4oz bag 5.59
bay leaf 1oz bag 2.99
cayenne pepper ground 1/2 c jar 4.29
celery salt 1/4 c jar 2.59
chili powder 1/2 lb bag 8.69
hot chili powder 1/4 lb bag 4.89
cinnamon 1/4 c jar 3.25
coriander ground 1/4 c jar 2.05
cumin powder 1/4 lb bag 4.45
garlic powder 1/2 lb bag 5.59
ginger ground 1/4 c jar 2.65
juniper berries 1/4 c jar 2.19
kosher salt
marjoram 1/2 c jar 2.89
mustard ground 1/2 c jar 3.05
nutmeg 1/4 c jar 2.89
onion powder 1/2 lb bag 4.85
oregano flakes 1/2 c jar 3.09
paprika powder 1/2 lb bag 7.89
parsley flakes 1/2 c jar 2.79
poppy seed 1/4 c jar 2.39
red pepper flakes 1/4 c jar 2.49
sage 1/4 c jar 1.79
seasoned salt 1/2 c jar 1.89
sesame seed 1/4 c jar 2.09
thyme 1/2 c jar 3.59
white pepper ground 1/4 c jar 2.89

Total

$99.08

Less then $100!  That somewhat surprised me.  For starters, I’m mostly purchased my spices in the grocery store until the last year or so when I switched to Penzeys – so my concept of prices are probably somewhat inflated.  So for less then $200 a year, I can replace my dried herbs and spices every 6 months.  What’s even better is that when purchasing from Penzeys, I can purchase in bottles or bags (which are cheaper), so I could potentially save even more money by buying refill spices and using existing jars.  I assume that wouldn’t be an issue for most spices assuming they don’t turn rancid with time.  Also, Penzeys has multiple varieties of many of their spices with detailed descriptions of sources and attributes.

So will I be replacing my spices every 6 months?  I will probably do it at least once.  And I’ll probably do a taste test between the new and old spices to see if I can tell the difference!  As Thomas Keller says in Ad Hoc at Home “smell and taste [the spices] so you’ll be able to recognize, in their cooking, what freshness means”.

-Adam

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2 Comments

  • It also makes a big difference if you buy whole or ground spices. Buying whole spices then grinding when you need them means that they don’t lose their essence as quickly and can often last a year if kept in a cool dark airtight location. (spice nerd :))

  • So do u purge once a year?

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