Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Feb 10, 2008 10:00 AM

Student budget: how buy small amounts of spices, etc?

I'm a new cook, and its frustrating reading recipes that ask for 3 different spices using only 1/2 tsp of a each spice. I am on a student budget and its not practical for me to buy all these spices to only use 1/2 tsp! Any recommendations?

Also, I have encountered this with other things. For example, I plan on making coleslaw and the recipe calls for 2 tbs of apple cider. To buy a whole thing of cider for 2 tbs seems ridiculous- I could eat out for the price of spices!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, you do plan on making some of this stuff more than once, I presume, which means if you store your spices properly they'll be good for awhile and you can use them until they are gone.

    I order my spices from Penzey's - you can choose what size you get. Just store what you don't use right away in a cool, dark, dry place.

    Are you sure your coleslaw recipe isn't calling for apple cider vinegar, rather than apple cider? Vinegar can also last a long time if properly stored. If it really is just calling for apple cider and you don't want to buy any, just use a different recipe, or substitute something else (like said vinegar).

    If there's a recipe I want to make that calls for a small amount of something perishable, I'll usually make something else that calls for the same ingredient within a few days so I can finish that ingredient off. That may not be doable for a college student if you are only feeding yourself, so try thinking about what you can substitute for that ingredient, or just try something else that sounds good and doesn't need something you can't use quickly.

    1. You can buy spices in small amounts at stores like Whole Foods. Be careful though, some of the prices are startling. I discovered that when I bought one vanilla bean. At the time they were about $150/lb, so even one bean was costly. Also, check out "ethnic" markets. For example, you can get a half pound of black mustard seeds at an Indian market for the price of less than an ounce in the high end kind you get in a jar. Finally, sometimes you have to spend some to experiment with new recipes, but once you find your favorites, you can count on using up the spices, so think of your costs as front-end investments that can be amortized over time.

      1. Are there any food co-ops near you? Most co-ops have bulk spice sections where you can just scoop a tiny bit of whatever you need into a small plastic bag and pay by the pound.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mcgeary

          I was going to suggest this too. When I was at university in Boston, I went to a good co-op in Brighton for spices, flour, etc. Maybe the OP can ask on his/her local board if there's such a shop nearby. Very convenient.

        2. There is a shop here in Montclair, NJ called Spice It Up. You can order from them online and you can buy as little as 1 oz. Most of the 1 oz spices are only $1.50 more or less. Here is the URL:

          1. I'm not sure where you're located but in the Charlotte area we have the Home Economist-
            There's a ton of great info on their site.It's where I buy almost all of my dried herbs and spices as well as bulk grains and beans. GREAT prices. See if there might be this type of store near you.