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A Penzeys "Free" Shipping

al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 09:15 AM


It is time for me to restock some of my spices so I went to my two favorite spice websites, Penzeys and The Spice House, armed with my shopping list. The first thing I noticed on Penzeys site is they now offer free shipping on orders over $30, and $7.95 shipping on orders less than that. The Spice House charges a two dollar handling fee per order and then ships by weight. My typical order's shipping cost would be approximately $9.

As is my habit, I compared the two and I was surprised to see how much "free shipping" costs. The price differences between the two locations for essentially similar products in similar sized packages was staggering to say the least.

While Penzeys has always been a bit more expensive, I was shocked to see how much more they are now. I why won't bore you with the details of the shopping list, but there were 14 items. In no case were Penzeys prices equal to or lower than The Spice House. The smallest price difference was $.86 more (4 ounces of minced onions) and the biggest was a whopping $6.76 extra for 4 ounces of whole nutmegs.

The upshot of all of this is that the order at Penzeys costs nearly $25 more than the same items at The Spice House, even factoring in the $9 shipping cost. There are a couple blends from Penzeys that I really like, and when it is time to reorder I'll suck it up and pay the premium, but for most of my spice by needs The Spice House will get the majority of my dollars.


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  1. Perilagu Khan RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 09:22 AM

    Prices aside, I won't order from Penzey's because I can't abide the precious and preachy tone of their catalog.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan
      al b. darned RE: Perilagu Khan Jun 20, 2013 09:38 AM

      precious and preachy tone
      You mean their slogan "Love to Cook, Cook to Love"? Blah!

      Yup, Bill Penzey is almost as "folksy" as Christopher Kimball.

      1. re: Perilagu Khan
        sueatmo RE: Perilagu Khan Jun 20, 2013 03:17 PM

        I don't find Penzy's preachy. Bill Penzey has come a long way from the early catalogs that he produced after taking over the family business. For one thing, he has learned how to punctuate.

        I find his sentiments quite in keeping with the idea of people cooking for their families. And I don't see too much wrong with that.

        I also have noticed that the prices are up noticeably. Luckily, I can get to Penzey's every so often in person.

        1. re: sueatmo
          al b. darned RE: sueatmo Jun 20, 2013 05:20 PM

          Bill Penzey has come a long way from the early catalogs that he produced after taking over the family business
          Not to pick nits, but...
          The Spice House is the Family Business, run by his sister. Bill started Penzeys on his own.

          1. re: al b. darned
            C. Hamster RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 08:54 PM

            Isn't Spice House his daughter ?

            1. re: C. Hamster
              al b. darned RE: C. Hamster Jun 22, 2013 05:46 PM

              Bill Penzey Sr.'s daughter. Bill Sr. started The Spice Houseand his daughter and her husband run it now.

              Penzeys is independant of The Spice House and started/run by Bill Jr.

            2. re: al b. darned
              sueatmo RE: al b. darned Jun 24, 2013 02:47 PM

              OK, you are correct. I used to, many years ago, order from the Spice House. I don't know the connection between the businesses, or if there is any. (I'm guessing none.)

              But spices are HIS family business, no?

        2. a
          angelsmom RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 12:30 PM

          I do not like the fact they eliminated most of their salts since he thinks it is not god for you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: angelsmom
            al b. darned RE: angelsmom Jun 20, 2013 05:38 PM

            I'm not buying that line, and didn't when he announced it. He dropped them because they didn't sell well. If the line was selling it would still be carried.

            He still sells sea salts and kosher style flake salt, as well as "4/S" salt blends. There is also salt in a lot of the
            the blends they carry.

          2. h
            happybaker RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 12:41 PM

            That all may be true but I can't help myself. I love their natural coca for baking.

            And I'm not that far from a store, so if I plan ahead, I can nab some with paying shipping or meeting a minimum.

            5 Replies
            1. re: happybaker
              wonderwoman RE: happybaker Jun 20, 2013 08:30 PM

              i love that cocoa. i'm lucky -- there's a penzey's a block away from my hairdressers (and a trader joe's a block in the other direction:)

              1. re: wonderwoman
                sueatmo RE: wonderwoman Jun 24, 2013 02:48 PM

                The hot chocolate mix is really quite good. Mr. Sueatmo loves it.

                1. re: sueatmo
                  happybaker RE: sueatmo Jun 25, 2013 07:40 PM

                  It's the cocoa, I'm telling you!

                  1. re: happybaker
                    sueatmo RE: happybaker Jun 26, 2013 06:36 PM

                    I buy the hot chocolate mix. I have never bought Penzey's cocoa.

                    1. re: sueatmo
                      happybaker RE: sueatmo Jun 26, 2013 08:16 PM

                      Well... what do you think chocolate part of their hot chocolate mix is? ; )

            2. c oliver RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 12:42 PM

              Do you prefer The Spice House? I'd be interested in trying. And I agree the catalog is awfully Chris Kimball :(

              1. PattiCakes RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 12:59 PM

                Whoa. I don't find their catalog preachy. Any catalog has a certain amount of spin to it, and I fail to see where Penzey's is any worse than others. As to the salt issue, I must restrict my sodium intake so I am glad they offer more salt-free options. If you don't like them, you don't have to buy them. They still have plenty of blends with salt. I love looking at the spices, and at the recipes in the catalog. If the owner gets preachy about whatever, I think I am intelligent enough to see through the bs and focus on what I want to buy/not buy.

                I'm glad you researched the "free shipping". I would be willing to bet that a significant percentage of mail-order retailers do something similar. I am fortunate to have a Penzey's within 20 minutes of my home.

                6 Replies
                1. re: PattiCakes
                  happybaker RE: PattiCakes Jun 20, 2013 01:31 PM

                  Agree with you on the spin, Patticakes. Or call it character. Not THAT bad.

                  And Penzey's was one of the first folks to offer gourmet salt free blends. I got some for my Uncle, who had just been put on a salt free diet, and he said that using the Penzy's blends gave him the first food that tasted "real" since he'd had to switch.

                  1. re: PattiCakes
                    Perilagu Khan RE: PattiCakes Jun 20, 2013 02:24 PM

                    Penzey's is much worse than any other catalog I've seen. Pendery's, on the other hand, has virutally no spin at all. But, oh well. Pendery is preaching to his own choir. But it's a choir in which I have no interest singing.

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                      sueatmo RE: Perilagu Khan Jun 20, 2013 03:19 PM

                      Just curious. How is it worse? Worse than what?

                      1. re: sueatmo
                        Perilagu Khan RE: sueatmo Jun 21, 2013 07:59 AM

                        Worse than all food/spice catalogs. I don't open a spice catalog to get lectures on immigration policy and multi-culti, but that's what I've seen from Penzey. Sometimes I think he's more of a frustrated pundit than a purveyor of spices.

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                          EWSflash RE: Perilagu Khan Jun 25, 2013 06:26 PM

                          Oh good grief, what a great way to ruin your business- proselytizing on political and health issues the way they think you should think. Especially the political stuff. It very nearlykilled a flower shop here- their sign in front always had their political views on the sign out front, and people just stopped going there. The folks who bought it got it for a better price because business was so bad. :-) They're now doing just fine, with specials and prices on the sign out front.

                      2. re: Perilagu Khan
                        Fowler RE: Perilagu Khan Jul 6, 2013 08:52 PM

                        >>>Pendery is preaching to his own choir. But it's a choir in which I have no interest singing.<<<

                        Perilagu Khan, What choir is Pendery preaching to???

                    2. j
                      JudiAU RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 08:09 PM

                      I like Penzey's a lot but they finally opened one near me. Quality is excellent and no more expensive than other places around time.

                      Don't get the catalog so can't comment on "folksy". But as a general rule hate shipping so much I will pay a built in premium to avoid it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JudiAU
                        coney with everything RE: JudiAU Jun 21, 2013 04:22 AM

                        do sign up for the catalog. They will send you coupons for free product very frequently. Worth it IMO, and I rather like the stories and his POV

                      2. d
                        debbypo RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 08:22 PM

                        I have been a Spice House fan for years... why? Because they let you actually taste the blends, spices etc. It's how I learned a great deal about things such as different oreganos and cinnamons.
                        I go to Penzeys occasionally. I am on a reduced sodium diet and prefer to add my own salt to blends but, overall, I like Spice House products and blends better. As for the catalogue... I have to be in the mood for it. One thought on the catalogue is that if I lived miles from the stores and/or didn't have a bunch of cooking magazines and cookbooks, I would like it more.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: debbypo
                          C. Hamster RE: debbypo Jun 20, 2013 08:58 PM

                          You can taste anything you want at Penzey's too

                          1. re: C. Hamster
                            Fowler RE: C. Hamster Jun 26, 2013 08:30 PM

                            >>>You can taste anything you want at Penzey's too<<<

                            The Penzey's stores I go to would certainly not let people taste the vanilla beans, saffron, etc.

                        2. C. Hamster RE: al b. darned Jun 20, 2013 08:56 PM

                          Have you ever been into a Spice House retail store?

                          The attitude will make you beg for the Penzey's catalog.

                          That said, I buy everything from one or another

                          1. PinchOfSalt RE: al b. darned Jun 23, 2013 07:52 AM

                            I agree. Over the past several years Penzey's prices have gone up significantly. While there is a Penzey's store 15 minutes from my home, I just placed an order with the Spice House. They had a free shipping offer, saving me even more. They shipped via priority mail, so my order arrived only a few days later. It is a great alternative to consider.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PinchOfSalt
                              falconress RE: PinchOfSalt Jun 23, 2013 03:28 PM

                              Yes, it is. I've been ordering from Penzeys ever since their catalogs looked like they were produced on mimeograph machines, and I never even knew about the Spice House till I chanced upon this thread.I'm going to try them.

                              I kind of like the catalogs, old school as well as the shiny glossy ones, but I never really paid enough close attention to them to be bothered by the tone. I just like the romance, I guess, of imagining all the exotic places the spices come from.

                            2. juliejulez RE: al b. darned Jun 24, 2013 01:14 PM

                              Might I suggest an alternative to both? http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/ I shop at Savory Spice Shop. I go a physical location here in Colorado but they do online orders as well. I just did a random $16 order for cinnamon to see how much the shipping was, they had it listed as $5.60 for USPS shipping. I added some salt for $3.75 and the shipping cost stayed at $5.60. It went up to $7.45 once I added in a pound of juniper berries and a pound of a Greek seasoning blend.

                              Here, Penzey's and Savory are about 2 blocks from each other, so before deciding which one to go to, I compared pricing online and Savory beat out Penzey's for almost every spice I was interested in.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: juliejulez
                                Perilagu Khan RE: juliejulez Jun 24, 2013 02:51 PM

                                I got some cascabel peppers from them and they were great. Inexpensive, good quality and fast shipping.

                                I also shop at www.myspicesage.com and have never had a problem.

                              2. a
                                anakalia RE: al b. darned Jul 19, 2013 03:27 PM

                                I've never used The Spice House (maybe I should give it a try!), but there are certain items I think are worth paying a premium from Penzey's because, IMO, they are *that* good -- their Kashmiri saffron (when they have it) is one. Their cinnamon is another. I don't tend to use spice blends much. For my other spices, though, I find the quality doesn't differ much between the products I buy at our local Indian store (turmeric, chili powder, cardamom, etc.).

                                I know what you mean about the tone of the catalog, but I figure it must work with their target audience. I never noted it was too political, though ,other than the one about teachers and education -- which I just assumed was a product of them being located in Wisconsin and that whole Gov. Walker vs. the Teacher's Union clash.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: anakalia
                                  PinchOfSalt RE: anakalia Aug 19, 2013 09:43 AM

                                  If you have been considering trying an order from The Spice House, today may be a good opportunity. From their Facebook page:

                                  "Today only, a promotion to support National Hot and Spicy Food Day. Use promo code HOTANDSPICY at checkout for free shipping on orders of $25 or more. What spicy thing should I make for dinner tonight? Usually Jerk Chicken is my go to for spicy craving days!"

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