Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stocking up on flavor

World Market flyers come with the grocery ads, and periodically they have a $10 of $30 purchase coupons. I got to thinking...they do have food in their stores, albeit mostly imported things.  What might they have that could be used for food storage?

What I noticed had the best prices was, of all things, spices.  Significantly cheaper than grocery store prices, plus a pretty good selection.

That reminded me of the Mexican spices one often sees in the grocery store.  You can often find hot peppers for Mexican or Thai cooking, and cheaper than in the flour/sugar/spice aisle.  True, they don't come in fancy jars, but if you save glass jars other things come in, you have an inexpensive storage source.

One thing I've found in the spice aisle at the grocery store is lemon powder and lime powder.  I tossed a packet of lime powder into some salsa I made for a little added flavor and it got two thumbs up at our house; the price for a box of the stuff is pretty inexpensive and a great way to keep lemon and lime on hand for when you can't get the fresh fruit (and can't grow it due to your climate).

There are about a dozen spices and herbs I buy in bulk because I use them regularly.  I've found that some are useable in more than one cuisine; oregano, for example, is good in Italian-style food, and is also part of home-made taco seasoning. My own list of must-have spices includes: cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, oregano, ground cumin, garlic bits (not salt), bay leaves (for putting in vacuumed-packed foodstuffs  as well as seasoning dishes), rosemary, chili powder, and dried onion bits.  I've found that having a bouillon-like substance around gives a bit of extra flavor to a dish, but unless it is dry cubes or granules, it will require refrigeration after opening.

Sesame oil and hot chili oil are two more flavorings that are must-haves.  Other flavored oils are useful as well; some recipes just taste better with the addition of a flavored oil.  Sesame oil, for example, tastes food more like Asian cuisine than would olive or canola oil.

Take a look at the spices and herbs you use regularly; you'll want to stock up on them until your own herb garden is growing strong (and your herb garden should include well-marked medicinal as well as culinary herbs, or keep them separate for ease of use.  Believe it or not, you can store spices if you are careful; heat and light are enemies of flavor and storage life.  You might have use a bit extra of older items, but I've never noticed that the standard line of replacing spices and herbs every six months holds much water

The one place people seem to like shopping for food-related items is one I'd never try:  dollar stores.  I'm afraid after all the bad publicity about adulterated foodstuffs from overseas, dollar stores might get some of my craft supply dollars, but never anything edible.  Even something that looks like the real thing, brand-name wise, is suspect.

Food's boring without seasoning, so don't forget to add these sorts of things to your food storage.