Spices are one of the most expensive pantry items in any Krazy Coupon Lady's kitchen. And with the seasonal cooking and baking of the holiday season now over, it's the perfect time to inventory those racks and restock staples.

But what's a KCL to do when a small container of spice can cost $3, $4, $5 or even more? That's easy: Follow this sage advice to get smart about saving money on spices.

The biggest key to saving on spices is to shop smart and know how to buy various spices depending on how much each one is used. Consider what you use the most, and then plan accordingly around those "high rotation spices." Here is a general guide to help.

Buy in bulk

Anything in heavy rotation should be in this category. Do you love adding paprika to chicken and fish dishes? Is your husband always reaching for the sea salt? The best value for these spices can be found in the bulk foods section at any grocery store. In addition, spices that are used often and in large amounts can be bought online for big savings. Amazon has some impressive large-size spice containers that (when compared to their small grocery store-sized counterparts) offer much more value per ounce. For example, a .75 oz. container of McCormick oregano leaves is about $3 in my grocery store, but I can get a 3.12 oz. container for only $5.29 at Amazon. In addition to Amazon deals, the site My Spice Sage is another good option because it offers wholesale prices (and even free shipping), along with a generous refund policy. A free 1 oz. spice sample is available with every order, and other promotions are also available on a rotation. The current offer with a $25 order is for a free gram of Spanish saffron, which alone sells for $11!

Buy with coupons

There's no use buying a pound of cream of tartar if it is only used once every few months, or a $20 bottle of vanilla extract that will lose its potency before you can get your money's worth. For spices only used occasionally, put your coupon prowess to use! Yes, spice coupons are routinely available. Go to the source: Check the manufacturer’s site to see current deals from companies such as Simply Organic in addition to using the other usual resources such as Red Plum. Be sure to follow companies on Facebook to stay informed on any special offers. Spice Islands has a link to their Facebook page from the company’s main website.

Grow at home

If there's a favorite go-to herb your family uses when making homemade pizzas, winter stews, or as an addition to salads, consider growing it yourself. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley and oregano are easy to grow indoors, hearty, and thrive even in small containers. Whether it's a pot of parsley on the back porch, a window box filled with assorted mints in the kitchen, or chives in the backyard, growing your own herbs can be a fun, healthy way to infuse your food with fresh taste. Fresh herbs can also be cut, dried, and stored (or even frozen) for later use.

Buy whole and grind at home

Spices bought whole and ground in-home have a more robust flavor than those ground and sold by the manufacturer, and many spices are actually cheaper to buy before they are ground. Love cinnamon on buttered toast every morning? Buy it in sticks and grind the amount needed each day for the freshest flavor. Nutmeg is another good spice to buy whole because of the flavor boost this freshly-ground spice can give to soups and even coffee. Granulated sugar can also be ground into confectioner's sugar using a food processor, blender, coffee grinder, or Magic Bullet. Peppercorns are a popular ground-at-home spice, and they can come in many fun varieties and colors. Another benefit of grinding spices at home: Often smaller quantities are needed because ground spices are fresher than products purchased off the shelf in a jar, and that saves money in the long run.

Additional advice:

  • Don't be quick to dispose of those complimentary salt, pepper, and sugar packets obtained at fast-food restaurants. Store them and use as single-serve options in a brownbag lunch, or use them collectively in recipes like soups and crock pots meals. Those little packets can really go a long way! My favorites are the red pepper packets from pizza joints: They're the perfect addition to a bland frozen dinner at work or a quick fix to an otherwise tasteless salad dressing.
  • Since spices are an investment that will be used the whole year through, it's important to protect them by knowing how to store them properly. McCormick offers great advice on how long to keep spices and how to store them at home.

 This is a guest post by Audrey from Texas
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