My husband and I recently moved from a small one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom to make room for our little boy coming in the spring (his arrival is becoming even more of a reality!). To my mom’s surprise, as she helped me move my kitchen over to the new place, she found my spice cupboard full to overflowing.
Yes, that’s me! I love seasonings; I wouldn’t be able to live without them, and I use them quite generously in my cooking and baking. I love having variety in my cupboard as well – to be able to try out that new Asian dish I found a recipe for, to mix up flavors a little bit, and to make food more delicious and full of flavor.
Herbs and spices are important. They not only bring out the natural flavors of food and add tremendous flavor to dishes, but also can have great health benefits as well.
Below I made a list of the 15 most commonly used seasonings in my kitchen – besides salt and pepper. I think most of us, if not much else in our spice cabinet, have salt and pepper on hand. If you haven’t explored the use of seasonings in your cooking much before, get a few of these (I would start with the top ones first if you can’t buy them all at once).
The 15 Most Commonly Used Seasonings in my Kitchen ~
- Basil (besides salt and pepper, this is my staple seasoning)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Dill weed
- Taco seasoning (you can buy pre-made or make your own)
- Chili powder
- Italian seasoning
- Cayenne pepper
- Pure vanilla extract (yes, it’s a spice produced from the seed pods of the Vanilla plant)
A Few notes on the above list:
- You will use garlic powder in many recipes, but try to limit the times you substitute it for fresh garlic. Fresh is always the best! For health benefits, get the whole cloves and crush them yourself; there are lots of handy tools out there to help you (I’ve heard the Calphalon garlic press is one of the best. It’s sold for about $15 on Amazon and Bed, Bath, and Beyond). When I’m in a hurry though, I like to having the jar of pre-minced garlic (generally found in the produce section of grocery stores or sometimes with the seasonings) all ready in the fridge for me to quickly add to a recipe.
- As I said with garlic, don’t let onion powder always take the place of chopping up fresh onions. Fresh chopped onions are so yummy and much more healthy too; however, I also understand that – particularly if you’re a mom with younger children, you might be able to get away with onion powder in the meatloaf a lot easier than onion chunks!
- A note on ginger: I used to use powdered a lot, but just discovered how delicious fresh minced ginger is, in Asian recipes especially. Try it out if you haven’t before! The best place I’ve found to get it is at Meijer in the produce section with the fresh herbs and spices. And use a grater for faster clean up and less hassle than chopping it!
The Problem ~
Spices can be expensive! Some of you may be thinking, “I bet having and using more seasonings would be great, but I don’t have the budget to invest in them.” Fortunately, I was blessed to get a whole bunch of seasonings as a wedding gift when Andrew and I got married just over a year ago. Ones that have run out, I have either slowly bought or found for a good price in bulk to last me longer and save money in the long run; but I’m still figuring out the best ways myself to buy spices.
In future posts, I’ll let you know the best ways I find to get spices to fit my budget. We’ll talk about how to use seasonings in cooking and baking. Using seasonings in the right way makes a big difference in if a meal is going to be good or not. You could dump a whole jar of basil in a pot of soup, but that might not be what I’m talking about when I say that seasonings bring out delicious flavor in food!
Getting used to cooking with more seasonings could be difficult at first, but with practice, in no time you’ll be a pro! You can make restaurant-style tasting meals (actually, even better) for you and your family. Who knows, maybe it will help you not be tempted to go out to eat as often and save money as well when you know how good food can be when you make it yourself!