I’ve got a little confession. I’m an herbs snob. So yes, I’ll use dried herbs when I absolutely have to, but, I prefer the palate pleasing flavor infusion fresh herbs add to just about any recipe.
That means I pay more – a lot more – to make stews, soups and sauces than if I would just sprinkle dried basil rather than chop fresh.
At my grocery store, a .62 oz. bottle of dried basil costs about $4.89. Depending on how heavy handed I am, it will season several batches of my Sicilian grandmother’s sauce, pizzas and other meals I toss it into. One plus to dried herbs is their storage; I can recap the bottle and the basil will last in my pantry for a few months or more.
On the flipside, a hydroponically grown bunch of fresh basil from the same grocer runs $2.99. That package will stretch to season one double batch of sauce and a Caprese salad. It will also usually yield just enough to mix with garlic and butter for the fresh bread that will accompany the meal. (Am I the only one getting hungry?) The downside to fresh herbs is they rarely last longer than a few days on the counter or in the fridge. So you can’t buy them in bulk and they can spoil quickly. But did I mention how flavorful they are?
Considering that on average I buy one bunch of fresh basil a week, I’m spending nearly $12 on basil alone. Assuming one bottle would last a month in my pantry, that’s just over $7 more a month. And that’s only for basil! Toss in the amount of fresh rosemary, cilantro and parsley I use and it’s safe to assume I’ve got a recipe for excess spending.
But a love affair with fresh herbs doesn’t have to break the bank. That is, not as long as you’ve got at least one window, tap water and a little dirt at your house.
Growing your own fresh herbs can be an affordable and convenient option to store bought versions. For one, you can you save on the gas needed to run to the store when you suddenly realize rosemary would be a welcome addition to your chicken soup (trust me, it is!). You can also save up to hundreds a year, depending on how flavorful you like your meals.
Window gardens can grow year-round, as long as they have proper light and water. The initial investment can lead to saving a bundle as you snip exactly what you need for each meal from your ‘crop.’
Here’s how I’m saving this year on herbs.
Step 1. Contain the savings
Instead of heading to the nursery department at my local hardware store, I shopped eBay for unexpected possible containers. My find: a set of 3 different sized ceramic canisters that match my kitchen beautifully.
The cost: 3 terra cotta pots of equal size; $11 plus tax. My eBay find; $2.99 which included free shipping.
My savings: $8.01
Step 2. Save on supplies
There’s nothing wrong with picking up a bag of potting soil that’s already fertilized for your window garden. But that’s not your only option. If your ground is accessible, tote a washable bag to the yard and dig up a few shovels full of dirt (enough to fill your containers). Then mix in 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt with 1 gallon of water. The magnesium and sulfate in the Epsom Salt will feed your spices for pennies versus buying a pricey bag of potting soil.
The cost: One bag of soil for 3 spice containers costs an average $7.99. One box of bag of Epsom salts (enough to fertilize a spice garden for nearly a year) costs an average $2.99
My savings: $5.
Step 3. Sow the seeds of savings
If you’re impatient, a trip to the nursery to purchase small plants might be worth the cost. Otherwise, pick up packets of seeds to grow a garden of savings you can reap all year long.
The cost: Seed packets typically cost less than $1 each. A plant may cost $2.99 or more, however, that’s on average what one hydroponically grown portion of fresh spices costs at the grocery store. So I’m going to splurge on 3 plants for a cost of $8.97 to be able to start snipping leaves in about a month or so.
My final savings: When you factor in all the costs to grow my own herbs, I’ll have spent about $14.95. If I would have bought an average 3 fresh bundles a week, at an average $2.99 each, I would have spent more than $450 a year.
So what do you think? Convinced to try out your green thumb with these zesty savings tips?
Photo credit: Getty ThinkStock