I love using various spices when cooking but they are ridiculously expensive at my local supermarket.
Part of my problem is I have a small household so buying in bulk doesn’t work well because it does not get used fast enough (e.g. the giant jug of oregano).
Fresh herbs are great but also expensive and at my market a bit hit or miss if they even have them. I have a Whole Foods a bit further away which reliably has all that stuff but is even more expensive.
Note I am not trying to cheap out. I care about decent quality and some things just are never cheap (e.g. saffron). That said I get a distinct impression that spices are a huge markup at my local market akin to buying TV cables at Best Buy…well beyond a fair profit to outright ripoff.
Heck, even in as bland of a chain store as a Safeway many spices will have vastly different prices if you buy them form the ‘mexican foods’ section than if you buy them from the ‘spices’ section- including spices that aren’t particularly specific to that cuisine, like cinnamon or cloves.
I live in Chicago (and I do mean IN Chicago…not the burbs or fringes). There are certainly plenty of ethnic food stores all over. That said it’s not easy to get to all of them but I suppose that is part of the trade-off…do I want to spend an hour commuting to a store for a cheap spice?
The chain grocery stores near me have a “bulk spice” section right next to the jars of spices, where you can buy exactly what you need of whatever (the teaspoon of tumeric that I will never use again, exactly 1 stick of cinnamon, or that single bay leaf for the stew). It’s usually a reasonable price.
I often buy spices from bulk food stores. In some parts of the country they’re often run by Mennonites and are therefore called Mennonite stores or Amish stores. Here’s a partial list of such stores, though it doesn’t include the one I shop at: Amish and Mennonite Stores
I used to get my spices, yeast, and many other baking ingredients from health food stores (or natural food stores). Some are like Whole Foods (very expensive and/or poor selection), but a lot of the mom-and-pop operations are good for this sort of thing.
Some discount stores have a good variety of cheap spices. Especially the sort of stores that specialize in overstocks, scratch-and-dent merchandise, and such. Big Lots has or used to have a decent selection, but a regional chain called Ocean State Job Lot has a much better one.
Most of the places I shop at around here have a section of reasonably priced bottled spices (we’re talking 99 cents to $1.99 for about a three ounce plastic jar. Brands like “Spice Supreme” and “Badia.”) Since you’re in Chicago, the stores I’m talking about are Pete’s Market, Cermak Produce, and Shop and Save. So check if any of those are around.
The spices tend to be middle-of-the-road in terms of quality. For example, I’m a bit of a paprika snob, and I’ve tried various brands, and they pretty much don’t pass my test. For the really good stuff, I go to a place like Spice House or Penzey’s. (Still affordable, but of very high quality.)
I also like Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese markets for spices. The Middle Eastern places I go to seem to be the best about having bulk spices, where you just scoop it up and they weigh it. The Indian and Chinese places tend to be more prepackeaged bulk spices, where you can get like two years’ worth of coriander seeds for a couple bucks. So maybe not what you’re looking for, but quite nice for the more exotic spices and spice blends.
Same here. While there is a Savory Spice store in my neighborhood, the smallest quantity that can be purchased there is 2 oz. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a whole lot of something that will sit on your shelf until it goes bad. And they aren’t cheap. I recently bought about a tsp of mace, ground cloves and ground nutmeg in the bulk spice section of the grocery for a cake I want to make.
I agree typically it does, however buying spices in bulk does not equate to that, but measure yourself the amount you want (large or small). Hence ‘buying is great quantity’ is exactly what the OP does not want (which is what the spice jars provide to the OP), hence in that case you buy in bulk and get the amount you need.