In these tough economic times, it's easy to get carried away and start cutting back anywhere and everywhere we can to save money. We figure, "hey, if most recipes only call for cinnamon, salt and pepper, then that's all we really need. We can buy those other herbs and spices as necessary, right?"
Wrong. There are two problems with this line of thought:
- If we wait to buy spices when they are called for in a recipe, we will pay more for them in the long run. Say we've picked out a recipe that calls for star anise and we know we don't have star anise in the pantry. Everything else for the recipe is ready. We'll run to the nearest (and not necessarily cheapest) store, and pay whatever they ask for the star anise we need.
- Spices turn everyday food into an Occasion. It's too easy to eat out when we know we can't make anything better at home. If given the choice between pasta at home with boring canned pasta sauce (cheapest, but takes 30 minutes to prepare and clean up) and burgers on the way home (relatively cheap, and takes 5 minutes to purchase from the drive-thru and consume), we'll choose the quick and easy burgers from the drive-thru almost every time.
A rounded-out selection of herbs and spices at home will ensure that we have what we need when we need it to make tasty dishes that we enjoy eating at home. Check out Alex Grey's "20 herbs and spices that should be in every cook's kitchen."
Many herbs and spices can be found in large quantities at shops like the Walmart Neighborhood Market on 22nd Street and Costco (located on Grant, Costco Drive or Tucson Marketplace Blvd), but unless it's something we'll use very often like salt, black pepper, onion powder or garlic powder, there's a good chance it'll go stale and lose its flavor before we use it all. We need small, reasonably-priced, well-sealed containers of herbs and spices and there's one place we're sure to find them--Penzeys Spices on North Oracle Road.
Penzeys Spices has been in Tucson for years, but it's tucked away at Oracle and Limberlost (not the most obvious location for a spice shop) and hasn't gotten the publicity it deserves. Offering everything from individual spices and extracts to rubs, dressings and even hot chocolate mixes, this packed store has got everything we need to make anything we could want.
Open every day, Penzeys Spices keeps their prices reasonable and is staffed by knowledgeable folks who are more than happy to share cooking tips and stories. Ask them about storing and grinding spices and they'll gladly recommend some fine lidded containers (which come with blank labels) and an excellent selection of spice grinders.
And that's not all! Penzeys is a nationwide chain and boasts a huge selection of products available for purchase online (Limberlost isn't exactly on everyone's commute home). Penzeys online gift cards make great gifts for home cooks (hint, hint) and express shipping guarantees that you'll have what you need as early as mid-week.
Penzeys in Tucson is located at 4128 North Oracle Road and can be reached by phone at (520)887-0777.