Spice blends are one of the easiest ways to change up the storage items in your food pantry. The problem is, purchasing them in bulk can get rather expensive. In a previous article, I suggested that starting an herb and vegetable garden were two frugal ways to grow your food pantry.
“Herbs are almost foolproof and one of the easiest additions you can make to a garden. Best of all, they like a little abuse and don’t require as much water as vegetables do. As well, apartment and small home dwellers can grow these herbaceous plants and reap the rewards. Further, since they are usually small in stature, you can easily trim them and make more room in the middle of the garden for vegetables. When the herbs are ready to be harvested, get your dehydrator ready to make teas, spice blends, herbal extracts, emulsions and medicinal tonics.”
Starting an herb garden and making your own spice blends is a frugal way to get a lot of spices at once to add to your food pantry. Moreover, many herbs like oregano, sage, lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme are perennials and grow year-round. I started these herbs a few years ago in my garden, and my oregano, sage, rosemary, and lavender are small bushes. I can get a year supply of herbs each time I cut them back! You can have a constant supply of seasoning blends just by growing them.
Another option is to purchase in bulk. There are many herb companies online that sell their herbs in bulk. This technique is a great way to get a large amount in the pantry to ensure you have plenty until your herb garden starts producing.
Dehydrating your fresh herbs removes moisture from the food so that bacteria, yeast, and mold cannot grow. The added benefit is the dehydration process minimally affects the nutritional content of food. According to National Center for Home Food Preservation, “Pre-heat dehydrator with the thermostat set to 95°F to 115°F and add trays. In areas with higher humidity, temperatures as high as 125°F may be needed. After rinsing under cool, running water and shaking to remove excess moisture, place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times may vary from 1 to 4 hours.”
Dried herbs can last for years, and you are saving a lot of money doing it yourself! Not to mention, many herbs can do double duty and be used for medicinal purposes. For example, sage and thyme are great for making a tea to help with a persistent cough and making a tea out of 1 tablespoon of fennel and hot water can help soothe heartburn and indigestion.
Aside from a dehydrator, a mortar and pestle would also be a great kitchen tool to have handy for grinding herbs once dehydrated.
In The Prepper’s Cookbook, I wrote about many different spice blends and will list some of my favorites to help get you started making your own.
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 ¼ teaspoons garlic powder
• 1 ¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon onion powder
• 1/3 cup kosher salt
• ¼ cup chili powder
• ¼ paprika
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried basil
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon coriander
• ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• ¼ teaspoon cumin
• ¼ teaspoon white pepper
French Herb Mix
• 3 tablespoons dried marjoram
• 3 tablespoons dried thyme
• 3 tablespoons dried summer savory
• 2 tablespoons minced dried garlic
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 1 teaspoon dried sage
• ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
• 2 tablespoons dried oregano
• 4 teaspoons dried mint
• 4 teaspoons dried thyme
• 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons dried basil
• 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
• 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
Homemade Vegetable All-Purpose Seasoning
• 3 medium onions, cut into 2-inch cubes
• 5 celery ribs, diced
• 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
• 3 medium red bell peppers, diced
• 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
• 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
• 8-10 garlic cloves
• 1 bunch fresh parsley
• chicken bouillon granules, to taste
In a saucepan over high heat, combine diced potatoes and carrots with enough water to cover them. Cook until soft.
Combine all ingredients (except bouillon granules) in a blender or food processor and whirl until fully processed. Place mixture on a jelly roll tray for the dehydrator and set dehydrator to 135 degrees – 145 degrees for 5 hours or until dried and crumbly. Once the mixture is thoroughly dried, add one tablespoon bouillon granules at a time to taste. Store in a jar for up to one year.
Drying your herbs to make your own pantry spices is a low-cost way of making use of what your garden produces for you. Chances are, once your herbs start growing you will begin looking up all the different ways to utilize herbs in your life. Now that it is gardening time grow some extra herbs or pick some up at your garden center and enjoy!
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