Buying and Storing Spices/Dried Herbs
When storing spices it’s best to store them away from light and heat. Spices and herbs won’t go bad; they just loose their strength and flavor as they age. Whole spices will keep their flavor longer than ground spices. You will also get the best flavor by ground whole spices right before using. Purchasing ground spices is still okay and works for many dishes. Ground spices will keep their flavor longer than dried herbs.
A good way to tell the freshness is to smell the spice; or for an herb, rub a bit in the palm of your hand and smell the herbs. If you cannot smell the spice or herb, it’s lost too much flavor.
It’s best to buy spices and dried herbs in small amounts, preferably in stores that sell in bulk, and have a high turnover rate. Failing a bulk store, I’ve found Cost Plus World Market has pretty good spices (although sometimes I think they are a bit old, so check the dates on the packaging). Since they are sold in small bags, they cost much less than those sold in glass and plastic bottles in the big chain grocery stores.
If neither of the above are options for you, have a spice party. Get a number of friends together and have each person purchase a few different spices. Than get together and divide them up. Make sure to bring your own bottles to store your spices. I like labeling the “expiration” date on the bottom of my glass bottles with a wipe-off marker. This date is just a guide. Bring small peel and stick labels to label each jar with the spice/herb name as well.
You can also find online stores to purchase spices and herbs.