How to Know When You Need New Spices

by Leanne Ely

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Have you seen that print ad from a spice company telling you how to identify spices that might be a tad old? Well, I have been on a campaign to lose the old spices for a very long time and I am thrilled to see this kind of informational ad crusade.

Seeing that we're all frugal zealots, I've got this feeling we've all got some OLD, ancient spices sitting in those cupboards. Let's go on an archaeological dig and see what kind of fossils we can unearth. Here's how you're going to know you need some new spices.

You may need some new spices if:

  • The date stamp on the bottom of the jar was from when you were in high school (go check, I dare you!).
  • The company who made the spice in the first place is out of business. Since 1980!
  • The can is rusted and the label indistinguishable. You don't know what's in there.
  • The label is missing so you smell it to identify it and can't!
  • The smell of the spice smells oddly like the garage on a rainy day.
  • You mistakenly grab ground ginger for white pepper and it didn't ruin what you were making because it had no flavor!

A great rule of thumb to figure out what to keep and what to pitch is if your spice is over a year old, it needs to be tossed. To keep your spices fresh and nice, you will want to buy only what you need and mark the bottom of the container with a Sharpie, indicating the date you purchased the spice. I love buying my spices at the health food store (they are unbelievably fresh and cheap, because you buy what you need) and discount stores like Wal-Mart (2 for $1.00!). You can always have fresh spices when you get them this way.

Are you ready to spice up your life with some fresh spices? Let's get some fresh ones this week, and once you have some fresh nutmeg, make this recipe. We've even eaten this for dinner in my house.

Peach Spiced Strata
Serves 12

1 loaf wheat bread
8 eggs
3 cups milk, low-fat
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups sliced peaches, frozen, fresh or canned is fine
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 inch pan. Chop up bread and fit on the bottom of your pan.

In a bowl, beat remaining ingredients but only 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and no peaches. Pour over the top of the bread and let sit for a while. (Stratas traditionally sit overnight in your fridge, but I don't like it that way.) Give your strata at least an hour to soak. In the meantime, do your nails, floss your teeth or call an old friend. Okay, now that you're back, top the strata with the peaches, sprinkle with remaining brown sugar and dot with butter. Bake for about an hour or until done.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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