Herbs and Spices

It’s about that time again to clear out expired items. We’re going to talk about herbs and spices.

I’ve pulled storage information from some recognizable names. At this point I basically use salt, pepper and fajita spice (my husband uses a bit more) so I needed some assistance. The featured image here is from our cooking heydays.

• Indefinite: Vanilla extract, salt, and that’s about it. (Other extracts will fade in 2-3 years).

• Whole spices (unground, such as peppercorns, whole allspice, caraway seeds, and more): 3-4 years

• Ground spices (such as cumin, ginger, paprika and chili powder): 2-4 years

• Ground and whole leafy herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary and most seasoning blends: 1-3 years


If you buy a new spice, or fill a reusable container with bulk spice, make sure to write the month and year of purchase on your container. Use permanent marker or painters’ tape. Permanent marker will eventually wear off of glass or you can remove it with alcohol, and it won’t hurt plastic. Painters tape can easily be removed from reusable containers without leaving residue like masking tape or scotch tape does. I have not had luck with wax pencils. They stain the container, glass and plastic, and won’t erase as much as they would seem to. This tip and more are available from TODAY Food here.

For a more extensive list of specific herb examples see Heathline’s article here. We don’t use a large variety of spices so McCormick’s list works for us, but if you have a large supply or a big collection, you may want to check out Heathline’s list.

My mother-in-law runs a Frontier Co-op and so we have ordered large volumes of spice from her in the past. There are two main issues for us at this point in our life.

  1. We don’t use this much spice anymore. We used to make our own dog food and we had four dogs, but now we don’t have any pets so we don’t need these large volumes.
  2. The silver plastic bags are not recyclable nor good for reuse so it’s a big bummer.

*Sidenote: a lot of bulk sections of grocery stores use the above-shown silver plastic bags of herbs to fill up their bulk bins. Ask your store what they do if you are interested. There’s still plastic involved in the food product, but for an individual you get to take only want you need and will use from a bulk container. That means less food waste in the long run despite the plastic bag waste at the beginning.

This container is a composite container. That means it is a mix of materials: a plastic lid/grinder on a glass bottle. I could not get this to come apart and we’re not supposed to throw broken glass in the recycling cart, otherwise I would have broken this into pieces.

This went into the trash.

Buy, find or borrow a refillable pepper grinder to be more green.

Here is a glass container with metal lid I reuse for bulk spices.

The container originally had paprika as well. When it was empty, I removed the brand sticker on the sides and added masking tape.

The tape has the spice name, spice code (912) and the tare weight (T) of the empty container.

Then I can fill it up at my local bulk store (Wheatsville Coop) with how much I will use.

As I mentioned, we no longer need large volumes of herbs. It turns out that we had quite a bit of expired herbs stuck back at the top of the pantry.

I emptied all the silver plastic Frontier bags into BPI-compostable bags. I threw away the plastic bags and composted all the herbs.

I did try to give these away once and I had a small business chef who was interested, but we couldn’t make the transfer work. It won’t hurt to post these on a Buy Nothing or other type of group to give away if they’re not expired.

Glass and metal are infinitely recyclable.

Plastic is only recyclable 1-2 times and then it will need to be trashed as well since it will be too weak to recycle and reuse.

Purchase containers that are easy to take apart into their respective material types, don’t buy composites.

Bulk can be greener if you need only a little bit of herbs or spices. Ask your neighbors and Buy Nothing group if you’re trying out a recipe. Check with your local store to see if you can bring in your own containers to bulk. You may need to measure the weight of the container first before you fill it up.

Reuse containers if you can, treat them well and clean them carefully so they last longer.

Good cooking! Good composting! Good recycling!

#herbs #spices #composting #planahead #bulk #bulkbins #byoc #bringyourowncontainer #reuse #justenough #onlywhatyouneed #lesswaste #foodwaste

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *