- a blog about food and value

Getting the best value on spices

jeans-spicesSpices are the key to cooking cheaply at home: a well-stocked spice rack means that you can turn something as simple as a can of tomatoes and a few veg into a really tasty and satisfying meal.  We’ve written here before about how to stock up your larder with Indian spices, and I thought I’d write today about how cheap and easy that can be.

Going to a supermarket and buying 20 different varieties of spices wouldn’t leave you much change out of €50, but you can get both better prices and bigger quantities if you shop for spices in Asian or halal shops instead.  I stocked up on some spices the other day in one of my favourite food shops, The Spice of Life on Moore St, and kept my receipt in order to do a price comparison. I’ve compared with Schwartz spices, which are the market leader in supermarket spices.  The differences in some of the per kilo prices are astonishing:


€62.59 per kilo for Schwartz turmeric versus €14.90 for East End turmeric from the Indian shop – see what I mean?  Clearly with the Schwartz spices, you are paying for the jar – and if you’re the kind of person that likes to have all their spices in the same size jars, then that’s fair enough.  We all have our little weirdnesses.  However, I find those jars too small (teaspoons don’t fit into them, stupidly) and the quantities in them are so meagre that they run out really quickly.  I just wash out mustard or jam jars and use them to store my spices.

I did recently read somewhere that chefs recommend keeping your spices in opaque containers, as exposure to light apparently lessens the strength of the spices.  However, I think if you’re going through them reasonably quickly it shouldn’t matter too much.

The table above is just a quick comparison, but I’ve found that most spices are available at similar prices from the ethnic shops.  They also have a much wider range than you can expect to find in the supermarkets.  If you’re just learning to cook or just getting a spice rack together, I would highly recommend a trip to one of the ethnic shops with about €25 in your pocket – you’ll make out like a bandit.


  1. I find I don’t get through my spices as quickly, so I try to buy and share with a friend…Storing the spices in a clear jar should be fine if you keep them in the cupboard, away from direct sunlight. On my kitchen top are the ones I use most frequently, namely oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper [:)]

  2. yes, I agree fully. buying wide range and authentic spices from ethnic shops are only sensible. E.g. 1 packet of paprika (100g) was Eur0.99, 1 packet of cardamon seeds (50g) is Eur 1 …etc from Asia Market. Aldi does good prices for ground oregano, coriander, black pepper corns in bottles at Eur 0.79 there about. ^_^

  3. I totally agree with buying spices in bulk from the Asian shops .. so much cheaper and better range and choice.
    However, I now have a storage problem… see the link attached: I am not the only one!!

    I am at present trying to get a carpenter to make me a bespoke spice storage unit similar to that in this link. I have lovely glass spice jars from IKEA but I am thinking space wise the square tins shown here might be better.

    Has anyone else any better or more practical suggestions ?

  4. I have always found the best way to keep spices fresh is in the traditional and authentic Indian Spice Container called a masala dabba. These are now available at very reasonable prices in Gourmet Gadgets, 2 Hillside Road, Greystones. 01 2870044, and on line at various sizes and styles are here.