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Adding Flavor While Saving Money: How To Store and Preserve Fresh Herbs (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Megan from SaverQueen.com

Not too long ago, an
article
was written in a national newspaper documenting the trend towards
so-called "cheap" convenience foods. I sighed, disappointed that shoppers naturally assume single-serving, prepackaged foods like macaroni and cheese are cheaper than
homemade alternatives. 

Convenience foods can, in fact, be most costly, and they are almost
always less healthful than their homemade counterparts. But perhaps what bothered most about this trend is that
shoppers are "buying-in" to the belief that being frugal means sacrificing
taste and quality. 

Eating well on a frugal budget is entirely possible. A lean grocery budget does not require
reliance on freeze-dried, tasteless food. In fact, home cooking can bring a whole new world of flavors.

There are many ways to add flavor to your food without a
lot of cost, but one of my favorite techniques is to use fresh herbs. Not only do fresh herbs add flavor,
they bring out the natural flavors in other foods too. And they have many health benefits, as
well. 

After attempting to learn how to grow herbs using window-boxes
or terrariums, I have concluded, it just doesn’t work for me. Failing this, I now bite the bullet and
pay full price at the grocery store.
However,
the key to making the herbs affordable, I have learned, is to make the
most of your purchase by properly prepping, storing, and preserving your
herbs. Here is how to do it:

Mail.google.com

1) Wash your herbs immediately after purchasing and dry in a
salad spinner.
If you purchase herbs that are still attached at the roots, snip the roots off
and clean them as well. Then store
the roots in a sandwich bag or plastic container in the freezer–they can be
added to vegetable or chicken stock, yielding a lovely flavor.

2) Take the rest of the washed and dried herbs
and spread them out over a few sheets of paper towel.
Roll the paper towel up with the herbs inside and place in a grocery bag and keep inside
your crisper. The herbs should
last for several weeks like this.

3) When your
herbs are nearing the end of their freshness, freeze or dry them.
Many herbs can be frozen by placing the leaves in an ice cube tray and
filling it with water. When you are
ready to use them, simply defrost an ice cube and you have "fresh" herbs to use! To dry herbs, you can hang them in bunches. And don't throw away the stems–you can use parsley or cilantro stems when making chutneys
or sauces in the food processor.

With rising food costs, it is not necessary to sacrifice
taste or quality. Simply make the
most of what you have. Rather
than sacrifice the delightful flavor and health benefits of fresh herbs, I
recommend making your investment count by using every part of the herb
and reducing waste wherever possible. The result will be a tastier mealtime and a budget boost.

Megan (aka "Saver Queen") loves the fulfilling, frugal life. She’s shares her best recipes, tips to
save at the grocery store, and other money saving secrets at her blog, SaverQueen.com.

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

22 Comments

  • Megan says:

    Love this! I have dried organic chives that I found on clearance because they were about to go out of date! I got them cheap and stocked up for awhile. I see herbs on clearance at my grocery store quite often!

    Megan

  • Shanna says:

    I am new at growing herbs andI love how I can just go outside quick and grab a few leaves of basil, oregano or lemon balm. I actually afraid, however, the process to properly store them. Do I clip them all off and store as mentioned? And when do I do this? Throughout the season or at the end?

    These are just somethings that I am figuring out to make the most out of my herbs, but until then, I’ll enjoy having what I do have. 🙂

    Nice post by the way. It’s amazing what ..industries… try to ‘pull’ on the average consumer.

  • Erika says:

    There is another good way to dry your herbs that takes well…seconds really. If you put your herbs in between a couple of layers of paper towels you can microwave them for about 10 seconds at a time until they are nice and dried. This way, too, your herbs will keep their lovely green color. I learned this from a food storage book I got at a used bookstore a while back and it works great. Only drawback is that your house ends up smelling like sticks for a little bit as you dry them *laugh* but it really is worth it to save time and room from drying them by hanging.

    As for when to store them…I would do it throughout the season if you have really abundant plants. If you don’t, I’d just cut off your annuals at the end of the season and dry it all at once. I actually grow my herbs in pots on my windowsill in my kitchen (being in Alaska the growing season is short to say the least otherwise). I’ve managed to keep the same parsley plant growing and producing pretty well now for 4 years. I can usually get 2 years out of sage by keeping it inside. My rosemary did great for about three years and then it caught a blight and died (I’m looking into replacing it here sometime soon :-). And I just dry my herbs as they start to get a little old on the plant but aren’t dried out and grody yet…that way waste not want not. After they are dried I just store them in an airtight stainless steel spice container and they keep pretty darn well for at least a year (they never last that long though…I use them constantly).

  • Andrea says:

    my local 99c store has a wonderful grocery section, and often sells bags of cilantro that have 10-20 bunches in them for 99c!

  • Tiffany says:

    I have frozen before.. I was so proud of myself the first time I thought of this! 🙂

  • TopazTook says:

    Great timing on this post, as I am growing basil (among other things) on my deck this year and was just wondering about good ways to preserve the parts we don’t eat fresh!

  • jennsquared says:

    I now grow herbs in my window box from seeds. But I discover this accidentally and I thought I share it here:

    When I used to buy herbs, especially basil, I never end up using all of them. So I just throw the bunch in a clear short vase with water (it was a rectangle vase with wide mouth and short) and I change the water every few days, basically whenever I see it and remember it (it sat on my counter next to the stove by the window). Well, the basil rooted!!!!!! It didn’t have roots before, but then it did! I actually had successfully planted some into dirt using that method and it become really healthy plant. But I just left them in the vase with the water and they lasted A VERY LONG TIME!

    And I learned that you aren’t supposed to put the basil in the fridge due to moisture issue. I always put them in the water in the vase when I have to buy them (like in the winter in New England, herbs don’t really exactly grow outside in the snow 😉 ) and I can have them for awhile!!!

  • Suz says:

    Great tips on storing herbs. I’d never thought of freezing them in ice cubes… will have to try that! I wonder if I could do that with spearamint for tea… gonna have to try. It would be amazing to have some fresh tea in the dead of winter!!

  • Alicia says:

    This is a great post! We’ve dried herbs for quite some time but have never tried the ice cube method.

    Do you find that more tender herbs, such as basil (my favorite!) don’t fare well with freeze drying?

  • Jen says:

    I LOVE fresh herbs! Perrenial herbs are a great investment, because they come back every year, more abundantly than before. I started with one tarragon plant, one oregano plant, and one marjoram plant, and now I have patches of these herbs in my yard that are thriving! They are so beautiful and fragrant, not to mention tasty. They have naturalized in my yard, and require no extra care at all.

    I think it’s best to harvest and dry herbs throughout the growing season. The more you harvest, the more it encourages the plant to branch and continue to grow. It also delays flowering, which keeps the flavor of the leaves more potent. Plus, by the end of summer you will have a bounty of homegrown herbs to last throughout the winter.

  • Jenel says:

    I have a question: when you put them in a grocery bag in the frig, is that a plastic or paper bag?

  • tina b says:

    that ice cube idea is pure genius 🙂

  • Suzy says:

    I’ve found fresh herbs are wayyy cheaper at our local asian grocery store (as is all their produce). i buy them there and dry or freeze them at home because the bnches are HUGE!

  • The Prudent Homemaker says:

    A 4″ inch herb plant ranges between $1.29 to $1.99 here at our local nursery. Buying a living plant is not much different in cost than buying cut herbs!

    If you grow your herbs outdoors, some will reseed and come up the next year. In warmer climates (zones 9-10) rosemary, parsley, lavender and thyme grow all year. Mint and chives die back a bit in the winter but come back just fine in the spring.

    If you don’t have much room, you could grow your herbs in a couple of pots outdoors.

    I grow genovese basil. While it does die back in the winter, in summer it gets huge. When it goes to seed, it leaves enough seeds for the birds and for me; mine usually reseeds itself each year.

  • Alicia says:

    Thank you so much! I’m sick and tired of my cilantro rotting on me!!

  • Rhonda Devine says:

    Growing your own herbs is so rewarding–I have a huge patch of mint that makes wonderful tea through the winter. You also mentioned a salad spinner–I highly recommend one. Every year I grown my own leaf lettuce and spinach and I used to hate cleaning each piece. Now with my salad spinner, it is so much easier! I encourage your readers to give one a try:)

  • Saver Queen says:

    Erika – great tips! I love the idea of drying them in the microwave. I’ll have to try that.

    Jenel – I was referring to a plastic bag.

    Great to hear the tips for harvesting, as I have been growing fresh herbs on my balcony. Unfortunately the weather has been unseasonably cold and they haven’t been doing too well. Not enough sunlight I think. 🙁

  • Kelli Schoney says:

    One more thought to add to the preservation tips – I harvest lots of sweet basil, and since I often use it with olive oil anyway, I freeze them together in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, I transfer to a ziploc bag to keep better. Then, in the winter, I can just pull out a cube and have spices and olive oil ready to go! I have found that the olive oil preserves it a bit better than water – and keeps the color better as well. I have also done this with sage and rosemary. As a variation, I have also made pesto with the basil, and frozen that into cubes as well. Tastes just as good out of the freezer!

    To those who mentioned the price of buying plants, I think you would have to decide how much you use. I know that buying one bunch of herbs from the store is about the same as buying one plant, but for me, I harvest mine all year long by bringing them in during the winter, so they have been a very good investment.

  • Em. says:

    We dry our herbs in a food dehydrator as well as hanging in bunches depending on what the end purpose will be. This last year we tried preserving some of them in olive oil in ball jars. It worked marvelously for making really tasty oils.

  • Working in the food storage arena, many people make the same assumptions about tasteless blah food as they do about frugal eating. It’s definitely not true! Thank you for this wonderful article — I have a lovely herb garden growing out front and can’t wait to start cooking with my fresh herbs. Spices are the key to phenomenal food! http://tinyurl.com/c5jjqe

  • Morta Di Fame says:

    First thanks for all the info. In an effort to save on herbs I just planted a really cute herb garden, but I know it will not yield what I need and will eventually die either from the winter or my cat, so I will have to buy herbs. I do know about the freezing method, but do you notice sometimes it take on a weird odor? Maybe I should cover with plastic. Also, I hope you read your comments because I have a question for the drying herbs. When you bunch them to dry them, where do you hang them. Outside in the sun? Or inside? What conditions do you need for drying? Thanks so much!

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