Spices: Bulk Bin vs. Jarred

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Bay Leaves

Would you pay $343.38 for a pound of bay leaves? While I know that sounds too absurd to consider, you’re already paying that much, if you buy yours by the jar. And here’s the crazy thing: those same bay leaves cost just $21.99 a pound, if you buy them from the bulk bins. Is a plastic bottle really worth the extra $321.39? Apparently grocery stores think so. I sure don’t.

On several occasions, I’ve recommended buying your spices from the bulk bins to save money, but I haven’t shown how much it will save you. And I think you need to see the math to be convinced that we’re talking about a significant savings opportunity. So, I did a side-by-side price comparison — jarred spices vs. bulk bins spices. I checked the bulk bin prices at Earth Fare (a health food chain), and I checked the prices on the spice aisle at Kroger. To make the comparison as fair as possible, I recorded the price of the cheapest jarred spice option that I could find. In many cases, that meant the cheapo $1 bottle. How did the two compare? See for yourself:

Allspice $104.16/lb $26.49/lb
Basil $55.44/lb $20.99/lb
Bay Leaves $343.38/lb $22.99/lb
Celery Salt $12.33/lb $16.99/lb
Chili Powder $7.31/lb $12.49/lb
Cinnamon $7.11/lb $9.19/lb
Dill Weed $118.00/lb $31.99/lb
Garlic Powder $8.00/lb $16.79/lb
Nutmeg $7.55/lb $50.99/lb
Oregano $23.88/lb $19.99/lb
Parsley $32.00/lb $25.99/lb
Rosemary $63.79/lb $13.99/lb
Thyme $36.99/lb $29.49/lb

As you can see, 8 of the 13 spices that I priced were cheaper in the bulk bins, and in most cases, significantly cheaper. However, there were a handful of spices that were cheaper to buy by the jar – cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, celery salt and nutmeg. Because your prices may vary widely from mine, I recommend doing your own price comparison for the spices that you buy regularly. A few minutes of number crunching could translate into some pretty impressive savings.

Dried Bay Leaves

I restocked my bay leaves out of the bulk bins last week, and paid just $.23 for everything you see here.

For more grocery price comparisons, check out:

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