If you wish you could use more fresh herbs but feel like you can’t afford large quantities of them, read on. With just a couple of quick tips, fresh herbs can be cheaper than you think.
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Once in a while people ask me how I can afford to use such large quantities of fresh herbs in my cooking. I understand where they’re coming from – a very small package of herbs can cost $3.50 where I live, and there’s no guarantee that all the herbs in that little plastic container will be usable.
Still, I love to cook with fresh herbs. I love the fresh, zesty smell that wafts up them when you wash them and when you chop them. I love the brightness they bring to the food I’m cooking and the vibrant colour they provide as garnish. And, of course, I love the vivid pop of flavour they bring to food.
Yes, they are more expensive than dried herbs. But they can still be affordable. Here’s how:
Find a better deal
As I’ve mentioned before, I live about a half hour drive from a large chain grocery store. While I definitely value our local coop and try to buy local a lot of the time, there are some things that I do buy outside my local area. Often fresh herbs are one of these things.
Instead of a small plastic package of herbs for upwards of $3, at the two large grocery store chains in my province (Superstore and Sobeys), you can score big, bouquet-like bunches of herbs for a few bucks.
Parsley (usually both flat and curly), cilantro, and sometimes dill are available like this, and if you have any amount of cooking to use them for, the value is excellent.
I’ve tried all kinds of ways of keeping my herbs fresh. I own one of these herb savers, which really does work quite well for smallish amounts. I’ve tried wrapping them in damp paper towel, I’ve tried standing them in cups of water.
The method I use now is actually the easiest. I start with the best looking bunch of herbs at the store. I take them home, take any bad or slimy parts off them, put them back in the produce bag from the grocery store, blow a little air into the bag and tie it with a twist tie. Then I store it in my crisper drawer.
Works like a charm.
If I have parsley or dill (but not cilantro, sadly) that I won’t use up before it goes bad, I freeze it. The texture suffers but the taste doesn’t, and you can still use it in dips, sauces, salad dressings, and more!
Grow your own
As is the case with so many things in life, if you can do it yourself, it will be cheaper.
You don’t need a big garden or plot of land to grow a few herbs. I was in my early twenties when I bought my first basil plant at a farmer’s market. I took it home and it lived happily on my window sill for most of a year, while I enjoyed many of its tender leaves in sandwiches, scrambled eggs and pasta.
Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have a garden, (and a father who loves to work in it) and have often had big patches of fresh basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, mint and lemongrass (and probably others I’m forgetting) to munch on throughout the summer months and try to preserve in the fall. If you have the space and a tiny bit of time, this is the way to go. A small amount of work will yield a ton of fresh herbs for you to enjoy.
If you have no yard or no time, why not pick up a little herb plant or two for your windowsill? I bought this one last week from our lovely local garden centre (shoutout to Samson & Landry’s Gardening) for a little over $4. It will yield many, many leaves of pungent basil to countless meals in our house over the next little while. You can’t even buy two little plastic packages of basil for that price. As long as you have a sunny windowsill and can give it a little water every few days, why not give it a try?
It might prove to be a delicious experiment! 🙂