Food, Non-toxic living, Recipies

Spices, fresher, cheaper, and zero-waste

I wish I had known about the bulk spice section at EarthFare 10 years ago. Seriously, refilling your spice jars is one of the best financial zero-waste swaps!

I also made a low-budget video on how to refill your spices, if that is more your thing, but the following blog post is more thorough.


EarthFare’s selection is incredible. They have every spice I’ve ever cooked with–and many I’ve never used before. They even have some mixes like curry powder and chili powder. You can also find non-spice items such as baking powder, bentonite clay, arrowroot powder, and bees wax. There are also quite a few medicinal herbs.

You probably already have containers for your spices– simply refill what you already have. I have my set of “pretty” spice jars on display where I can reach them easily. You probably do too. Or, at the least you have the containers currently holding your spices, pretty or not :). You can continue to reuse those, just bring them by the cash register or customer service the first time you use them to get a tare weight. One exception might be if your current container is made out of plastic. I do not trust plastic to store anything that will be eaten–especially if it is holding something like a spice that isn’t frequently used and therefore sits in the container for a long time.

Here is why you should totally do this:

  1. The spices taste so much better and have more micronutrients than the typical store brands. They are all organic, non-irradiated, and are made by Frontier Coop, which is an awesome company.
  2. They are all sustainably harvested and grown–for both the people growing them and the planet.
  3. It is way cheaper. You can walk to the packaged seasoning section and pay 2x more for the exact same spice! Packaging isn’t free. I filled about half of my spice containers and only spent about $9!
  4. Some people order from Frontier directly in bulk quantities, but the EarthFare prices are generally better than Frontier’s online prices. Plus, then you don’t have to have to deal with $40 worth of cumin stored in your cupboard. Buying in bulk online is a good option if you really need something not stocked by EarthFare.
  5. You skip the plastic bottles in which most spices are packaged. Plastic isn’t truly recyclable. Its just used once or twice more before going to the landfill. Many spices are not used frequently, meaning that they can sit in a plastic container for a long time, letting the chemicals in the plastic leach into your spices.
  6. Its super easy to do! Directions below 🙂

Ready to spice up your spices?

The first and optional step I recommend is that you Konmari your spices. That means you take all of them out–yes, all of them–and put them in one pile on your counter. Next, pick up each bottle one at a time and decide if it deserves to use up your precious time and energy to keep. If you absolutely love a spice (or someone in your family does), then keep it. If you keep it just because you feel like you’re supposed to, or because your mother did, or because a recipe you didn’t like called for it 3 years ago–throw the spice in your compost bin (or post to FB that you have it up for grabs). If the container is made out of glass, consider keeping it to accommodate a new spice. If its plastic, put it in the recycle bin–it may still end up in a landfill, but  I would still try. The shiny packets with metal-looking liners are not recyclable and need to be thrown away. Now put your spices back in a way where you can see all of them at once.

When a spice jar is empty, take it to EarthFare to refill. If a jar only has a few teaspoons left, I will dump that into a dry mug or glass so that I can refill the empty container.

The first time you use a jar, you will have to tare it. It is the same way with any container. Just bring it to the cashier and tell them you need a tare. There is also a small scale in the spice section you could use. I write the tare on the side of my jars with a Sharpie. Or, I put a sticker on the lid and write on it with a pen/pencil. That weight will be subtracted from the total weight when you check out so you don’t pay for the weight of your jar.

This has the tare weight and the item number. There are white stickers in the spice section available for you to use.

Then, head over to the herb/supplements section, and you will find the spices. Fill your spice jars and either write the item number on the jar or take a picture of the item number with your phone to show the cashier. I choose to write the item # because I will be using the same container for the same spice, so the item number isn’t going to change. Plus I don’t have a smart phone….

The PLU is the item number. They are all clearly marked on the jars.

Then fill your container using the scoops provided. Bringing a funnel would be a good idea too!IMG_7351

Ready? You can do this 🙂 Let me know how it went!

5 thoughts on “Spices, fresher, cheaper, and zero-waste”

  1. Had my first bulk / zero waste shopping experience last night and I was so nervous. Pushed through it and I’m so proud of myself for stepping outside of my convenience driven comfort zone. Had a little mishap when I wrote the tare weight in oz. instead of lbs and the cashier rang it up without manually entering my tare. Had to call a manager over because my peppercorns were ringing up for $12. After a bit of math and some patience from myself, the gracious employees, and the kind woman stuck in line behind me, I walked out feeling triumphant with my peppercorns in my own glass jar. Wish I had seen your blog first though lol!! Have been reading through it all throughout the workday and am so so so grateful for your writing and sharing your journey. It’s so helpful to see the experience of another Chattanooga local. ❤


    1. Good for you! It is such a great feeling to walk out of a store with an item in your own glass jar! 🙂 And the good news is now you know how much that jar weighs and don’t have to go through that again. The scale they have near the spices at EarthFare changed and now it doesn’t do pounds, only oz…I need to update this post! Usually if I get back to the spice section and realize I need a tare on a jar I stop by the meat section and ask them to weigh my item…it takes less time then walking up to the front.


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