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How to Cut Costs when using Herbs

Fresh herbs add fantastic flavors to your cooking, and when used as a garnish, they look great too. However, it can be off-putting when you are constantly buying fresh herbs from the supermarket, only to find that they have wilted before you’ve had the chance to use them all. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help you save money on fresh herbs and cut down on waste at the same time.
Grow your own
The most obvious way of saving money on fresh herbs is to grow your own. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a garden; you can grow them on the window sill if necessary. Before planting an herb garden, you may want to consider whether you are going to grow annual or perennial herbs, or a mixture of the two.Annual herbs include basil, cilantro and dill and need replanting or growing from seed every year.
Perennials include chives, mint and rosemary, and will continue to grow year after year, but they need a certain amount of care — for example, pruning and training to grow in a relatively confined area so that they don’t take over the entire garden. Once you have your garden however, you will have access to fresh herbs whenever you want, at very little cost (and provided that they are in season).
Share with neighbors
One reason for spending too much money on fresh herbs is if you live alone and don’t need to use more than a few sprigs at a time. Unfortunately, most retailers sell more than is necessary. To avoid overbuying, you can get together with friends and neighbors to share in the purchase of fresh herbs. That way, you can try out a variety of herbs and a selection of new recipes without having to worry about the waste.
Keep them moist
The Huffington Post has a couple of good suggestions for prolonging the life of herbs you have bought from the supermarket by as much as two weeks. First, put the herbs in a container of water just as you would a bunch of flowers. Check on the water levels on a daily basis. If you cover the herbs with a plastic bag and keep them in the fridge, they should last even longer. This works particularly well with cilantro and parsley, which prefer cooler temperatures. Mint and basil are usually fine kept at room temperature.
Another way to keep herbs moist is to wrap them in a wet paper towel before putting them in a plastic bag and storing them in the crisper section of your fridge. Keep checking that the towel is moist, although don’t let it get too wet. If you don’t like the idea of using paper towels for environmental reasons, a small flannel towel or dishcloth is just as effective.
Freeze them
Freezing herbs helps if you have sprigs of herbs that you just don’t have time to use, or want to save for the off-season. Even if the color of the herbs change, you can prolong their life by up to six months using freezing techniques. GoodHousekeeping suggests that you strip the leaves from the stem, wash and dry them and then put them in a freezer bag before placing them in the freezer. Blanching the herbs in hot water for about a minute before cooling further enhances the quality of the preservation process. Alternatively, North Carolina State University states herbs can be frozen by first chopping them, then placing them in an ice cube tray with water to freeze, then placing the frozen cubes into an air-tight container or freezer bags.
Of course you can always dry herbs and prolong their use that way. To do this, invert bunches of herbs from their tied stems and hang until dry in a cool, dark location. The resulting taste is not quite the same as when preserving fresh herbs, but dried herbs still add plenty of flavor and are frequently used in culinary arts.
Don’t refrain from buying fresh herbs because of the cost. There are plenty of ways of keeping costs to a minimum if you think ahead.