28 Survival Spices & Oils, or How to Avoid Tastebud Fatigue

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Whenever one of the kids is sick, I prepare the blandest possible food for them — something like unflavored oatmeal. They eat it because they’re hungry but they certainly don’t enjoy it!

What would it be like to eat bland food every day? It wouldn’t be fun, and it sure wouldn’t be enjoyable! But eating bland food for a while could happen to those ill-prepared for a disaster, especially if supplies were difficult to find.

And, because naturally bland foods like rice and beans top the list of so-called “survival” foods, it’s important to make sure your emergency food pantry contains spices, herbs, and other seasonings to brighten up those boring meals.

When you think about what kinds of spices, herbs, oils, and other staples are important to have on hand for cooking, here are a few that would be on my ‘must-have’ list.

  1. Kosher salt
  2. Sea salt (read this article for why it’s important)
  3. Herbes de Provence
  4. Ground black pepper or black peppercorns
  5. Ground cumin
  6. Ground chili powder
  7. Garlic powder
  8. Ground cinnamon
  9. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  10. Ground ginger
  11. Baking powder
  12. Baking soda
  13. Balsamic vinegar
  14. Soy sauce
  15. Onion powder
  16. Dried parsley
  17. Ground turmeric
  18. Dried onion flakes
  19. Granulated sugar
  20. Celery seed
  21. Celery salt
  22. Beef bouillon
  23. Chicken bouillon
  24. Extra virgin olive oil
  25. Canola oil
  26. Molasses
  27. Corn Starch
  28. Brown sugar
  29. Hoisin Sauce

Now, you may wonder why you’d want such a vast array of spices and seasonings. The reason is it could get boring very quickly eating the same thing over and over.

Spices Like Fashion?

With spices and seasonings, you can mix and match, like with outfits. If you wear the same red shirt day in and out, you’ll soon tire of it (and so will others). But if you have a vest or blazer to wear over the red shirt, or a different color shirt, or different shoes, you’re creating a different look.

Variety is Key

We humans tire of eating the same thing day in and day out. You don’t want to eat pork roast all week. But if there’s a good sale on pork, you can have the roast with sweet potatoes one day, then serve it with brown rice, homemade applesauce, and brown gravy the next day, and mix it up by serving a pork and vegetable stir fry the following day. Even rice and beans can become something amazing with my recipe for Rice and Beans With a Bam! So, prep your pantry with some good ingredients and spices. Your family will be very grateful you did.

Pricey Spices

Remember in the olden days, when spices were very, very expensive? So pricey that only royalty and nobles could afford spices? Even salt was dear and hard to get. Yes, spices can get expensive. But, if you order in bulk and split the spices and shipping cost among spice-ordering friends, your wallet won’t hurt as much. These are things to think about when prepping for any kind of disaster; whether it’s a hurricane or worse.

 

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

55 thoughts on “28 Survival Spices & Oils, or How to Avoid Tastebud Fatigue”

  1. I totally agree with you- adding a little spices to a dish can really help/enhance the flavor. I like the idea of going in with some other folks to buy the spices/herbs in bulk. They can last quite a while too.

  2. We have a bit of spices, but nowhere near as many as you do. Your family should be happy. 🙂 I have to admit that I probably have more cinnamon than anyone is likely to use in a five to ten year period, but it's cheap at Costco. If we never use it, the lose of under $20 won't hurt our family finances. If things do fall apart, all that extra cinnamon could be great for bartering. Plus, as I believe another thread detailed, there are lots of medicinal uses for cinnamon (and honey).

    Certain spices (some peppers in particular, I believe) can be used to keep insects and pests away as well as improving your diet. Some flowers (including roses and tulips) are both pretty and edible – provided, of course, you don't spray them with all kind of chemicals – so if you already have those in your yard, you might want to find some old recipes for them.

    1. Liz,__LOL! You're right, I am a bit of a spice collector. Except that I use my collection. 🙂 ____Oh, but cinnamon is one of my favorite, go-to spices! Sprinkled on oatmeal, in cookies and other desserts, and even in entrees, cinnamon is one of a cook's best friends.____Love your idea about using herbs grown in our backyard etc. in our food. Definitely something to check into and research are old recipes. I'm going to look into that pronto…thanks for the idea!

    2. Liz,__LOL! You're right, I am a bit of a spice collector. Except that I use my collection. 🙂 ____Oh, but cinnamon is one of my favorite, go-to spices! Sprinkled on oatmeal, in cookies and other desserts, and even in entrees, cinnamon is one of a cook's best friends.____Love your idea about using herbs grown in our backyard etc. in our food. Definitely something to check into and research are old recipes. I'm going to look into that pronto…thanks for the idea!

  3. This is something we may overlook in these trying times. I buy many of my spices at Costco. Most often, they are large containers but if unopened, they will stay fresh for a long while. While it is essential that we make sure we have a pantry that can sustain us for up to three months (I feel or longer, possibly); we mustn't forget these items. What a difference they can make.

    Thank you for the list, and for thinking of this! Great post!

  4. Great List! No self respecting kitchen can work without them! I might add Basil and Oregano, plus real Vanilla, essentials in my kitchen. Maybe a good Curry blend or Chinese five spice could be added to your list as well. Then you can really get exotic! Down with boredom!!

    1. Olivia,
      Basil and Oregano definitely need to be added to the list. How did they get left off <smacks head>!? Oh, yes, we must have real Vanilla. I actually make a very good vanilla, but it takes about 6 months to make. Hmmm…curry blend for the adults in our house; I don't think the kids would go for it yet. Chinese five spice powder–love it! Great ideas, Olivia!

        1. I think maybe you need to do another post on how to make basics like vanilla, yeast, and baking soda. That'll make that info easier to re-find, and I know it would be good to have for me!

        2. I think maybe you need to do another post on how to make basics like vanilla, yeast, and baking soda. That'll make that info easier to re-find, and I know it would be good to have for me!

  5. Spices give you a chance to have fun with any dish. Cooking loses it's fun when you don't experiment and try new things.

    Comparing them with fashion is a great concept!

    1. Nathan,
      Absolutely….we must spice our food up, else things would get boring rather quickly. And, when watches the professional chefs in action (like on Iron Chef), that's when you really see why I thought of comparing changing the food offerings up to fashion. What beautiful food they cook up in that kitchen!

  6. Janet Gouvas

    MY question is, what is the shelf life of baking powder and baking soda? If you had to rely on your supply for a really long period of time what could you use in place of them if they were no longer active? I keep my yeast in the freezer and it stays actiive for a lot longer but never thought to do the same for baking powder or baking soda. Would that make a difference, I wonder? Now I'm starting to think about making yeast and such. Of course it can be done but I will have to start researching for directions. Then there is sourdough starter, which I can do if I must. Lots more to think about. Hmmmm.

  7. Bamabelle,
    Hmmm. Everyone keeps talking about Costco; I may have to look into shopping there once my BJ's membership expires. I know most spices have an expiration date on them; I don't think I'd keep spices after they've been open a year.

    Glad you enjoyed the list!

    1. I have stock piled spices for years because we had three teenage boys who always had friends over for diner. We seemed to always be cooking for an army so I still have some spices I purchased over 5 years ago that I use now. They seem to be fine for me and my hubby… well he hasn’t died yet lol

  8. I keep my dried hot peppers in an opaque glass jar in the refrigerator. That way the don't discolor and they maintain their freshness. Aslo, I never keep any of my spices or oils out on the counter or displayed near my stove. Light and Heat kill spices and oils. We re-did our kitchen a couple of years ago and I now keep m oils which are in tall containers in a deep bottom drawer.
    Dump you stale baking soda into a wash load. It's great for softening the water and freshening the wash water.

  9. Good tips, Kelly.
    I never gave much thought to spices for a disaster, but it makes good sense. Like many, only the food itself came to mind. I'm a picky eater and grow tired of foods quickly (leftovers the next day only, if at all). I love cooking and experimenting with various spices, so what would I do in an emergency with no spices?

    Thanks for this!

    1. Thanks, Jimi!
      Well, I wouldn't consider myself a picky eater BUT in a way I guess I am. I too tire of eating the same meals frequently, so I'm always on the hunt for new recipes that will delight both kids and adults.
      As far as being in a situation where you didn't have any spices, I'd say you're out of luck. I'm assuming you'd probably have pepper and salt on hand. Think of the pioneers who had to make do with only salt and pepper, and sometimes granulated sugar. They made it work, but I don't think you'd read about them having amazing and delicious food. LOL.
      You'd have to barter for some spices with a neighbor in an emergency, I'd imagine. But that's the beauty of thinking about this kind of thing before a disaster happens. You have time to plan what spices you want to buy for your pantry.

    2. Thanks, Jimi!
      Well, I wouldn't consider myself a picky eater BUT in a way I guess I am. I too tire of eating the same meals frequently, so I'm always on the hunt for new recipes that will delight both kids and adults.
      As far as being in a situation where you didn't have any spices, I'd say you're out of luck. I'm assuming you'd probably have pepper and salt on hand. Think of the pioneers who had to make do with only salt and pepper, and sometimes granulated sugar. They made it work, but I don't think you'd read about them having amazing and delicious food. LOL.
      You'd have to barter for some spices with a neighbor in an emergency, I'd imagine. But that's the beauty of thinking about this kind of thing before a disaster happens. You have time to plan what spices you want to buy for your pantry.

  10. Mike,
    It's amazing how a little spice can jazz up what would be an otherwise plain dish!
    We go through a lot of dried chili powder and cumin in our household….in fact, it's time to see how many friends are in the same boat so we can do a bulk order!

  11. Janet,
    From what I can tell, the manufacturer of baking soda recommends you go by the expiration date on the box. Apparently there's not a good test to see if it's still 'good,' at least from what I read online. I'm not sure if keeping baking soda in the fridge makes it last longer or not. I'll have to research that. Now, with sourdough starter you're starting to intrigue me. This makes me want to go to the library and check out some old recipe books. The pioneer women had lots of fun and interesting ways to rustle up bread (and dinner). I love sourdough bread but haven't made it yet. Yes, there's lots to do and think about.

  12. Glad to see we've got most of those in our kitchen! 🙂
    I think some of my best meals have come from experimenting with different spices or doing something different to a usual recipe. After cooking something new the first time I'm always seeing what else I can do with it from there.
    I like your idea of using something like pork as a meal base and being able to do something different with it each meal.

    1. Greg,
      Isn't it fun to experiment with entrees? I love the different tastes of the food that comes from doing so. But with baking, experimenting is much more difficult. I generally have to experiment a few times before coming up with a good outcome. Oh, and pork, chicken, or beef always have at least a second life in our house. We love tasty leftovers! 🙂

  13. Wow, great ideas! That is a great point you made about light and heat killing spices and oils. For those that don't have deep bottom drawers, I imagine the pantry is a good place as well to store spices and oils.

  14. Don,t forget bayleaves. They can be used for spicing up a dish as well as keeping out bugs in your long term storage containers of dry foods.

  15. Janet- Baking soda is nearly like diamonds- good forever. (well, not quite, but nearly.) Keep it clean and dry and it's good for 50 yrs. Cream of tartar is similar, keeping for at least 20 years if kept in a tight container. Mix them together and you get Baking Powder! Soda is an alkali, and Cream of Tartar is acid. Add moisture, and you get reaction. (trillions of tiny foamy bubbles that cause foods to raise.) Baking powder dies easily from age and humidity. For long term storage, keep the Soda and Cream of Tartar separately and learn to mix no more than a month's use at a time. Freshly made works so wonderfully, anyway. There are favorite mix ratios different places on-line. Find one you like.
    Yeast can be gathered from the air (wild yeast). Grate raw potatoes (use them for hashbrowns) rinse in warm water. Add a few pinches of sugar to the water and sit in a breezy windowsill. When it gets all foamy, that's your yeast starter. (If you get black or red foam, throw it out. That's an icky yeast.) Dry that foam. Several batches will be enough to make a sourdough starter.

    1. Thanks Barbara,
      I guess I knew about mixing the baking soda and cream of tartar but I forgot about it. I knew the yeast was made somehow from potatoes but not how. I really have to try this.

  16. rightwingmom

    Tabasco sauce and cilantro are a MUST!
    This southerner can live quite a while on pinto beans and cornbread, if I have my Tabasco!
    HOT IS GOOD!

  17. Also note that herbs and spices keep you healthy too. That is another good reason to keep them around. It adds more than just flavor! The cheapest way to get them is to grow and dry your own. That helps.

  18. Life is just one BIG learning curve! I wasn't aware of the baking soda/cream of tartar trick.
    Thanks, Barbara!

  19. Karen Isaacson

    Several of my 'gotta haves' are not on the list. Rosemary and bay leaves are what I use to season anything with beef, and even if it's beans with beef boullion, you can improve the taste with those two. Tamari, sesame oil, and chili oil give food an Asian touch with enough heat for most folks. Cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice and ground ginger [4:1:1:1] make a good addition to just about any fruit dish…

    1. More great suggestions! Thanks! A lot of the herbs on the list can easily be homegrown and then dehydrated. My rosemary plants are looking awesome, as is our oregano and various basil plants. Somehow I managed to kill the cilantro. I can't make salsa with cilantro, so I'll be giving a second try. Your Asian combo sounds delicious!

  20. I also stock up the fast food freebie condiments. I buy my coffee in large cans and then clean them when they're empty. I always get extras at fast food restaurants (even though we avoid fast food as much as possible). For instance, Taco Bell's sauce packs, Arby's sauce, Chinese restaurants soy sauce, these are all free and I fill up the empty coffee cans with them, as well as the pepper, salt, ketchup, etc. I figure if you're eating rice and dried beans for the tenth time you will appreciate some taco or soy sauce to change up the flavor.

    1. Don't forget Domino's! You can get packets of Parmesan Cheese and Red Pepper with your pizza. I learned this from DH – it never would've occurred to me to ask, even though they're common condiments at pizza restaurants.

    1. There are some foods that should be stored in small containers, and spices are one of them. Otherwise, you end up constantly opening and resealing, like you mention. I've been saving my empty spice bottles for things like this. When I dry herbs or make my own tomato powder, I put them in a spice shaker bottle, and it works very well.

  21. I have everything on your list…and then some! Ha ha. If you shop at Sam's or Costco grab a big bottle of Mrs. Dash. It works wonders on many foods. Oyster Sauce is another condiment that works well with all kinds of meat and fish.

  22. What a great article. I had barely thought about it. I only have 3 spices in bulk on your list. I need to get busy and make my list!

  23. I bought a 1 lb. bag of whole nutmeg seeds at a food coop about 30 years ago along with a nutmeg grater, and have been using them ever since. I'll probably have a few pods left to pass along to my heirs! The aroma of freshly ground nutmeg is irresistible.

    Dried whole chilies and red pepper flakes last a long time stored out of sunlight.

    I third or fourth the vote for bay leaves, hether in a pot of beans or lentils, a beef stew, or any number of soups. I found a bay plant at the nursery a few years ago; it kept me in fresh leaves for three years before my brown thumb overcame it.

    Coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, whole allspice and cardamom seeds will all keep pretty much indefinitely and are basics in a lot of ethnic foods. So is turmeric, reputed to have many health benefits. It adds a wonderful yellow color to rice dishes.

    Mustard seeds are cheap in bulk and make course-ground mustard or dried ground mustard. They also seem to have an indefinite shelf life.

    I love tarragon to flavor some chicken dishes. It doesn't store particularly well, but if you have an herb garden, you might consider adding it.

  24. I've found the grocery stores quite expensive. I shop at Penzey's spices in the stores or on line. Spices are top quality, prices are very, very frugal and they always have a coupon for something with their monthly catalog. Additionally, there's always a sample with your order when you order on line. These people are committed to customer service.
    Flavorings (mint, chocolate, orange, raspberry, lemon) are another good thing to have on hand. Use in making candy, cookies, cakes and other baked goods. Even in hard times, people will want treats and these could be easily bartered.

  25. YAH !!!! Finally – Spices….. I have brought this up many times on other sites. All spices are good, and the more the marrier. I buy for the ones I like, specialty ones, Medical, everything I can think of. Some I have also seeds to grow them, but some are not easy to get – so those I stock up more on. I have some Ground, and many Whole Seeds to last longer.

    After reading the postings- I didn’t see: Pickeling Spices, regular White & Cider Vinagar, (Peppercorns: White, black, pink, and green), (Hot peppers: Cayanne, Jalapeno’s, all the peppers that you like or think that you might want to cook with in hard times). Mustard seeds (Yellow, and Brown), Horseradish, Wasabi, ect. And Peppermint/Mint (if you like to cook with it, or make tea).

    Any how, get the Herbs & Spices you use, or if you went out -what they use. Don’t forget “Medical Herbs”, and get the Seeds so that you can grow them in hard times. Pick up some Extracts of the flavors you like or would use.

    Also don’t forget “powders”: Molassas, Soy Sauce, Butter milk, Juices, Peanut butter, Cheeses, Broths/Gravy’s, Dressings, Honey, Goat Milk, Sour Cream, Sweet Cream, Butter, Margerine, Cooking Oil, Vinegars, Maple, Sugar (white, & brown), Vanilla, BBQ sauce, -ect.

    — I am looking for Misu & Tofu powder, so if you happen to know where to get it- let me know.

    Thanks.

  26. Go to ethnic markets , specifically Asian and middle eastern for cheap bulk spices . Russian if you have a hard time finding roasted buckwheat . Being from the southwest , I have PLENTY of Chili powders and dried chilis of all kinds , Avoid the california powders and can order the new mexico powder , you will notice a difference . Here in AZ , we have easy access to that kind of thing but all areas of the country have their specialties . I dont have parsley because it has no flavor dry , so substituted with oregano and basil .

  27. I cook about 70% Chinese & Japanese, adding Korean after the husband spent 6 months there on deployment. This includes 11 black from use woks, Asian pots, and some of my cast iron works for hot pots, stews, etc. I also have a big cabinet of C & J plates, bowels, way too many chopsticks, etc. I also cook Middle East, Mediterraneanand Moroccan with 2 beautiful Tagines. I also love working with ancient ‘recipes’ and methods of cooking, we’re adding a tannur clay oven (1000-500BC) ancient Roman home stove & traveling stove, 1700’s earthen/ adobe oven… Fun.

    I was raised with a lot of traditional Native American foods, and old, traditional from scratch American and SW cattle ranch foods, as I’m NA with a little French Canadian and Welsh, raised on a cattle ranch. My parents & I never liked processed foods. So combined, I have a LOT of single spices, spice blends, and sauces, last count was 83 plus duplicates in the pantry.

    There is a site, Weekend Baker https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/rye-sourdough-starter-in-easy-steps/ who has an almost foolproof starter, even I did not kill it, and he does a *minimal feeding* routine. Instead of using/wasting (you toss half on every refresh) many dozens of pounds of flour over a year, by my figures, math & I are NOT friends, and using fresh ground rye flour, I’d be tossing about 12-20 lb. He’s easy to understand, lots of pictures, my starter took 2 extra days to start, but the taste of the breads is fantastic. No rye taste, but an added depth to whatever flour we used. There’s an extra step, but to save a bucket of rye a year, it’s worth it.

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