The Frugal Café | Photo credit: 

Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Kitchen DIY: Salt-Free Herb/Spice Blends for Salt Substitutes

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Of all the things that you should be almost unwaveringly frugal about, one definitely is to resist temptation and not buy any food products that are pre-made. While that may sound impossible, the truth is that many pre-made food products can be made easily at home by average cooks for a fraction of the cost that they're sold in grocery stores.

Kitchen DIY: Save your hard-earned cash by making your own inexpensive salt substitutes

Salt substitutes are a good example. If for medical or personal reasons, you are on a salt-free or low-salt diet, you may have looked at the various packaged salt substitutes at the grocery store. The rising cost of commercial salt-free, or non-salt, herb/spice blends is eye popping. There seems to be a lot less skill involved in their creation when compared to the culinary expertise demanded of frozen pastries or pre-made dinner entrées.

The price paid for a pre-made, sodium-free bottle that contains a scant few ounces of common dried vegetable flakes, herbs, and spices is steep. And, not at all necessary for you to spend.

The price markup can be justified: it pays for the manufacturer's overhead, such as ingredients, equipment, facility costs, company employees, advertising, marketing, packaging, transporting, researching, and developing. While these are normal and understandable costs that consumers must shoulder, why does it have to be YOU shouldering them? Why can't you save up to 70 percent (sometimes even more) of a food item's cost by making a salt substitute yourself? Well, you can, of course.

Yes, you can do it. Using dried herbs and spices you likely already have in your spice cabinet, you can do-it-yourself (DIY) and not only help yourself health-wise, but money-wise. At the bottom of this article are a number of salt-free recipes.

Use your homemade salt substitute within 6-9 months for best flavor (if kept cool and out of sunlight, it could stay potent much longer). Use on all kinds of meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. It can even be shaken onto bread and butter or olive oil, toasted lightly under the broiler, and is a lovely accompaniment to a lunchtime soup.

Frugal Gift-Giving for Restricted Diets

Do you have a friend or relative who is on a restricted, salt-free diet? Make a few of these salt-free herb blends, label them in nice lettering (or use the computer for interesting fonts), put them in attractive shaker-type bottles (you can reuse your empty spice and herb bottles for this), and presto—a unique gift for them that they will use and appreciate.

Herb Gardens

If you have an herb garden, terrific! You can use your organic herbs for these salt-free blends. Be sure to thoroughly clean and dry the herbs and remove any woody stems. Drying can take a few days, but is easily accomplished in a toaster oven set on a low temperature (150 deg F is good), or hung with string in a cool, dark place for a few days. It is important that the fresh herbs are completely dry so that they won't impart any moisture into the blend.

For more details and directions on drying fresh herbs, click here.

Points to Note

Here are a few recipes you can try. They are all flavorful, salt-free, and take advantage of a variety of herbs and spices. Each recipe makes between 1/3 to 2/3 cups. Use these as a springboard to concoct your own salt-free herb blend recipes. You can experiment with different combinations of herbs and spices to find one or more that you like. Be aware that none of these will do what salt does, but for adding flavor to otherwise bland foods, they are excellent.

You may notice that the ingredients for these salt-free blends are very similar, and you're right. Not all dried herbs and spices work well together in this kind of blend, so it will be up to your taste buds to determine which blend is your favorite, and which will make you not miss using salt at all.

There is no special preparation for any of these. Just combine the ingredients in a given recipe in a small bowl, mix them together well, and then put the concoction into a glass jar, bottle, or container for storage. Plastic isn't recommended because it can absorb the oils in the herbs and spices, which draws it from the blend. Old glass salt shakers that you can find for a song at the thrift store are suitable, although they are not air-tight, so the flavors will start to diminish more quickly. Glass bottles with shaker tops AND lids are the best choice.

FYI: Don't store these herb blends above the stove. They'll lose their flavor quickly from the heat if you do. The same holds true for all dried herbs and spices. Additionally, to prevent the mixtures from caking in the container, you can add some uncooked grains of rice to prevent caking. The rice will absorb moisture. This works best if you're using a shaker-style bottle or jar. Otherwise, be cautious about shaking grains of dried rice into a food dish that shouldn't have them.


Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #1: Onion-Garlic Blend

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #2: Mediterranean Blend

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #3: Spicy Fiesta Blend

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #4: Mondo Blend

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #5 – "Mrs. Dash "Clone" Blend

Note: This one reportedly tastes similar to the commercial Mrs. Dash salt-substitute herb mixture.

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #6: Wowey-Zowey Blend

 

Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #7: Mother Earth Blend

 

 

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Sources:
Astray, (http://www.astray.com/recipes/; originally from Pillsbury Classic Cookbook), "Money-Saving Meals," January 1992.
CDKitchen website, (http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/1264/HerbS).
Hints from Heloise website, (http://www.heloise.com/recipes.html#no_salt_subs).
Homecooking, (http://homecooking.about.com/od/spicerecipes/r/blspice1.htm).