I have been shopping at Penzeys Spices in Clackamas (there are three stores in the Portland area and one in Seattle — find a location near you here) for years, and I am one happy customer. At first, the store is easy to miss. The one on SE 82nd Avenue in Clackamas, Oregon is tucked in an unappealing little strip mall with a nail salon on one side and WinCo’s shadow on the other. Don’t let the outside fool you, though. The store is very clean & nicely organized, the employees are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the spices…
Oh, the spices. They are arranged in alphabetical order so you start out sniffing jars of ground anise or cloves and move down the line to rosemary and thyme. You can compare four different cinnamons or six different curries, four different paprikas or two different basils.
One of the employees warned us that their spices are so much fresher than the run-of-the-mill grocery store variety that you often only need to use half of what is called for in a recipe. The spices look & smell fresh; it’s easy to tell the difference. The employees are knowledgeable and eager to point you in the right direction. They also sell a wide variety of soup bases, mixes, seasonings, extracts, peppers, and salts.
After we were done sniffing our way through the store, I headed over to WinCo to compare prices. The contrast was pretty obvious: Penzeys products were strong and vibrant; WinCo’s bulk spices were weak and faded and have been in the bins for awhile. Also, the way WinCo’s smaller spice bins are set up, you pull the handle and the spices pour out of the end. The new product always gets added to the top so you’re buying the stuff that’s been in the bin for the longest time.
WinCo’s bulk section prices blow everything else out of the water. However, Penzeys’ prices (sold by the jar or the bag, which is cheaper) are actually cheaper than the closest comparative (McCormick’s) that you can find on the grocery store’s shelves. Combining sales & coupons around the winter holidays is the best time to buy spices, but during the rest of the year a spice store can be a great alternative with competitive pricing.
If you live in the greater Portland area, now is a great time to check out Penzeys Spices for yourself.
Signing up for their catalog is a great way to get high-value Penzeys coupons mailed to your home. Check them out and tell us what you think!
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