A Variety of Spices are the Spice of Life

Any prepper worth their salt* is going to have a good supply of long term food storage. While many preserved foods may be good at stability and nutritive value, they don’t always get high marks for flavor, and a week of eating bland but healthy meals can have a serious effect on morale and general outlook. After all, there’s a reason military MREs come with those little bottles of tabasco sauce.
* I see what you did there, David.  -- The Editrix

Many herbs and spices, if kept in a cool dark place in well-sealed containers with oxygen absorbers, can be preserved long term and still maintain good flavor. This is because the two biggest causes of loss of flavor in spices are oxygen and light.

Tips for preparing longer term spice storage:

  • Buy spices with expiration dates as far out as possible.
  • Keep the container sealed.
  • If the container is opened, use a dehydrator or the oven set on low to force out as much moisture as possible.
  • Each container should have its own fresh oxygen absorber.
  • Store the spices in a cool dark place.

If working with fresh herbs and spices:

  • Wash them carefully.
  • Pluck any wilted leaves.
  • Remove the stems.
  • Remove as much moisture as possible in a dehydrator or the oven set on low.
  • Seal in containers no larger than necessary.
  • Each container should have its own fresh oxygen absorber.
  • Store the spices in a cool dark place.

With proper care, a vacuum sealer can be used to store larger quantities of spices.

A glimpse into the author's spice cabinet

While the variety of spices is legion, certain seasonings are more frequently encountered. As everyone has different preferences, the spices chosen can vary significantly.

Probably the most common spice used throughout the world is salt, to the point it’s part of common parlance. Look back at my first sentence for one example; another is referring to something necessary but boring as “Like rice without salt.” Roman legions even received part of their pay in salt, from which the word salary is derived. 

Modern table salt is not just simple NaCl, but has anti-caking agents and iodine added for storage and health purposes respectively. (The reason we often see a few grains of rice in a salt shaker is they act as a basic moisture absorber.) Salt is fairly easy to store long term, and is unlikely to lose any flavor.

Black pepper is almost certainly the next most common spice.  Ground pepper's flavor will deteriorate over time once unsealed: leaving peppers in kernel form increases storage life, but adds another complication in the need for a grinder.

Other Spices
Depending on individual taste, both garlic powder and ginger powder are two excellent choices as they add a good amount of flavor for their volume. Though, is there ever such a thing as enough garlic?

Chili powder, paprika, and cinnamon (either stick or ground) are other spices that offer a good bang for the buck and bulk. The first two also come in a wide variety and can be tailored to appropriate foods and cooking method.

When storing leafy spices, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme, keep in mind that they will lose flavor more quickly, and possibly develop mold, if not very thoroughly dehydrated. For home use, herbs and spices can be stored in the freezer for quite a while without loss of flavor, though some will suffer in appearance.

Remember, the plural of spice is spice, and also spices.