The Bay Leaf Budget
I'm not a cheapskate. Really! I'm willing to pay a premium for clean, sustainable food especially if I can't harvest it myself. But when we ran out of Turkish bay leaves, my husband John purchased a new bottle to restock our supply for ..... $7.99! No, he did not purchase an organic variety which could command an extreme price. In fact, he is an expert at scouting out the best cost per volume on spices at the grocery store. He is the one who showed me to look beyond the usual display on the spices rack the top brands prefer you purchase and to check out the ethnic and bulk sections in the same store to figure out the best buy. If your market is anything like ours, these spice packaging choices could be in several different locations in the store.
Does $7.99 not sound expensive to you for what I counted was 25 leaves to the bottle?
Being an accountant's daughter I have this crazy knack for itemizing the cost of things. That can be a good thing if I'm trying to justify the purchase of a cute pair of shoes, let's just say. But it can also be a curse depending on your perspective. By my calculation each of those purchased leaves has a value of 32 cents a piece. Those leaves had better release the best essence ever, but my guess is their performance will only be average.
Several years ago, my next door neighbor who I was just getting to know invited me to pluck a few bay leaves off her potted California Bay Laurel plant. Before seeing her plant, I hadn't given much thought about the plant in which they came from. Her leaves were just as useful as the bottled kind, however with this regional variety it has a stronger, eucalyptus flavor.
Remembering the experience with my neighbor, I headed to the nursery and inquired about buying my own Bay Laurel plant. Surely, the cost of the plant would more than pay for itself for years to come. The nurseryman walked me over to a gorgeous hedge of leaves...no exaggeration! The bushy plant has the capability of growing to the size of a privacy fence if given the right environment. Realizing the promise of one plant producing so many leaves only reinforced my desire to outwit my previous bottled supplier.
"I'll buy one please." I purchased a small starter bush for.....$7.99. And yes, I have counted how many leaves it has on its lovely branches. There are over 80! I'm already ahead of the game. Since we don't go through bay leaves all that quickly, my plan is to pot the plant as my neighbor has to limit its potential size.
I wasn't looking for this challenge. But then again who does? Sometimes it takes something to get under your skin to prompt a solution or change. Overpaying for bay leaves was mine.