Moth and Toad Apothecary

Herbalism, self-sufficiency, and low-waste living

How to Build an At-Home Apothecary on a Budget

Herbalism is often talked about as an inexpensive alternative or complement to western healthcare; however, for an involved herbalist looking to build up their stores of the best herbal medicines available, it can get quite expensive. This is especially true for anyone creating herbal products to share or sell! I’ve learned that there are a few ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality, and I’d love to share them with you today in this post, how to build an at-home apothecary on a budget!

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Prioritize Your Needs

By prioritizing what you need now versus what can wait, you’ll automatically cut down on costs. I often find myself filling up my online cart with herbs I expect to need in a few weeks or months, or want to create something with, but don’t need at this very moment. I always end up moving these kinds of herbs to my wishlist before checking out. Not only will this help you keep your apothecary budget down, it will also ensure you are using up the best quality, freshest herbs available instead of a bunch of old forgotten ones in the back of the pantry.

Buy in Bulk–Or Don’t

If you know you’re going to be going through an herb especially quickly (in a tea or as a staple ingredient in a soap, for example) it’s wise to buy in bulk. However, if you will not be using a large amount of a given herb, I suggest buying it in smaller quantities. There are several herbs I have purchased in bulk and used very little of, making my large purchase wasteful and costly. Knowing what I know now, I tend to start with 4 oz. of any given herb, and increase the amount if I go through it quickly.

Sales and Coupons

Avoid buying herbs just because there is a good deal, or because there is a sale. Dried herbs remain the most medicinally potent for an average of two years when stored in a cool, dark, dry place. If you are buying herbs just to have in case you need them, they’re bound to start losing their medicine before you get around to preserving or otherwise using them. You can get around this by preserving them immediately through infusions and tinctures, but you will still be at the behest of whatever expiration date your chosen menstruum (preserving/extracting liquid) has. I do not recommend buying powdered ingredients in this scenario, simply because the medicinal components of the herb would be more exposed to light and air than whole herbs would be.

Instead of impulse buying herbs during sales, make a list of herbs you would like to use in the near future, or herbs you are running low on, and purchase these herbs during sale times. You can even set aside money specifically for this list. I subscribe to the newsletters of my favourite apothecaries to ensure I know when to check my list for deals. I suggest getting on these newsletters for sale alerts and restock updates on herbs, oils, and more:

Budget Monthly

Set aside a small amount of money every month to spend on herbs, tools, oils, etc. It doesn’t have to be a large sum of money to be productive! Start saving up now to make the most of your monthly income. My suggestion is to save at least $40 a month (approximately $10/week) if possible. If you have the means to increase this amount, feel free to do so! But don’t spend money you don’t have!

Thrift Where You Can

You can build up your apothecary tools by thrifting! I love using facebook marketplace, Mercari, and used book sites like Biblio and Thriftbooks to source my supplies. There will always be something you can thrift when you’re patient enough to search. Thrift stores often have appliances including coffee grinders, blenders, French presses, and more!

Make Do With What You Have

Up until recently, I used a mortar and pestle to grind my herbs, because it’s what I had available to me. It was a pain in the butt, but it got the job done! Similarly, make do with what you have in all areas of stocking your apothecary. Can’t find large amber jars for your shelves? Save and clean pasta sauce jars and keep them away from light behind a cupboard door. Struggling to source a strainer for your oil infusions? Use that coffee press that’s been sitting under your counter for ages! Find unique solutions to your problems as they arise, and don’t be afraid to improvise! You can create many basic tools using nontraditional ones and end up with excellent results.

Barter and Trade

If there’s an herb you’d like to have, check around local herbalist/gardener circles for someone who might be growing it or have extra to spare. More often than not, someone will be more than happy to trade you! Another great benefit to this is the friendships and connections you’ll get to make along the way. Join facebook groups for herbalists, gardeners, and homesteaders for far reaching opportunities to make friends and trade goods!

Grow Your Own Herbs

If you happen to have a particularly green thumb and a large enough space, consider growing the herbs you plan on using the most. Most herbs can be grown in containers, and some do well year round when kept inside! Start small if you need to and build up your garden over time. Avoid biting off more than you can chew by germinating only a few types of herbs at one time, and always having a plan for care and troubleshooting. Gardening groups on facebook tend to be excellent sources of help and inspiration.

Keep Your Hopes High and Your Patience Handy

Whether you’re new to herbalism or a long-time learner, you can build your apothecary at home with these tips! Go slow and steady and remember to be patient with yourself and your pantry! It can take years to create a smooth rotating pantry of food, and herbs are no different. I hope these guidelines help you to create a beautiful apothecary right in your own home!

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