Dear Readers: Here come some spice and herb basics — spices/herbs 101! Keep the following hints in mind when using and storing spices or herbs:

• After using a spice or herb, replace the lid immediately to keep moisture out.

• Moisture, light and heat are the enemies of spices and herbs. Don't store them above the stove, oven, dishwasher or sink, where heat and moisture are prevalent. Instead, a dark pantry or cabinet is the perfect place.

• Don't use seasonings over a steaming pot — moisture will cause them to clump and become unusable due to the heat and moisture. Sprinkle on a spoon or your hand, then add to the pot.

• If spices smell bad or are off in color, don't use them. Remember, if in doubt, throw it out!

• Spices do have a shelf life. Leafy herbs last approximately six months to a year; whole spices can last up to five years when stored correctly; and ground spices can have a shelf life of anywhere from one to two years.

I hope these help you get your spice dollar's worth. Have you been in the middle of a recipe and realize you don't have a needed ingredient? I have the solution for you — my four-page pamphlet that includes substitutions, seasoning and spice recipes. It will help you out in a pinch.

To receive a copy, please send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (58 cents) envelope to: Heloise/SSS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Here's a substitution bonus: Need brown sugar and don't have any? In a pinch, you can substitute 1 cup granulated sugar with 4 tablespoons dark molasses (mix with fork to distribute the molasses evenly before using). Did you know that the amount of molasses added to granulated sugar is what makes brown sugar either light or dark? — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I love real butter on fresh bread. To get the butter on the bread without breaking it, I use my cheese slicer. I have the type that shaves the cheese. This works perfectly. A couple of butter shavings on hot bread is heavenly. — Jo in Louisiana

Dear Heloise: I purchase two 48-ounce bottles of applesauce, one cinnamon-and-sugar applesauce and the other with no sugar. I then combine both of these together, which gives me a sufficient amount of applesauce for a week or so to eat when I am feeling hungry, instead of eating foods with high fat content. I know I am not adding unnecessary calories to my balanced meals. — Anna Victoria Reich, Stafford, Va.

Dear Heloise: Every holiday, my wife makes fudge for her sisters and brothers (six siblings), and every year she has a hard time cutting it into cubes.

This year, I said in a joking way, just use the pizza cutter. She gave a look like yeah, right! But to her surprise, she tried it and it really worked out great! — Dave R., Amsterdam, N.Y.

© King Features Syndicate Inc.