Thursday, January 10, 2019

Substitutes CAN BE.... Frugal, Fun & Flavorful

We have all had those moments when working on a recipe or dinner and BOOM we realize that we are out of something that seems to be a key ingredient.  WHAT DO YOU DO?
Do you stop and make an extra run out to the store?
Do you scrap the whole thing?
Do you figure out a functional substitute?

I like figuring out a substitute.  I think some of my best meals/bakes have come from experimenting with a new ingredient!
Nothing is etched in stone.  Don't be afraid of trying new and different things.

  • I like to add fruit juice or Kool-Aid mix  to homemade tea to jazz up the flavor.  Fancy flavored teas cost a small fortune - and it is so easy to make your own.  You can make them as strong or light in flavor as you wish
  • Use fruit juice, leftover juice from canned fruits, stale pop, etc. as part of the liquid in Jell-O.  Gives you a new and lovely taste.
  • Remember that you can grind your oats to make oat flour if necessary for a recipe.  No need to go out and spend a lot on a bag of oat flour you may not use.
  • Add leftover (smashed) baked beans to meatloaf or meatballs.  They are yummy and they are so moist.  Also think about topping a burger with some cheese and baked beans.  Smashed baked beans can be added to chocolate cake recipes (as part of oil/liquid) for a super rich cake.  Back in the day - schools used to do this all the rime with leftovers - best cake ever!
  • DID YOU KNOW - 1/2 cup of real fruit juice is equivalent to a serving of fruit?  Yep!
  • Save leftover chips, crackers, stale bread - to grind up and use as coating when frying.  We love using cheese crackers for a bit of favor.  TRY grinding up pork rinds to coat  items for baking - they are gluten free!  Triscuit crackers are good as well and come in many flavors!
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I actually choose to substitute an egg in baking with either a banana, applesauce, or peanut butter - depending on what I am baking.  I love the idea of using soy protein - I always have protein powder in the pantry (for SHTF stash).  I keep ground flax in the freezer all the time as well - great in muffins (good for you as well).
  • Need to thicken a pot of soup or stew?  Yes, you can use corn starch or flour - but think outside the box and add extra flavor.  A small package or equivalent  of country gravy mix is great in any creamy type soup - adds a ton of flavor.  Instant potatoes can be used to thicken and it adds hidden veggies!  A packet or equivalent of any gravy mix will add flavor and thicken up nicely (I always add to stew).  A recently new one for me is to MIX 1/3 cup Masa (corn flour - used in corn tortillas) with 1 1/3 cup milk.  Whisk until absorbed and use in creamy Mexican soup dishes or corn chowder.  This adds the best corn flavor!!!
  • Leftover rice mixed with egg and parmesan cheese packed into a pie pan makes a great crust for a quiche or a hearty/savory - meat/veggie dish - no need for a basic pie crust.
  • Leftover rice can also be added to meatloaf or meatballs - stretches meat a little further
  • Keep the crumbs from the bottom of cereal boxes and cookie containers to use as toppings on ice cream or pudding - no need for sprinkles!
  • No creamer for your coffee?  Use milk, real cream, ice cream, cool whip, whipped cream, or hot chocolate mix for a change
Over the holidays I was mixing up my 'harvest potato' casserole and came to realize I had no corn flakes (used in the topping).  I did have fruit & flake cereal - so I literally went through the amount I needed and picked out the dried fruit (returned to box) and it worked fine.  No panic - just improvised with what I had.  Truthfully any non-sweet cereal would have probably worked.

Get creative. Like I said earlier - nothing is etched in stone.  Substitute  and save money and MAYBE find a new taste sensation that your family loves!


  1. You mentioned using Koolaid to jazz up iced tea. Have you ever tried the orange tea bag in with regular tea bags to make orange iced tea? It has a great flavor. Petro's Chili Restaurant makes it and it is so good. Here is a blog post I wrote about it:

    I do the same as you and use the fruit juice in a can fruit in place of some of the cold water when making jello. Substituting definitely helps to save money.

    1. Thanks Belinda I will read that. I like jazz up iced tea and G will drink anything! He sometimes gets tired of just plain old tea.
      I love subbing and you are right - you really can save money and it tastes good too!

    2. I add 2 scoops of lemondae mix to my gallon of tea, and no sugar or sugar substitute.

  2. It was common to substitute items when cooking but now people either don't cook or don't know they can. Good post.

    1. Thanks. My Mom subbed all the time. I am hoping that many folks are getting back into cooking - it seems like gardening is becoming "the thing" again.

      I just wish people would realize how expensive and non-nutritious eating out is.

  3. I do substitutes all the time. I'm not running to the store for one item. I was making tacos the other night and the meat was done and the rice had another 5 minutes. I went to put the shells in the oven and they were all crushed. I cut up a bunch more lettuce and made a taco salad instead. Just as good and probably more healthy. The crushed tacos went on top.

    1. I have had that happen as well. Sometimes our OOPS are better than the original plan.

  4. It's embarrassing to think back to when I first started cooking. I had a recipe for turkey chili and I would go through all the ground turkey at the store, looking for the one that was exactly ONE pound. If I was missing one ingredient or didn't have the exact type of beans listed, I'd scrap the idea and move on! Boy, have I come a long way!! Most recipes are now merely suggestions and I do my own thing!

    1. That is funny! You took the recipe very literal!!!
      That is me as well - a recipe is a suggestion or idea - then I go on from there.
      It's fun and keeps things interesting.

    2. Debby, I used to be just about the same way when I got married 50 yrs. ago. Then one day, I had the idea to "personalize" my recipes. I would try a new recipe the way it was written the first time, after that I would change it (however slightly) to make it "my recipe". It's a FUN thing to do!!

    3. I guess we probably all have done that. G has asked me at times if I made a recipe as it was written or did I improvise. He tells me I should at least try it once as written!
      I guess I am one to see a recipe - then remember MOST of it and then wing it! LOL

  5. Love these ideas. Some are new to me!

  6. I have never met a recipe I didn't tweak somehow. You think, gee, I don't have black beans for this, why can't I use the navy beans that I have, or I don't have spinach, would kale work in this recipe? And there are so many sites that you can just list the ingredients you have, and out pop several recipes.

    1. I am the same way. I am always changing things up. That is what makes cooking fun in my opinion!