CHEAP REPLACEMENTS FOR FANCY-PANTS INGREDIENTS
So here goes – I shall have to repurpose one of my large empty potato tins as a hat to avoid the comments from outraged food purists after this one, but my skin is fairly thick, I can take it.
Do you ever see a fancy-pants ingredient in a recipe and think you can’t make that dish without it? You’re wrong. As was I, til I started fiddling about a bit (oo-er!)
This is my list of discoveries so far, feel free to add your own in the comments below!
Tahini: instead of using this expensive sesame seed paste, add peanut butter thinned with a little water. (I have Nigella to thank for this, her peanut butter hummus recipe put the idea in my head!)
Juniper berries: I shamefully admit I have a tiny pot of juniper berries in my cupboard. They’re about four years old, have moved house many, many times with me, and I used them once to marinade some pork and they’ve even lurking at the back of my cupboard ever since. They’re probably not edible but I keep them as a dusty reminder that fancy ingredients aren’t worth it!! If you have a recipe that asks for juniper berries, use rosemary instead.
Whole grain or Dijon mustard; For gods sake, it’s mustard. I use the Basics English mustard in everything, to marinade a gammon joint, in a ham sandwich, to pep up a chicken casserole or Bombay potatoes. It’s 25p a pot and practically lasts forever, and the scant end of a teaspoon is usually all you need. If you can afford to buy every variety of mustard on earth, feel free, but good old basic English mustard works just fine.
Risotto rice: It’s shorter. And fatter. And still tastes like rice. So for about a seventh of the price, buy the basic long grain stuff instead, and eat seven times as much. Risotto is the food of the gods, an edible receptacle for all of the odds and ends in the fridge and hard bits of cheese and few lonely withered veg. If you see something in the fridge that you’re contemplating putting in the bin, put it in a risotto instead. Trust me. And don’t let a fancy overpriced bag of rice stand between you and a great dinner.
Pudding rice: ditto the above sentiment. If you use long grain rice, and make it into a pudding, then in my books it’s a ‘pudding rice.’ Enough said.
Mangetout: Use frozen green beans. Or fresh green beans if you can buy them cheaper than frozen, but I’m a firm advocate of the Frozen Green Bean. Handy to have kicking about to throw into pastas, risottos, curries, to dip in stuff, to lightly fry in a little cumin and that good old English mustard. Sod you, mangetout. I mean, you’re yummy and all, but we don’t all have a local market we can pop down to and “just buy six mangetout”. CoughJAMIEcough.
Fresh spinach: Fresh spinach is a pricey way to buy it. That 200g bag might look like a lot in the fridge, but in dinner it shrivels down to almost nothing. For the same price as those few wilted lonely leaves adrift in your saag aloo, you could pop out four little circles of frozen spinach, and still have 90% of the bag left. I love frozen spinach, I do. Not so great in salads, mind, but good in daal, curry, pasta, tagines, etc. Use it liberally. Grow big and strong. Et cetera.
Fresh lemons: Again, an expensive way to buy it. For most recipes, you can substitute fresh lemons for a shake of bottled lemon juice, a storecupboard staple. I’ve never made a lemon drizzle cake that’s been met with “this doesn’t taste like it has freshly squeezed artisan lemons in.”
Fresh limes: Ditto limes and lime juice, although fresh limes are nice for squishing over curries, but a shake of lime juice would do the same job.
Bread mix: Bread mix is flour with a little bit of sugar, baking powder and oil added to it, and about a quid for the trouble. I buy the basics flour at 65p for 1.5kg, and when I go to make bread, I add a bit of sugar, a bit of baking powder, and sometimes some oil to it.
Chilli oil: Make it. Add some chilli flakes, powder, or the freshly sliced stuff to some oil, stir it, and either cook with it or refrigerate it for a few hours if using as a salad dressing.
Basil oil: See chilli oil.
Coriander oil: See chilli oil.
Thyme/sage/oregano/rosemary: Use the basics ‘mixed dried herbs’ for 30p. They’re great in pasta sauces, pizza, to baste a chicken, and far cheaper than buying them all individually, and not much of a compromise. You still get that ‘herby’ taste you were after.
Cooking chocolate: The cheapest value range chocolate will do. Use it as a base for chilli or to make cornflake cakes with, grate it over porridge, melt it and stir it into frozen yoghurt, break it into chunks and bake it in sweet bread…. I’ve now banned myself from buying Sainsburys Basics white chocolate, as it’s more delicious than any other white chocolate I’ve tasted, and that 100g bar just vanishes in my house…
Olive oil: I used to use olive oil on everything, liberally, with some excuse in my head about being part Mediterranean and backed up by all the celebrity chefs emoting about how wonderful it was. Then I couldn’t afford it any more, so I switched to sunflower oil. And, er, it’s delicious. In fact, my food doesn’t all taste of claggy olive oil any more. If you’re squeamish about putting it on salads, add a shake of lemon juice or white wine vinegar, and there you have a simple salad dressing. Just like those simple salad dressings you get in the shops. Which brings me to my next point…
Salad dressings: Instead of buying salad dressings, make your own. Mix sunflower oil with white wine vinegar and a scant dabbed-end-of-a-teaspoon of mustard, and there you have it. Variations on the theme are up to you; Google is your friend. There’s a world of salad dressing recipes out there, and you won’t have bottles of it going crusty in the fridge any more.
Instant porridge: Not really an ingredient but I’m really warming to my theme here! I covered this in a recipe, making ‘super express portable porridge.’ It’s life changing. Well, for at least one person I know, anyway.
Milk: I’m going to extremes here, but a £1.01 packet of powdered milk will firstly last for far longer than a 2 pint bottle will, and secondly makes up at more milk! I’ve never actually measured a bag of it out to see how much milk I can get from one bag, but it’s seemingly bottomless. Use it to make a white sauce, to pour over cereals, just generally in place of milk.
Sweet potatoes: Whenever a recipe calls for sweet potatoes, I use carrots instead. They’re orange. They’re a root vegetable. They’re cheap. They’ll do.
Parmesan: I use the basics range ‘Italian hard strong cheese’ for around £2.30 for 200g. It’s what it says on the front, hard strong cheese. Grate it finely to sprinkle on pasta, or use a vegetable peeler to make those ‘shavings’ that sell for around £2 for a measly pot.
Marinated olives: Buy cheap olives. Put them in the fridge with a glug of oil and a splash of lemon, maybe even some minced garlic. Chill for a few hours. Enjoy.
Avocado: Banana. Sounds bonkers but you’re replacing a mushy sweet vegetable with a mushy sweet fruit. It works for me.
Fresh pineapple: Use the tinned stuff. It’s about 30p and you don’t have to spend half an hour wrestling the skin off the thing.
Vanilla essence: very nice and all, but I’ve been making cakes without it for years and nobody ever says that my cake is horrible. So there.
Fettuccine, tagliatelle, etc: Use spaghetti. The other two are nice but essentially long slurpy pasta is long slurpy pasta. Great for thin sauces and carbonaras and pasta alla Genovese. Not so great if one costs you five times as much as the other.
Cream: Use yoghurt, and a little sugar if you’re that way inclined. Add the yoghurt once you have taken the pan off the heat, to prevent it from splitting.
Caster sugar: I never use caster sugar. I just use sugar sugar. It’s fine. It’s sugar.
Right, that’s all off the top of my head. Have I missed anything? What do you love to cook with but maybe can’t afford to buy right now? Maybe you’ve got a recipe you want to try but can’t get hold of one of the ingredients? Get in touch below and I’ll see what I can do to help!
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe
Categories: Recipes & Food
Best salad dressing EVER: lemon juice, salt and maybe some black pepper. All you need on lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion. I haven’t bought dressing for 2 years now.
Uh-huh – I have never bought salad dressing, I don’t see the point!
A lot of good common sense advice there, thanks. There is too much emphasis put on fancy ingredients, when there are perfectly good cheaper substitutes. I use bottled lemon in cooking, and it’s handy for making a hot or cold lemon drink. I use coffee compliment as dried milk, for everything that requires milk. Fresh pineapple is a waste of money, you throw half of it away because it’s too hard to chew. I use a lot of wholegrain mustard in my cooking.
Only one thing I might take a little issue with, is the use of English mustard as compared to other mustards. I tend to find it’s a particular sort of strong (which is fine if you like strong mustards) and other types of mustard are a bit more vinegary, which is kind of the taste I like more. As an ingredient where tasting the actual mustard isn’t necessary, fine, but as a condiment, I’d personally sooner do without.
I get round it by buying Dijon and wholegrain mustard from Lidl. Both are less than a pound and I’ve had jars in the cupboard for months and months.
However, otherwise, some interesting tips.
yup, I agree here, not fancypants though, Aldi 47p for all sorts of mustard. I dont use a lot of mustard but it adds a kick to a casserole. I have 3 sorts of mustard and they last for ever.
Love all you have said, but… is ordinary flour the same as bread flour? I thought it was something to do with gluten? I make bread most days with a Kenwood mixer. I use the cheapest strong flour I can find, with instant yeast,oil,salt and sugar. It would be interesting to see if the bread is as good with normal flour.. Would I have to add extra oil,sugar etc? Thanks. PS keep up the good work.
Brenda, so called ‘strong’ flour refers to the amount of gluten in it. Bread flour is generally made with American wheat I believe, in any event, it is made with flour that has more gluten in it which is what makes bread keep its height, so strictly speaking, you will get a different loaf with strong flour and ordinary cheap flour which is made with very ‘soft’ wheat. Having said that, I have made bread with both and yes they are different, but both are delicious.
Great list of subs, and there are loads more too, it’s difficult to think of them all at once isn’t it, we do it so automatically
One that irritates me is that in cheffy recipes, any lentil is invariably a puy lentil. The most expensive one of course!
A compromise for puy lentils are green lentils. More expensive than red lentils, but cheaper than puy and have similar properties eg taste like lentils, and hold their shape where red lentils go soft.
I used to use the strong flour. Now I`m using the basic one from ASDA at 45p/1.5 kg and I find the bread to be the same. I use this cheap flour for everything, bread, cakes, pastry. It works. You might need to put a bit more or less water, and by a bit I meant 1/2 tablespoon.
Hope this will help.
Love this post. I’m new to converting ingredients (usually if the ingredients are too complicated I just don’t make the recipe!) but tonight for example I made curry with yogurt instead of cream – it was lovely 🙂
One other replacement – frozen berries rather than fresh. They last longer, and taste the same. I use for breakfast (your recipe!) with yogurt and oats.
My only disagreement is that I love sweet potato so I steam it on dinners – but that’s a personal preference 🙂
Whatever others say, this post is great.
Have to agree with you about Sainbury’s white basic chocolate!
Loved this it was very funny!
I agree with all the substitutions and actually have been doing them myself for years before I found you, not only for financial reasons but also spacial reasons! My kitchen storage is too small to have lots of versions of the same thing (mustard’s, oils) I disagree with risotto rice though, basic long grain isn’t the best sub, pearl barley is! It is super chubby and a short grain when swollen like Arborio, I highly suggest it!
I do the same. Pearl Barley all the way.
Jack, if you can find ‘pudding rice’, the little short grained one sold to make rice pudding, you can use it for risottos too (actually, it is very similar to the rice the Spanish use for paella, which is basically a type of ‘risotto’ rice, i.e., a moisture sponging grain to be cooked in a saucy dish! 🙂 )
Just wash it well, and then keep checking cooking times. It also takes a bit more liquid than long grain or basmati.
Making pesto – a whole load of expensive ingredients all in one go! I use some of a cheap bag of broken cashew pieces (I’m lucky enough to have a shop nearby for those), sunflower oil, a bit of garlic and whatever is green and needs using up. And any old strong cheese that needs using. I only use basil in it when it’s in season & cheap from a local shop or when I’ve grown it.
If it’s late winter/early spring and you have access to the countryside, you can also make a really tasty pesto with wild garlic. Googling it will come up with a ton of artisan results, but it can literally be gathered for free if it’s the right time of year, and I actually prefer the taste to basil (but I am a garlic fiend).
That’s great advice (I love foraging for wild plants, especially for herbs/seasoning, tea, etc)!
Just make sure you know 100% what wild garlic looks like! Because there are deadly poisonous lookalikes (Lily of the valley, autumn crocus – at least here in germany, idk about other places) that can grow in the same place :S
There are actually lots of wild plants that are easier and safer to identify, like stinging nettles, dandelions, daisies… but it all really depends on where you live. If you want to go foraging but don’t have pristine nature nearby, try playgrounds – usually there are no dogs allowed that could have peed on the plants and there will be no pesticides.
Laudable advice (as always) but just a slight word of warning about storing stuff in oil, especially making your own flavoured ones, it’s best to use the oil as if it was “fresh produce”, plant material stored without air (such as in oil) is susceptible to botulism – granted you don’t hear much about botulism poisoning these days but the risk is there and I’m sure you wouldn’t want anyone to come to harm.
Yes, agree with the above. I use oil stuff within 48 hours or freeze it in ice cube trays.
I have a fabulous book on preserving. I will dig it out and check out the preserving in oil part. You don’t necessarily have to freeze or use as quick as 24 hours.
Does the same issue with botulism also apply when it’s dried first, as with powder, flakes and dried chillies? For some reason I assumed that would be safer.
If you bake, cook or fry the ingredients first it should be no problem. As long as the fresh ingredient has been heated properly. I fried my garlic in the oil, and the scooped the garlic out, garlic oil! Basil can be cooked, and then heated in oil, tadah, basil oil. 🙂
Some of those I really agree with, some are a bit of a compromise (bread flour contains more gluten for example) but I totally agree with a lot and am a HUGE fan of frozen spinach; cheaper and less hassle but I still sometimes buy fresh because it’s often cheaper than bagged lettuce and when it starts to look a bit limp for a salad, I cook with it.
I buy frozen ginger because it’s about the same price as root ginger but lasts forever. I often swap extra mature cheddar for parmesan.
Ginger balls in syrup last forever. Sometimes they crystallise a little but are still ok to eat. And I mean forever. I have some may dad brought home from work (they were samples) in kilner jars. He retired in the 90s. I am still using it in any recipe that calls for ginger root or powder.
I buy fresh ginger and freeze it. So much easier to grate when frozen and also keeps its flavour and heat unlike ground/powdered ginger.
Great advice! I prefer long grain rice in risotto, the special rice feels to mushy on the palette for me. Also, thanks for turning me on to frozen green beans. I eat them almost every day in various guises! 🙂 x
I use powder mustard which also lasts forever, and Lidl’s 90% chocolate at 89p 100g, I find less cocoa content splits too easily.
I think you mean bread mix, not bread flour. Bread flour is just flour from a different wheat, that has
more gluten in. Bread mix is flour with all the added extras so you just add water to make bread.
Love this! I’d love to know what you use for stir fry sauce, as those packet sauces are just like syrup, and you don’t get much for 80p!
Love this! any suggestions for stir fry sauce? the stuff you get in packets is full of nasty ingredients, and mostly sugar, and you don’t get much for 80p!
Stir fry sauce use the left over gravy from Sunday roast with a bit of chilli garlic ginger corn flour to thicken if required
Corn Starch+stock+soy sauce+ any flavoring you want.
It works well with a splash of pineapple juice and ketchup for sweet and sour stirfries (using the canned pineapple as well)
Or with ginger and chili, just lemon juice…it’s all up to your imagination
See sweet and sour sauce recipe from Pauline below
Linda, if you are lucky enough to live near an “Oriental” supermarket..sorry, that’s what the one near me is called,….you can buy large bottles of stir fry sauces or pastes for not too much of an outlay. They keep ok in the fridge. I tend to buy an Oyster, Sweet chili or black bean and put in extra stuff to vary, honey, lemon, chilli, garlic, ginger etc. You can spend a tenner in there and stock your shelf well 🙂
Black bean sauce is easy to make with black beans and chili sauce. A tub of fermented black beans and ginger costs about 90p from a Chinese supermarket and lasts years as you only use 1 teaspoon at a time. About an hour before you need it, put a teaspoonful into a cup and pour on a little hot water onto it. Just before you need it, add chilli sauce (I use bottled) to taste. Stir fry your food, push it to the side of the wok, empty the sauce into the centre of the wok, mash it a bit to break the beans up. Then stir it all up. If you want to thicken it, you can add a little cornflour mixed with a little water.
I can also vouch for using leftover gravy, esp if also using leftover Sunday lunch beef/chicken in a stir fry (just add a shot of soy sauce if you want to give it a kick.
I also like making my own sweet and sauce using tomato ketchup, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, juice drained from a basics tin of pineapple chunks, plus whisk in a tsp of cornflour to help thicken when cooking in the pan 🙂
Hi Linda, I make my own ‘sweet chilli’ stir fry sauce with 2 spoons runny honey , 1 spoon soy sauce, and a pinch of dried chilli flakes (I usually make stir fry for one, you can scale this up of course)
Love these ideas, but am not sure about the avocado. Guacomole made with bananas would be fairly hideous! Love the other ideas, though. I make fancy herbed or chilli oils and frozen raspberry vinegars for salad dressings, so cheap and so delish.
Haha, banana guacamole…….
What a thought 😉
I use mature cheddar instead of parmesan, same as mamacookblogspot above 🙂
My contribution is value bacon instead of pancetta and ordinary savoy cabbage instead of these fancy kales or cavolo nero (which takes AGES to cook!) I also regularly use a bit of cider instead of white wine in recipes.
My salad dressing uses oil, vinegar, bit of sugar or honey, bit of mustard, salt and pepper, yum!
Careful now. Savoy cabbage is probably the next thing that’s going to be rediscovered by some fancy chef. It is the queen of leaf vegetables.
I use the supermarket value ‘hard italian cheese’ almost always now. It has the added advantage that my vegetarian daughter can have it whereas the ‘real’ thing is not suitable for vegetarians.
Excuse me one second whilst I print this out and paste it (using cornflour and water because who wants to waste money on wallpaper paste when you can make your own) to the face of everyone I know.
Pimento (all spice is a good substitute for juniper berries, available from any ethnic store or larger supermarkets that have an ethnic section, delicious on pork and poultry.
Butternut Squash is a good replacement to sweet potatoes for me!
Very true. Also, last year the only butternut squash (literally – one fruit from about six plants whereas I usually have so many I give most away) was absolutely huge and still unripe by early November, so I stuck it on top of the fridge where it gradually ripened over the winter where it stayed until earlier this month. I’ve been hacking off bits of it to bake, roast, stew, fry and it’s still only half gone (though it is now taking up an unfair proportion inside the fridge rather than on top). I grew it from seed from a supermarket squash and I’ll be growing this year’s batch from this one’s seeds – and frying the rest as a snack.
Also, mash made from mainly potatoes with one sweet potato is the best of both worlds.
Great post, Jack. Avocados for bananas is a new one on me – will try it. I use lard for frying – didn’t you mention you use it too sometimes? I know they say it’s bad for you but the truth is, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything that *requires* a factory to produce it probably isn’t good for you either. And lard is cheaper, on balance.
My only issue is “bread flour”. Strong flour – the one used for making bread and pasta – is a particular type of grain that contains more gluten than ordinary flour, which means it “holds” the rise better than ordinary flour. It doesn’t contain sugar or oil, just ground grains. I add my own salt, sugar and fat.
I’ve found that if you use the ‘make it yourself’ method (rather than a bread maker), you can use ordinary or value plain flour. The texture is slightly different but it’s OK. Time is what it needs really. When I’m doing Living Below The Line it’s a great way to make the best of very limited money. And it tastes so good.
J x (who makes all her own bread)
A great way to make your own whole grain mustard is to find an Asian shop that sell packs of black and yellow whole mustard seed or a shop that sells it loose. I bought vast amounts from the local hippy shop for pennies.
I followed this recipe http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/homemade_beer_mustard_55981 and it made absolutely loads and tastes fantastic at a fraction of the cost of one of those artisan posh wholegrain mustard.
You can swop the liquid around as you wish – cider, fruit juice or just water (infact water makes a stronger mustard). Plus any let over mustard seed (unsoaked) is great added to curries.
What a fantastic recipe! I’m always looking for easy methods of making commonly bought ‘artisan’ foods. Home made chicken liver pâté is another must. Brilliant for presents with a few home made crackers. Will add this one to the list. Thanks!
Not sure what Jack uses for stir fry sauce, but I like plain old soy sauce or sweet chilli dipping sauce. BUT! Go to the ‘world foods’ bit of the supermarket and its cheaper than the amoy/blue dragon etc stuff and also comes in a giant bottle that lasts an age.
I make a sweet and sour sauce from water, vinegar, sugar, dark soy sauce and the juice from tinned pineapple, thickened using cornflour.
You blend a bit of the liquid in a pan with the cornflour as you would for custard, then add the rest of the liquid, and cook over a moderate heat, stirring all the time until thick. I add pre -cooked meat /veg/ pineapple at this point.
No reason why this sauce couldn’t be used for stir-fries, with a bit of adjusting of sugar and vinegar, addition of spices, garlic , before the meat and veg are added.
Sweet and sour sauce: 3 tablespoon vinegar, 3 tablespoon sugar, fphalf tablespoon Branson pickle, squirt tomato purée, chicken stock cube, 2 tablespoon soy sauce and water, thicken with 2 teaspoon corn flour. Use with mixed veg and chicken nuggets plus rice for kids, casserole pork or chicken pieces in it. Lovely!
This is the one I always use. I found it in an old Margarite Patten book, quite delicious! I use up the Christmas cranberry sauce instead of pickle when I have it.
For stir fries, I have used peanut butter loosened up with soy sauce for a sort of satay sauce. It’s easy to make sweet and sour (many recipes online) . When I buy a larger jar of stir fry sauces, I use some and freeze the rest.
Mushroom ketchup, if you can find it. I love the flavours of wild mushrooms but they tend to be very expensive and my hubby will only eat standard white ones anyway. A teaspoon of mushroom ketchup added to a recipe using the basics white mushrooms tastes almost as good as quids’ woths of fancy ones.
Stirfry sauce: Cider vinegar, (or lemon juice or lime juice), cooking sherry, soy sauce, all in whatever quantity tastes good to you! (I start with 2 Tbs of each).
Add 2 Tbs pineapple jiuce, (or a bit of honey or sugar) with or without some tomato puree, for a more sweet’n’sour sauce. Or add a Tbs peanut butter and some dried chillies for satay, with a lump of creamed coconut (lasts much longer than cans of coconut milk, just dissolve in hot water.)
Thicken with cornflour, if you have some, though I like a runny sauce that soaks into the rice!
Stir fry sauce (sweet & sour): my recipe;
Large can tomatoes, mashed or pureed or whatever to make it smoothish.
an onion chopped finely
1 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp sugar (I sometimes use 2 of sugar & 1 of treacle if I have it)
half a can of pineapple (chopped small) with the juice.
if I have some, half a tsp ginger & 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp soy sauce or 1 tsp marmite (or 1 tsp salt if you don’t have those)
Good with stirfry veggies, or chicken, or just with rice
I sprinkle with sliced almonds – but I’m a vegetarian
Great post. The only quibble I have is with the idea that bread flour is like regular plain flour. Bread flour is strong flour (higher gluten content) with no added other ingredients (though you can buy it with added yeast and salt and so on), and I can’t make successful bread with ordinary flour. So I think you should stick with it Brenda Strachan! Mylittledreamworld’s tip about frozen fruit is a good one.
Would agree with the people who said you can’t sub risotto rice for long grain – you need the creaminess, but pudding rice is good, a short grained rice and much cheaper! Yoghurt works well instead of cream, especially if a recipe only calls for a tablespoon. Not really a sub, but if a recipe calls for low fat coconut milk, use the cheaper tins from the £1 shops and dilute them half and half with water. Low fat I read somewhere is just diluted and shops charge a fortune for it. Oregano works in place of basil, and I find it much easier to grow in my north facing garden – its very hardy too, its still going in January. Its one of the better dried herbs too.
A good list, especially the bottled lemon and lime juice and frozen spinach. Have been using both for years 🙂
The cheaper coconut milk tins are not necessarily a better sub as they contain various cheap thickening agents – and the supposedly low-fat versions are just added water. Reading the list of ingredients on the tin is quite the revelation! Better to buy the versions that have a high coconut content (not always the most expensive), dilute it yourself and freeze what you don’t need – or buy blocks of coconut which keep forever in the fridge. I’m a huge fan of coconut milk/oil.
You’ve forgotten to include my favourite of your suggestions – using ordinary milk ‘soured’ with lemon juice in place of buttermilk or live yoghurt when making soda bread. Works a treat, even with milk that’s been made up using dried milk powder
Soy sauce is so much cheaper than Worcestershire sauce, I can’t tell the difference in stew or on cheese on toast etc. Also creamed corn (Jolly Green Giant, yes – you) – blitzing a value can is cheaper.
Onions instead of shallots!
Ms Jack Monroe, you are a Star Bird!! Have been doing stuff like this for years and whilst my cooking is never going to win any prizes, my husband and child are still healthy and no one has ever spat my food out either! At least not when I was looking! x
If you have access to Asian supermarkets then some of the pricier ingredients you have listed can be bought at a much lower price from them. For example, I can get 6-10 fresh limes/lemons for a pound at Sira Cash and Carry depending on the season. Plus handfuls of fresh coriander (dhania), spinach, greens for a pound.
I tend to spread my shopping around, as it’s nigh on impossible to get good value consistently across the board in one store. Asian supermarkets are great value for fruit & veg, big bags of rice, flour, herbs and spices, chickpeas pulses, chutneys, nuts, frozen fish.You will save a fortune!
But for brand name items such as cooking sauces, soups, tinned veggies/fruit, pizzas etc stick to your big traditional supermarkets.
Some good ideas here, but I must say I disagree about the risotto rice. I really don’t think (and I have tried!) that ordinary rice makes anything like a good risotto. i buy my risotto rice in bullk when the Italian Deli specials run in Aldi 🙂
Really enjoyed this post. Cooking for 3 teens I’m always running out of things and find that basically anything in a similar vein generally does the job – eg, passata or even a big squirt of tomato puree (with water) instead of tinned tomatoes. I think your confidence grows as you become used to cooking like this, instead of freaking out when you realise you don’t have a certain ingredient. You can generally throw something together as Jack consistently shows. Can’t wait for the book!
Love this, love you.
I never use seed oils (too inflammatory for my odd bod). Can’t stand extra-virgin olive oil (makes me cough), but use standard olive oil, butter, coconut oil and lard. And fresh pineapple is evil – destroys the skin at the edges of your mouth! Canned every time. Also, tinned pears are vastly superior (and more useful) than the fresh bullets that turn to mush when your back is turned – and I say that as someone who has a thirty foot pear tree in my garden. It casts a welcome shade in the summer.
Granulated sugar can be zoozed into caster in a food processor. It does make a difference to cakes, but granulated is better in scones.
Can’t imagine exchanging banana for avocado – guaconana! Both have lots of potassium though.
Totally trying to make guaconana when I get home. Just because I like things with silly names. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂
If you were to make guaconana you would mix avocados and bananas . So go for nanamole !
To be pedantic, guaco = avocado, mole = sauce. But still a funny name …
Fresh ginger: powdered ginger (or mixed spice, or allspice) and a splash of lemon juice.
for juniper berries – next time you’re walking in a woodland in late summer keep an eye out for the trees. you can then get the berries for free! I normally use chard as an alternative to spinach. it’s really easy to grow and just keeps coming, no matter how much you cut it back. growing your own herbs is also really easy, in fact the small growing parsely I bought from tesco last spring has made an extremely valiant attempt to take over my garden (and eating food you’ve grown yourself gives you a real sense of achievement).
Other than that, to make properly leavened bread you do need a high gluten flour, you don’t need a bread mix though.
One other thing. The only difference between Instant porridge and normal porridge is how finely the oats have been ground. If you buy cheap porridge oats and grind them down further (possibly use a food processor?) then you will have instant porridge. I haven’t tried this though as I can’t stand the stuff
As far as herbs, spinach and chillies are concerned – I am fortunate enough to be able to grow them. I realise this option is not available to everyone, but if you can grow your own, you save a lot of money and your food tastes good! I had REALLY HOT CHILLIES from my garden last summer!
LOVE this post, crying laughing by “long slurpy pasta”
I don’t buy passata, I whizz up a can of cheap tinned tomatoes. I used half a canas pizza sauce today.
I don’t use vanilla essence either.
Keep it coming, I love your blog, and your recipes, and you!
Lidl sell a carton of passata at the same price as a tin of tomatoes, around 40p or so. I always choose the passata because the tin toms are usually a bit watery. And the passata seems to go further.
I use passata from Aldi where most recipes call for a can of tomatoes, too. The rich taste and smoothness is lovely.
Not all recipes though, Jack’s heavenly peach and chickpea curry is better with chopped tomatoes – Aldi’s Everyday chopped tomatoes are just fine.
I’m a bit over the “coughJAMIEcough” thing. I think he’s targeting a different demographic.
I think you’re right. He’s writing for people who want to reduce their budget a bit, not people who are really hard up! And, to be fair, there are some really good recipes in that book!
For receipes that call for saffron, more expensive than gold or something like that, I use a bit of turmeric. It gives the same yellow colour and a good flavour too. Particularly nice in risottos…
Yes – but it doesn’t taste the same! You only need a small amount of saffron, it goes a long way and lasts for ages.
If you have a sunny patch of garden you could grow saffron crocuses and harvest and dry the stamens yourself each year. (NB not just any old crocuses; make sure and get the correct autumn flowering ‘Saffron sativus’ variety.) They come up annually, look pretty in the garden, gradually increase, and you won’t have to buy the expensive shop bought spice.
I’ve thought of another one! I use the lazy garlic jars rather that fresh – it costs about 1.50 at a guess, but lasts me literally months, and also saves having to chop fresh garlic! I use 2-3 times a week aswell, so it does get used a lot, and stays fresh in the fridge. X
I use the dried garlic powder – lasts ages, tastes fine in anything and is dirt cheap – I find the jars have a funny after taste (maybe the oil mix it’s in)
I have substituted much of what you say above, actually decided the peanut butter substitute for tahini was good a few years ago when I had trouble buying it – would have made a fortune for telling the world!! When we were travelling and did not have access to creme fraiche or yogurt for curries I added dried coffee creamer to the ‘sauce’ and it worked really well. I now use dried milk and have not had to try it, but I am sure it would work in a similar way. This is a great post, I need to find a home-made stir fry sauce.
Between your list and the comments most of my ideas are taken. Ages ago though, Amy Dacyczyn (I think that’s how it’s spelled) published a newsletter The Tightwad Gazette. All of them are now available in a book. She talked about substitutes as well. Like your logic for sweet mushy fruit, she said the same about green crunchy vegetables like green bell peppers or celery, etc. The other big thing she did was to develop ‘universal’ recipes for things like seafood casseroles and muffins. She figured out how much of which type of ingredient was needed in which amount. That meant you could use any kind of grains, veggies, seafood, etc you happened to have on hand.
The only other thing I might add at this point is that long ago I promised myself to broaden my horizons by trying new things, but not to learn to like something I would just have to deny myself, like sour cream. At the time I was thinking calories. In this context I’m thinking expense. I’ve never bought risotto rice and although some others think it’s preferable, I’m going to take your word that I can use long grain and try one of those risotto recipes I’ve always avoided.
Great post! Thanks.
If you use long grain rice you’ll get something more resembling a pilaff not a risotto. Still very nice, but for a risotto you need a short grain rice for the creaminess and you can’t really sub long grain for it. Its a different beast.
Oh you make me laugh and I love your common sense approach. Some of your more unexpected substitutions I will have to try – banana for avocado.
I will also admit to having an ancient pot of juniper berries which I’ve only used once (and more than one type of mustard in the fridge, but I will use all of them so I’m happy with that. Not like mustard goes off or anything).
I use yoghurt instead of cream too (friendlier on the tummy!) and found that a little cornflour mixed in will prevent it splitting, even when heating.
That’s worth knowing, thanks, Nita.
Anyone living near Cambridge? Arjuna on Mill Road sell loose spice & herbs in huge sweetie jars which you measure out yourself into a brown paper bag – and no-one on the till sneers if you only want 10p’s worth – much cheaper and prob better quality than supermarket ones. Also http://www.thespiceworks.co.uk is good for spices in bulk – but you need a few friends to share with or plenty of empty coffee jars & shelf space.
Yes- We have a Wholefoods Store in Bath called HARVEST which has this.
I find Arjuna rather expensive. I buy all my spices, herbs, beans, pulses, grains etc either at Daily Bread or at Nasreen Dar on Histon Road. It is true, though, that you can’t measure them out yourself at either of those, and I’ve noticed recently that the amount of herbs and spices you get per £ has gone down a lot at Daily Bread.
Brilliant post as usual Jack.
I think most of us have to ignore what our Mums said (“Don’t play with your food”) and actually START playing with our food that little bit more.
eggs can be expensive so instead when baking you can use 1 tablespoon of custard powder to 2 tablespoons of water which then equals 1 egg.
Well done Jack, another excellent list. Agree with, and already do, much of what you’ve suggested but I’ve never made rice pudding with long grain rice. Fantastic idea, one to try in the slow cooker!
Why would you bother buying caster sugar? You just put regular white sugar in the blender for a few minutes. You can store it in a glass jar (with a vanilla pod) for ages.
Aldi is good for cheap spices (at least half the price of the blue or orange supermarkets value brands ) – since discovering your blog, have used your principle of buy one or 2 a month so I can cook your “ready meal” recipes from scratch.
Lemons – I buy a net of them and if they are still in the fridge after a week, chop them into wedges (6 or 8 from each lemon) then wrap them in a long piece of cling film folded over between each piece. Stick them in the freezer and take them out one at a time for putting in drinks (makes tap water taste so much better) or, if you get them out in advance or ding in the microwave for 10 secs, squeeze them over pancakes etc.
I forgot to add I buy bags of frozen mushrooms in “farm foods” and use them straight from the freezer in stews, soups, stir fries, omelettes and even with a fry up – you only use as much as you need and they don’t go all brown and shrivelled in the fridge after a couple of days like fresh ones! You can also buy frozen bacon in there at £1 for 6 rashers, which is just enough for the 3 of us and no waste.
Sorry, but an avocado is not a vegetable.
Some really good tips here, thanks! Mustard seeds and Idli rice (from Indian food shops) can also be used in place of whole grain mustard and risotto rice. Sow thistle, dandelion and watercress can be found growing by the side of the road and are good alternatives to lettuce in salads (as long as you don’t mind the bitterness) and spinach in curries and soups.
Making sourdough starter makes yeast go further, too.
Great post, another sub for cream is cream cheese if you want to make a soup like carrot, tomato or broccoli a bit creamier, it makes it nice and velvety, you just stir a big spoonful in near the end and it won’t split. I know it is not cheaper than cream but does have other uses so it won’t go to waste and you don’t have to buy it in specially as likely to have it on hand.
for creaminess half a tin of mushed-up butter beans works really well too actually. sounds a bit gross but works a treat 🙂
Great post. I think folk sometimes lack confidence to ‘swap’ ingredients in recipes….. However as long as it remains edible you can end up with a family favourite and heaps of praise! Love your posts Jack.
Great advice Jack! I’m usually pretty good with inventing my own recipes using cheap basics but if I try and work off a recipe (not yours of course, yours are wallet friendly) I do tend to panic and think I have to have the listed ingredients. Never again thanks to this post!
Don’t ignore pudding rice… I was shocked at how much pudding comes from a tiny amount of rice, spoonful of sugarcane loads of milk! bucket loads! Give it a try! I agree with everything else, and recommend bags of frozen chopped peppers or onions from frozen food shops like heron foods. Great value, great time savers, and no half onions or peppers lurking in the fridge!
it is very good
Very, very useful post! Jack, you are revolutionising my cooking with your wonderful tips and recipes. It’s so irritating when telly chefs breezily say such-and-such an exotic ingredient is “now readily available at most supermarkets”. Not in my neck of the woods! You’d be hard-pressed to find a bunch of parsley in some of the supermarkets where I live.
with spinach, if you have a spare patch of garden…..grow it. stuff grows like wild fire and obviously then you have it fresh. had the 1st leaves of mine in about July and am still eating it fresh from the bushes even now due to the un-seasonally warm weather. yes, the oil and mustard thing is defo true. with the flour thing, another tip is to add a spot of xanthan gum as the pot is about £1.50 and lasts aaaaaaaaages, I know this as I use it when making my little lads wheat free stuff.
I’ve had a jar of juniper berries for decades. They’re so pungent I don’t think they ever lose their flavour; and if you crush them, no one will notice!
I think people should accept that you’ve moved on from your difficult previous situation. Unlike you Jack, most people would have milked you success for all it was worth!
I wanted to make curry paste and after doing a search on the internet was annoyed that the recipes used all sorts that I don’t have in the kitchen. So I crushed some garlic up, put a few pinches of turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika and mild chilli powder and some tomato paste. I also chucked in some chilli flakes (I brought a small bag about a year ago and it has been a little saviour.)
Tastes pretty good, once I have sautéed an onion I chuck it in with my frozen prawns then chuck a tin of tomatoes and let it simmer.
Maybe not as good as the jar stuff, but it cost me nothing and I can always try, try again.
What Jack is doing is what clever cooks have been doing for years – adapting her food to the prevailing conditions. Good for her. When I was a very poor student (back in the dark ages of the late 1970’s), I improvised with all kinds of weird and wonderful ways of making food taste better for less and making a small budget go a long way – just like my mother who had five children to feed. When I eventually had more money, I didn’t lose my ability to improvise, economise and experiment and I have always cooked from scratch however long my working hours were. I’ve taught my daughter to do the same and I expect she’ll bring up her children to do it too. For those people who have not been lucky enough to have such great role models, Jack is filling that void admirably.
It’s not really a fancy-pants swap, but I only use half a tin of tomatoes, then make up the remaining liquid with water. Same goes for milk, it can be watered down to make it go further in things (sounds yuck but it’s actually fine)
My mum uses a pinch of mustard or mace in her white sauce to give it a kick, I use mild curry powder instead as I don’t have the other things. Works just fine.
Rather than mace you could just use a little bit of nutmeg.
apple juice added to vinegar= cider vinegar
grape juice or citrus juice added to vinegar= wine vinegar
i will try it later 😀
suck nice for my travelling things
Buttermilk in a recipe – normal milk with a spoon of lemon juice does the same job – just leave it a few minutes (it’ll split and work the same way as buttermilk).
How about pesto with the wilted rocket lettuce from the back of your fridge that you HAD to buy for another recipe, instead of expensive basil (if you live in a climate zone that won’t allow growing your own) 🙂 Contemplating throwing the rocket out? make pesto, same recipe, different flavour obviously, still yummie.
forgot to tick the “want updates” box 😉
some make sense but mostly NO. be it taste or health. if you’re really starving anything goes but other than that!?!
sunflower oil is pretty much poison. it shouldn’t be heated and what you buy cheap is closer to something you use for heating than food. peanuts have a strong taste very different from tahini and where is tahini expensive?
huge differences between pudding rice and long grain rice. cheap chocolate is fine [ if you don’t mind cocoa [child] slavery but often it’s hydrogenated veg fat with flavouring. cream is irreplaceable and also nutritious. yoghurt is not remotely the same. as for vanilla. get a pod cheap somewhere if possible, cut up into a jar of sugar like people used to and have vanilla flavour for a long time. you need little. the rest i can agree with unless i missed something.
Is there a way to freeze fresh spinach?
Cook it briefly till it wilts down, chop and freeze in ice cube trays.
Instead of wine in casseroles use cold tea. The alcohol and aroma of the wine disappears anyway and all you are left with is tannin…hence the tea
The brilliance of Jack and this post, is she makes me a more fierce and imaginative cook. I love all the suggestions. I use tinned tomatoes at least once a week, especially during winter. Cheap and cheerful.
My son came home at Christmas after his first term at Uni. Mostly makes one pan chili and one pan curry. When he felt like a treat he made stuffed chicken breast. He used Dairylea and Peperami rather than goats cheese and chorizo!! He was listening when I kept reading out bits from your blog over the summer.
Excellent advice (as usual) and done with a good pinch of common sense and humour! I’m off to try the peanut butter in place of tahini thing!!! Lots of the other stuff I’ve been doing for ages. I have a good collection of “Home Front” (WW2) cookery books that have the same sensible approach to substitutions. Well done again Jack! 🙂
Jack, you rock! Only one I haven’t seen on here is giant sacks of broken rice from Asian supermarkets. Cheap, cooks faster, and a bit stickier so it bridges the normal rice/ risotto rice divide well.
I buy a bag of cheap lemons about twice a year (usually when they’re about 50p for 3-4!) and strip them of their peel with a vegetable peeler and keep the strips in a pot in the freezer. Perfect in conjunction with a splash or three of the bottled wonder when you need a more lemony-lemon hit. 🙂
Very good idea! Must try this next when I have some about-to-turn lemons that I’ve no idea what to do with.
You can use cucumber instead of courgettes in eg ratatouille and you can use mushrooms in place of aubergines in this as well.
For basic stir fry I use sesame oil (yeah, I know, a bit fancy pants), soy sauce, pinch of sugar and a dash of bottled lime juice. For sweet and sour sauce, sugar, vinegar, tomato purée and cornflour, tho can’t remember the proportions, sorry.
And yes, I’ve used peanut butter as a tahini substitute.
And no offence jack, I believe you’re all for adaptation, I love your jardaloo but it’s more to my taste when I use butter beans and peaches rather than chick peas and apricots 🙂
Love this list! I must say though, sweet potatoes/yams/whatever you call them, are still relatively inexpensive (in the U.S. at least – not sure about there!) and super nutritious. If you can buy them in bulk, they’re good to have around.
Great ideas, will try some out. Him Indoors would love it if I stopped using olive oil.
Re mustard, I do like popping the seeds in whole-grain mustard between my teeth, which is the only reason I put it in anything.
YES! THANK YOU! The number of times I’ve been looking through a recipe thinking “ooh, this would be fun to make”, then spotted the words “add a pinch of saffron” or “1 tablespoon of tahini” or “a teaspoon of Snob’s Mustard and a dash of Moroccan Fairy Farts” and made a mental note to come back to it in 5 years’ time when I might no longer be 1) a poor student and 2) angry with the recipe…
Saffron is all about the flavour and scent. Any yellow colouring is entirely incidental. There is simply no substitute for it. Turmeric is definitely not a substitute. On the other hand, I have not found saffron from the Middle/Far East significantly superior to the Spanish saffron which is regarded as inferior by food writers.
I buy my Spanish saffron from my local Pakistani shop where a big (4g) box costs me about £7. Saffron in the mainstream supermarkets is shockingly overpriced. I use it generously in the recipes that call for it (primarily paella and some tagines) but since I don’t cook them that often, a box of saffron lasts me for months.
Yes it is expensive. If I can’t afford saffron, then I don’t cook the recipes that call for it. There are some ingredients for which there is no substitute.
You can buy very cheap saffron from the Philippines on ebay. I have no idea what it tastes like and whether it even is genuine saffron. If anyone else has tried it, I’d be really please to hear from them.
I substitute quark for mascapone cheese (they’re usually next to each other in the shops). Quark is about a quarter of the price, a little less creamy tasting but fat free! Great in a tirimisu.
I’m afraid I have to have two fancy pants ingredients: wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinegar. Yummiest salad dressing EVER with good ole veg/sunflower oil and a grind or two of salt and pepper. Oops! Just remembered another FPI I like: crunchy, grindable salt. But I get all of those in own brand/obscure cheapo brand versions for less than £1.
“Greek Salad Cheese” for around 75p, instead of £1.50+ for stuff labeled as feta. And it lasts forever in its unopened vacuum pack.
I buy basic parmesan too (“hard grating cheese”?) and that lives in the freezer – perfectly grateable from the frozen lump.
Great post Jack! While I do like to try and be “authentic” with lots of recipes there are just some things you can’t stockpile sensibly. The Juniper and Tahini substitutes are particularly useful, already most of the rest (but I know lots of folk who wouldn’t ever consider the other substitutes).. Thanks 🙂
Would be great to maybe see a post about “actual” shelf life of some store cupboard ingredients, I know I have a cupboard full of odds and sods I’ve bought over the years when on offer and am not entirely sure whether they are still safe to consume (preserves, pastes etc)
I found a bottle of rose essence in the cupboard that was dated 2008. We’ve moved house twice since then so I clearly couldn’t bring myself to part with it even though Hubbie only bought it to use a few drops to make a dessert for me as a valentine surprise years ago.
Oh well – rose scented candles anyone ?
Bottled lemon & lime juice trigger my asthma ( probably the preservatives).A cut fresh lemon will keep for a week in the fridge- just chop a wedge off and pop the rest in a plastic pot.
I’ve used orange zest in place of vanilla in baked goods, adds a nice flavor, from something you would normally throw out!
Re sweet potatoes. I don’t like them anyway, precisely because they are sweet. Is substitutiion with ordinary potatoes allowed under the rules or does it change the recipe into something else?
I’d sub with pumpkin or butternut squash if you can find reduced/in season.but I think if using sweet potatoes it’s for the sweetness so it will change the dish if you use white potatoes. Depends on the dish and you ideal taste outcome I suppose!
I would go with a squash too. Carrots could be subbed if you haven’t got butternut or pumpkin, or maybe Swede. Ordinary potatoes are a bit different.
Buttermilk: Add 1 tbsp vinegar to 1 cup milk. Stir once and let sit for about 10min. Et voila!
I always use plain granulated sugar for baking if recipe calls for brown I add teaspoon of treacle works great
Since I grew up on a farm in Texas, USA, we often had to substitute ingredients because the store was too far away to just pop in for one or two ingredients. Love your post, it makes more sense for most working people, chefs who either cook for restaurants or clients are free to use all the exotic ingredients, but most people have their favorite recipes they eat often and do not have the time or inclination to create some recipes – and children certainly do have their ideas about basic foods. Glad to know your fortune has gone on an uptick – keep up the great work!
You can use pickled garlic instead of fresh. You can’t tell the difference when it’s in things. I bought a huge jar for £2 from Aldi
I really like coming back to this blog and am currently browsing whilst emergency chocolate loaf from another post is proving.
But I am moved to comment here…
Long grain rice just does not cut it in a risotto. For long grain rice risotto substitute why not make a pilaf (everybody should eat more pilaf!), make Persian rice, make fried rice, make any of those delicious things you can do with long grain rice… But don’t make risotto. It’s not starchy or sticky enough. Mushroom rice is also good with long grain.
You can however use pudding rice for risotto with pretty similar effects to arborio/canoroli. It used to be cheaper to buy pudding rice than risotto rice, but they look to be pretty much the same now.
The other option is use pearl barley in risotto which takes longer but is also delicious.
Some of the other subs are genius. Look forward to trying marinated olives which I have not had for aged because cannot bear to pay that much for snacks. I am never trying the avocado sub (guacamole with banana? No), but apparently I feel the need to comment about risotto. Who knew I felt so strongly about it 😀
I just love this website … I am really bad in the kitchen a bit Bridget jones with a sb … But now even when I come home from work tired I just go on here and cook something !!! I can’t believe it 🙂 Cos i have tried before but got way too overwhelmed .. love the store cupboard and replacements blog and find the campaigns so inspiring – website was found last summer when we did the live below the line challenge at work and now we are hooked – thank you and all the best !!!!
Fantastic post, I’m a big substituter myself in the same way. I teach jam making an preserving and despite calls for a zillion types of sugar, always use plain old table sugar. Never had any problems with it.
Also I think basics honey is healthy and cheap
Re. Parmesan and basics Italian hard cheese, it is worth looking out for offers on Grana Padano too, which is basically Parmesan but less seasoned and possibly not fom the immediate “DOP” area, but just as good. Or reductions/offers on Pecorino or Manchego, which are hard sheep cheeses and often cheaper than Parmesan or Grana. As they are stronger you need even less. And Pecorino is the basic ingredient for Pasta Cacio e Pepe, a delicious and super frugal Roman dish (pasta dressed in its own cooking water with a splash of oil, sprinkling of pepper and handful of grated Pecorino).
Love this post. You are well vindicated in the wealth of positive responses. My university aged kids will attest to using almost any available ingredient. “Cut off the furry edges and bung it in – going out in 40 minutes”.
In a cake mix that calls for two eggs you can use one egg and substitute the other with a teaspoon of vinegar. My Aunty taught me this a long time ago and I do it regularly if I’m low on eggs and cakes always work out fine
Any particular vinegar needed
Interesting – just a malt or standard white vinegar?
Thanks for the post. I think this is really useful – you don’t need fancy ingredients, which are often really expensive. People forget that there are much cheaper (and equally tasty) alternatives.
I use cashew or almonds (or whatever nut I have) instead of pine nuts for Pesto and I never bother adding parmesan… 🙂
Another tahini sub is thinned out houmous, depending on the recipe of course – for recipes where tahini is used as a dressing ingredient (lots of ottolenghi ones). Just dilute with a bit of lemon juice or even *whispers* water. I can buy tahini really cheaply here thanks to middle eastern stores but houmous is what I normally have to hand
Two more ideas came to mind while typing all these great ideas out to paste into my cookbook. A substitute for eggs in baking is a heaping tablespoon of soy flour and a tablespoon of water. In fact, Amy Dacyzcyn says she thinks a lot of the purpose of eggs is moisture. Also, in some baking recipes – mostly cakes I’m guessing – you can substitute applesauce for up to half the fat if you want to reduce the calories. I used pureed fruit of just about any type for this, but then I’m usually making spice cake which relies mostly on the spices for the flavour.
There is no reason why many people should not have marsh samphire, seaweeds, exotic mushrooms, spinach various fruits and herbs for free. It will depend a bit on where you live but even if your location is less than ideal and you only have a bicycle there is always foraging.
Back when it was tres middle-class I used to teach it. I got a bit sick to death of the way it was treated as a novelty and most would just go home and buy from waitrose anyway so I stopped doing it.
I am thinking to set up free courses for those on low incomes. If you have a freezer and you are moderately fit (I have taught those less able to get about too) then there is no reason why you shouldn’t have free frozen veg to hand all year round.
oh and there is Urban foraging too which is very doable.
Basics jam = expensive cranberry sauce
One word: ALDI
Love this piece, some great ideas. Thanks for the tahini/peanut butter trick! I use barley for making risottos. Its delicious, far cheaper, more forgiving in terms of forgetting to stir like a madwoman and contains more fibre, protein and iron than rice!
Risotto rice substitutes: use pudding rice (off the top of my head it’s around 90p for 500g) or never stand around the pot stirring like mad again and just make pearl barley risotto – 90p for 500g and just let it boil happily away while you go do something else!
Herbs, spices and fancy ingredients like tahini: find your local friendly ethnic shop and bulk buy like mad. Tahini from my Iraqi grocer costs less than peanut butter. Or mix peanut butter with a little toasted sesame oil (use a couple of drops of sesame oil in stir fries to add nutty flavour). I get extra large bunches of coriander and parsley for 60-80p: I wash & dry them, chop them then freeze in ziplock bags, ready to chuck into a curry or stew. I do the same for hunks of cheese: grate then put in ziplock bags in the freezer.
Olive oil: sub with some good old British rapeseed oil – only slightly more dear than sunflower but is great used in dressings.
Tinned coconut milk: sub with block of creamed coconut diluted with hot water, or in a pinch, steep desiccated coconut in hot water for coconuty flavour, and mix with milk.
Yoghurt: make your own, even with powdered milk. Do a quick google search for the method.
Creme fraiche: you can make your own creme fraiche using a spoonful of existing creme fraiche and some double cream (method on the internet)
Children’s yoghurts: plain yoghurt or fromage frais or Crème fraîche (the fattier the better) with JAM. Any kind, but if your kid is fussy go for the type without bits. My fourteen month old daughter turns her nose up at all sorts of things (and is going through a white food only phase it would seem argh!) but she’s happy to eat pippy raspberry yoghurts. We are currently working our way through a jar of St. Dalfour which is rather nice as it has no sugar in it (ok, its not techincally “jam” thanks EU). Its a bit on the pricey side but at 18p per yoghurt “pot” that’s fine by me. As a comparison, Petite Filou, for example, is 16p a yoghurt if you can get the 18 packs, but they don’t sell them anywhere I shop so its more like 25p.
I never use wine in a recipe, just replace with some stock, water or ignore completely.
You say “Juniper berries …they’re about four years old …they’re probably not edible”. I bet you’ll find they are edible. I really love a Delia Smith recipe for pork and juniper berries so I buy a jar of them for that. Each jar lasts me quite a bit longer than four years and we’ve never had any ill effects!
Thank you, Jack et al, for the useful cost-saving product substitutions. Dunno tho about powdered milk on cereal. But, powdered mustard (eg. Keen’s) is long-lasting, cheap, and tasty too.
Thai recipes say fish sauce I use Worcestershire sauce. It started when I moved to a place where I couldn’t get it then I stopped looking for it as this is much cheaper works just as we’ll and easier to get!
Ps. Love this site!!!!
I love this. I have been using apple sauce and a dash of milk as a replacement for coconut milk in my curries for years.
I know the moment’s maybe past but I wanted to let you all know about my ricotta cheese substitute…Cottage cheese! Sounds strange but I have just made vegi moussaka on a budget and Lidl doesn’t stock ricotta so I thought I’d try cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is much cheaper anyway – it worked fine with “Italian hard cheese” on top, baked in the oven. It was lovely.
I have just discovered this site, Having a lovely read. In chocolate cakes you can replace eggs with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
How about ordinary brown sugar (I have it in my cupboard) or white sugar in place of Palm sugar x
I do most of the above, but I could never give up a sweet potato! I’m the only one in the house that likes it so when its cheap (around 13p for one in Morrison’s, but it fluctuates a lot) I treat myself. For a better sweet potato taste i add a tiny pinch of sugar to carrots, it works wonders.
Interesting comments on storing ingredients in oil. Possibility of Botulism. Gino D’Campo said to store peeled Garlic this way recently on Loose Women, so I have. Should I bin it?
Thanks for this. A real help!
Love this post! Very useful and love the fun writing style. Carrots instead of sweet potatoes! Good plan.
As well as what people have mentioned above about long-grain rice not being creamy enough for risotto, I’d urge you not to do it for another reason. Risotto rice, to get the starchiness and creaminess, is cooked without washing. Long-grain rice, which is cheapest when bought in those huge bulk bags from Asian supermarkets, really needs washing. It often has grit and misc bits in it (found a fly’s wing once). I always wash it thoroughly and would never use it risotto-style just bunging it in a pan. Wash it and then use it for a pilau instead…risotto isn’t the only rice dish out there. Also, I discovered recently that with the supermarkets I have in my area (Morrisons and Lidl, with a good 15 miles to any Asian supermarkets or a large Tesco), it’s actually cheaper for me to buy Lidl risotto rice than it is to buy basmati rice, so if I run out in between trips to the Asian area to stock up, I spend a while only using risotto rice.
As to chilli oil, making your own is good advice but it’s better if you heat it. I learnt how to do this from a friend who worked in a takeaway, but this video outlines the same basic method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlIiADdh-QY
This is fasntastic. Jack, you need your own telly programme. Britain needs you.
Salads (or anything that you are going to eat just before or with a meal) (ergo both things will be in your stomach at the same time) SHOULDNT have ANY CITRIC, that means vinegar, oranges, limes, lemons…. because it breaks down the enzymes that are supposed to digest the cooked carbs.
Aside from that and that Olive oil (AND THIS COMES FROM A SPANIARD) is supposed to be eaten raw, as it has a lot of health benefits, and the only healthy option for this is COLD PRESSED EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL which i suppose its kinda pricey here but must be unthinkable over there.
Other than that:
half a lemon juice (about 2 tbsp)
1/4 cup of sunflower oil
different peppers work better than just black and/or white
garlic and/or onion powder
Mix and let sit on the fridge for a while or (recommended) all night
(i read the original recipe usually has different ingredients (parsley, fresh minced garlic… etc) but this one has made every single meal taste amazing)
ALSO THIS POST IS THE BEST THANK YOU
Some peoples taste buds have been ruined by growing up eating industrial food which is made of the cheapest ingredients available in order to generate the highest profit margins possible. So for them cheap ingredients will do the trick.
But people who grew up in the country with fresh fruit and vegetables, home cooking and baking, home made jams and pickles etc. have good taste buds and no one will fool them with cheap ingredients.
Only people who have ruined taste buds or no taste at all will eat anything they get their hands on.
Lemon juice out of bottles isn´t great and will taste nothing like fresh lemon juice. Hummous made with peanut butter may be an option but will be different in taste compared to the original made with sesame paste.
English mustard is great but it is quite strong and in no way a substitute for Dijon mustard which has a very differnt taste. If a recipe calls for Dijon mustard there is a reason for it.
I could go on and on but you´won´t get it anyway.
But hey, you´re absolutely right, Why waste money on good food and cooking ingredients if you cannot taste the difference!
What a poor fellow you must be. Just take the cheapest stuff you get and toss it all together and enjoy………………..what a poor life you must have. No sense of taste and good food.
And you even feel the need to share all the things you do not know anything about……………………………………..
Suit yourself – and I feel bad for all the sorry fools who listen to you.
Peanut butter in hummus might taste different to think but it tastes fine. And is a damn sight cheaper. Again dijon mustard tastes different to English mustard but not everyone has a shelf full different mustards. And quite honestly i cannot tell the difference between bottled lemon juice and squeezed when you are using a tbsp in a recipe. And it doesn’t go off as quick and is far far cheaper. Lucky you not to have to live and cook on a budget. I think many of us have good taste buds, but unfortunately not money to throw about with abandon. It does not mean our food tastes bad. On the contrary, cooking well is about using what you have got in the best way that you can. And cheap does not always mean bad, just as expensive ingredients can be highly processed. Substituting ingredients can indeed open up a whole new world and stop half opened packs languishing on the shelf or lemons going moldy. Keep up the inspiration Jack I say! And well done to all of us who cook on a budget. It’s not always easy.
I think it’s important to realise that there are a whole number of reasons to substitute ingredients (money, availability, allergies, taste preferences, lazyness…) – and just as many reasons to not substitute them! It’s fine if some people don’t notice or don’t mind the difference between the options, while others do notice and mind and stick to the ingredient the recipe calls for.
Sone substitutions will not alter the recipe much, others might create a whole new dish – both is ok!
I think in most cases when there are “fancy” ingredients that have the name of an ordinary one in them, it is safe to substitute (easy example: regular salt for sea salt).
I substitute sunflower seeds for pine nuts – different, yes, but they are incredibly cheeper here. In general, you can usually substitute the cheapest seeds you have for whatever seeds are called for.
In place of agave sirup or other “fancy” sweetener, I use whatever sweetener I have, even just plain old sugar. Yes, it may change the outcome, but again, if I don’t have the money to do it otherwise, why not.
I actually learned a lot about how to substitute things when I became vegan – it’s called “veganising” things and it can be fun, but is mostly second nature to me by now. butter -> vegan margarine or oil; milk -> soy/rice/oat/whatever dairy-free milk; eggs (in cakes, muffins etc) -> 1tbs soy flour mixed with 2tbs water (there are so many possibilities for egg substitutes actually! applesauce or flax seeds apparently work too)
Hey Jack, aware this is an old post but do you have any suggestions for a substitution for sun dried tomatoes?