The past month changed the landscape of grocery shopping as we had known it. Previously, stocked shelves with many options were the norm, to the point we often took it for granted. Now, the supply chain is experiencing demand like never before, leaving some stores (if not most) with empty shelves, lacking items like meats, non-perishable foods, and household items (ahem, toilet paper, anyone?). Whether you were able to collect extra foods in anticipation of being at home longer, or if you weren’t able to do so- looking into your pantry may leave you scratching your head. The contents may be out of your cooking routine, and seem to be puzzle pieces to different puzzles.
Here are some common food substitutions to help piece together recipes, along with some helpful dietary information about the foods to help keep on track with a healthy diet. We are also sharing a few helpful hints about food preservation to stretch what you already have available.
Food Preservation Hints
- You can freeze milk- According to the Dairy Council of California, milk can easily be frozen to use later. But, make sure you leave some room in the container because it does expand as it freezes. For other tips on how to incorporate milk into meals if its reaching the expiration date and you aren’t able to freeze it, read here.
- Most produce items can be preserved using one of four methods- freezing, drying, pickling, and canning. If you aren’t able to routinely find produce that you need, when you find items, buy a bit extra and preserve them using one of the four methods- read details here.
- Keep herbs fresh in the refrigerator using these tips: For soft herbs, or herbs with a soft stem, such as cilantro, dill, parsley, basil they should be stored liked fresh flowers, in a jar of water. Hard herbs, or herbs with a hard stem should be stored rolled in a slightly damn paper towel in a bag in the refrigerator. To stay eco-friendly, check out these reusable bags from Stasher.
- Try growing some of your own produce. It likely won’t yield enough for you to completely avoid the store, but after the crop is growing, you’ll be able to supplement your purchases. Read here how to grow 25 foods (like potatoes, lettuce, onions, and even herbs) from the “scraps”. Bonus- get the kids involved and incorporate taking care of the plants into the daily routine, promoting exploration and responsibility!
- “Best before” dates are just guidelines. But, please take note that a “Use By” date should be observed to avoid any food borne illnesses. On the other hand, “Best Before” dates help the consumer gauge when the product is at its peak freshness, allowing a little bit of wiggle room before the item should be tossed. Foods like sealed yogurt containers can last 1-3 seeks beyond the “best before” date! If unsure, do a quick online search for guidelines on specific foods; but when in doubt, throw it out!
- Tightly wrapping up your celery or broccoli in tin foil is the perfect way to keep it fresh and crisp – and in the fridge it can last this way up to four weeks!
- Wash berries in a vinegar solution (one part vinegar, three parts water) to kill any bacteria on the fruit and help preserve them longer. There’s nothing worse than wanting to snack on berries and finding them mushy and rotting!
- Store lettuce with a kitchen towel to keep it fresh. The consensus is that storing leaves (dried as much as possible first of all) in a container or food bag, with a piece of paper towel pick up any excess moisture, is the most effective in keeping lettuce crisp.
If you find yourself lacking an ingredient or two when making food, try these substitutions to bridge the gap.
Eggs: Calories in 1 large egg: 78
There are a variety of substitutes you can use for eggs, which is great if you’re working only with what you have on-hand. Substituting eggs helps lower the cholesterol of the recipe. If you’re replacing eggs that are meant to bind the product, you can use these options (portions are for every egg needed):
- 1/2 of a medium banana; 54 calories
- 1/4 cup of applesauce: 41 calories
- 3 1/2 tablespoons of gelatin blend: 35 calories
- 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoon of warm water: 120 calories. While the calories for a tablespoon are higher than one large egg, flaxseed contains omega-3 fats, dietary fiber, and protein, just to name a few benefits.
Buttermilk: Calories in 1 cup: 99
Buttermilk has a lower fat content than whole milk, but does contain saturated fat. So, cutting it from a recipe can definitely help make your end product healthier. While it may seem like a no-brainer to just substitute milk in place of buttermilk, doing so will squander the leavening benefit of how the acid in buttermilk reacts with baking sodas. Here are four options to make 1 cup of buttermilk:
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to make 1 cup (let it sit for five minutes after combining): 122 calories
- Plain yogurt that is watered down with milk or water until it has a buttermilk-like consistency (standard is 1/4 cup liquid with 3/4 cup yogurt): 39 calories
- 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar with 1 cup of milk: 130 calories
Butter: Calories in 1 cup: 1,627
Even if you have butter available, it isn’t a bad idea to substitute it for a healthier option. These options work for almost every recipe, but for items where you’re seeking a flaky finish (like a crust), a substitution may not yield the same results. Some of the substitute options seem to be similar as far as calorie content, but read here for the difference between dietary fats. As a substitute for 1 cup of butter, you can use:
- 1/2 cup applesauce: 83 calories
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil: 1,446 calories
- 1 cup avocado: 234 calories
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt: 140 calories
- 3/4 cup olive oil: 1,431 calories
Lard: Calories in 1 cup: 2,034
Using certain ingredients is sometimes the only way to get the desired product. Lard can be a tough ingredient to substitute because substitutes will have a different fat content (lard is 100% fat). “Isn’t that the whole point?”, you might be asking. Yes, but different fat contents lead to different end-results for the product. A slightly better alternative to lard is butter (80% fat), or even vegetable shortening. You’ll have to explore how much more to add to make up for the shortage in the fat content to get the desired result. The same goes for these substitutes as for the butter substitutes; all dietary fats are not created equal- read here how to make a good choice for your dietary needs and goals!
Oils are another possible lard substitute. Each of these will affect your recipe in different ways because of the fat content. Using oils instead of lard may lead to the product to spread more (for example, when making cookies), but you can counteract that by chilling the dough before baking it. For every cup of lard needed, you can use:
- Butter: Substitute 1 1/4 cups: 2,033 calories
- Vegetable oil: Substitute 7/8 cup: 1,687 calories
- Olive oil: Substitute 1 cup olive oil: 1,910 calories
- Coconut oil: Substitute 1 cup coconut oil: 1,897 calories
Sour Cream: Calories in 1 cup: 445
This substitute is simple enough- if a recipe requires sour cream, you can use an equal amount of plain yogurt as a substitute. Using plain yogurt cuts the fat and calorie (calories: 154) amounts and still gives you the tangy flavor you’re looking for.
Vegetable oil: Calories in a cup: 1,910
Depending on the recipe, an easy substitute for vegetable oil is using an equal amount of applesauce (calories in one cup: 166) or fruit puree (calories: depends on fruit chosen).
Sugar: Calories in one cup: 773
Sugar is one of the biggest downfalls to a healthy diet when baking and cooking. There are a variety of options that can be used to provide the flavor, but avoid the negative impact of high levels of sugar:
- Stevia: Harvested from a shrub that originates in South America, Stevia is a natural sweetener. It has zero calories, and has not been found to have any adverse side effects. In fact, studies show that stevioside, (a compound in stevia) can have beneficial effects on blood pressure, by as much as 6-14%. Calories: zero
- Xylitol: Extracted from corn or birch wood, it is found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, so the flavor is very similar to traditional sugar. The upside is also that it only contains 60% of the calories of regular sugar. Another perk is that Xylitol has been shown to prevent tooth decay and cavities. An important note: xylitol is toxic to dogs, so keep it away from them and definitely don’t share any treats made with Xylitol. Calories: 463.
- Yacon Syrup: Extracted from the Yacon plant of South America, Yacon Syrup contains 40–50% fructooligosaccharides, which are a special type of sugar molecule that the human body cannot digest. Because these sugar molecules are not digested, yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar, or about 1.3 calories per gram. Calories in a cup: 156.
Lemon Juice: Calories in one cup: 53
Lemons obviously aren’t unhealthy. But in a cooking or baking bind, you can substitute lemon juice with lime juice in a 1:1 ratio, or with vinegar/white wine in a 1/2: 1 ratio, to keep your dish from being too acidic. This is a wonderful substitute tip for making your own salad dressings or marinades, which helps you avoid unnecessary sugar, fat, and additives found in store bought options.
A-Z Ingredient Substitutions for Baking and Cooking
Everybody’s pantry has a unique combination of items these days, without easy access to everything one may need for meal prep; here are many other substitution suggestions for whatever scenario you may encounter.
|Allspice||1 teaspoon||1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves|
|Arrowroot starch||1 teaspoon||1 tablespoon flour OR 1 teaspoon cornstarch|
|Baking mix||1 cup||1 cup pancake mix OR 1 cup Easy Biscuit Mixture|
|Baking powder||1 teaspoon||1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup)|
|Baking soda||1 teaspoon||4 teaspoons baking powder OR 1 teaspoon potassium bicarbonate and 1/3 teaspoon salt. NOTE: If the recipe calls for an acidic liquid such as sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, molasses, or citrus juice, you should replace it with the same amount of whole milk|
|Beer||1 cup||1 cup nonalcoholic beer OR 1 cup chicken broth|
|Brandy||1/4 cup||1 teaspoon imitation brandy extract plus enough water to make 1/4 cup|
|Bread crumbs||1 cup||1 cup cracker crumbs OR 1 cup matzo meal OR 1 cup ground oats|
|Broth: beef or chicken||1 cup||1 bouillon cube plus 1 cup boiling water OR 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus enough water to make 1 cup OR 1 cup vegetable broth|
|Brown sugar||1 cup, packed||1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses and decrease the liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup OR 1 cup white sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar|
|Butter (salted)||1 cup||1 cup margarine OR 1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt|
|Butter (unsalted)||1 cup||1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 7/8 cup lard|
|Buttermilk||1 cup||1 cup yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup|
|Cheddar cheese||1 cup shredded||1 cup shredded Colby cheddar OR 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese|
|Chervil||1 tablespoon chopped fresh||1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley|
|Chicken base||1 tablespoon||1 cup canned or homemade chicken broth or stock. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1 cup|
|Chocolate(semisweet)||1 ounce||1 (1-ounce) square of unsweetened chocolate plus 4 teaspoons sugar OR 1 ounce semisweet chocolate chips plus 1 teaspoon shortening|
|Chocolate (unsweetened)||1 ounce||3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil|
|Cocoa||1/4 cup||1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate|
|Condensed cream of mushroom soup||1 (10.75-ounce) can||1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of celery, cream of chicken, or golden mushroom soup|
|Corn syrup||1 cup||1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup honey OR 1 cup light treacle syrup|
|Cottage cheese||1 cup||1 cup farmer’s cheese OR 1 cup ricotta cheese|
|Cracker crumbs||1 cup||1 cup bread crumbs OR 1 cup matzo mealOR 1 cup ground oats|
|Cream (half and half)||1 cup||7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter|
|Cream (heavy)||1 cup||1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter|
|Cream (light)||1 cup||1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tablespoons butter|
|Cream (whipped)||1 cup||1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed|
|Cream cheese||1 cup||1 cup pureed cottage cheese OR 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight in a cheesecloth|
|Cream of tartar||1 teaspoon||2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar|
|Crème fraiche||1 cup||Combine 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Let stand for 6 hours at room temperature|
|Egg||1 whole (3 tablespoons or 1.7 oz)||2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered egg substitute plus 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute OR 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed OR 3 tablespoons mayonnaise OR half a banana mashed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder OR 1 tablespoon powdered flax seed soaked in 3 tablespoons water|
|Evaporated milk||1 cup||1 cup light cream|
|Farmer’s cheese||8 ounces||8 ounces dry cottage cheese OR 8 ounces creamed cottage cheese, drained|
|Fats for baking||1 cup||1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree|
|Flour–Bread||1 cup||1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten (available at health food stores & some supermarkets)|
|Flour–Cake||1 cup||1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons|
|Flour–Self-Rising||1 cup||7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt|
|Garlic||1 clove||1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt–reduce salt in recipe|
|Gelatin||1 tablespoon, granulated||2 teaspoons agar agar|
|Ginger–dry||1 teaspoon||2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger|
|Ginger–fresh||1 teaspoon, minced||1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger|
|Green onion||1/2 cup , chopped||1/2 cup chopped onion OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped shallots|
|Hazelnuts||1 cup whole||1 cup macadamia nuts OR 1 cup almonds|
|Herbs–fresh||1 tablespoon chopped fresh||1 teaspoon (chopped or whole leaf) dried herbs|
|Herring||8 ounces||8 ounces of sardines|
|Honey||1 cup||1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup corn syrup OR 1 cup light treacle syrup|
|Hot pepper sauce||1 teaspoon||3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus 1 teaspoon vinegar|
|Ketchup||1 cup||1 cup tomato sauce plus 1 teaspoon vinegar plus 1 tablespoon sugar|
|Lard||1 cup||1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 1 cup butter|
|Lemon grass||2 fresh stalks||1 tablespoon lemon zest|
|Lemon juice||1 teaspoon||1/2 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lime juice|
|Lemon zest||1 teaspoon||1/2 teaspoon lemon extract OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice|
|Lime juice||1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice|
|Lime zest||1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon lemon zest|
|Macadamia nuts||1 cup||1 cup almonds OR 1 cup hazelnuts|
|Mace||1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon nutmeg|
|Margarine||1 cup||1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 cup butter OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt|
|Mayonnaise||1 cup||1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt|
|Milk–whole||1 cup||1 cup soy milk OR 1 cup rice milk OR 1 cup water or juice OR 1/4 cup dry milk powder plus 1 cup water OR 2/3 cup evaporated milk plus 1/3 cup water|
|Mint–fresh||1/4 cup chopped||1 tablespoon dried mint leaves|
|Molasses||1 cup||Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar|
|Mustard–prepared||1 tablespoon||Mix together 1 tablespoon dried mustard, 1 teaspoon water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar|
|Onion||1 cup, chopped||1 cup chopped green onions OR 1 cup chopped shallots OR 1 cup chopped leeks OR 1/4 cup dried minced onion OR 1/4 cup onion powder|
|Orange juice||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon other citrus juice|
|Orange zest||1 tablespoon||1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice|
|Parmesan cheese||1/2 cup, grated||1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese OR 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese|
|Parsley||1 tablespoon chopped fresh||1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil OR 1 teaspoon dried parsley|
|Pepperoni||1 ounce||1 ounce salami|
|Raisin||1 cup||1 cup dried currants OR 1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped pitted prunes|
|Rice–white||1 cup, cooked||1 cup cooked barley OR 1 cup cooked bulgur OR 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice|
|Ricotta||1 cup||1 cup dry cottage cheese OR 1 cup silken tofu|
|Rum||1 tablespoon||1/2 teaspoon rum extract, plus enough water to make 1 tablespoon|
|Saffron||1/4 teaspoon||1/4 teaspoon turmeric|
|Salami||1 ounce||1 ounce pepperoni|
|Semisweet chocolate chips||1 cup||1 cup chocolate candies OR 1 cup peanut butter or other flavored chips OR 1 cup chopped nuts OR 1 cup chopped dried fruit|
|Shallots, chopped||1/2 cup||1/2 cup chopped onion, OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped green onion|
|Shortening||1 cup||1 cup butter OR 1 cup margarine minus 1/2 teaspoon salt from recipe|
|Sour cream||1 cup||1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup OR 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter|
|Sour milk||1 cup||1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup: Let stand 5 minutes to thicken|
|Soy sauce||1/2 cup||1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon water|
|Stock–beef or chicken||1 cup||1 cube beef or chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water|
|Sweetened condensed milk||1 (14-ounce) can||3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk: Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes|
|Vegetable oil–for baking||1 cup||1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree|
|Vegetable oil–for frying||1 cup||1 cup lard OR 1 cup vegetable shortening|
|Vinegar||1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice OR 2 teaspoons white wine|
|White sugar||1 cup||1 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar OR 3/4 cup honey OR 3/4 cup corn syrup|
|Wine||1 cup||1 cup chicken or beef broth OR 1 cup fruit juice mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar OR 1 cup water|
|Yeast-active dry||1 (.25-ounce) package||1 cake compressed yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoonsrapid rise yeast|
|Yogurt||1 cup||1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup sour milk|
Community Food Resources
Due to school closures, many children may not have a reliable food source. TUSD is offering free meals for all kids 18 and younger through their Grab-And-Go Mobile Meal program. Children do not have to be a part of Tucson Unified School District to receive meals. The program is structured to travel through 12 bus routes, at 113 stops to reach as many families as possible. You can read more about the guidelines here.
If you or anybody you know is experiencing financial hardship and are struggling to get food on the table, the Community Food Bank, is offering help and is also urgently looking for donations to continue providing for those in need.
Food, being a vital part of everybody’s life can become a point of stress if there are obstacles in sourcing it. For those fortunate to have nourishment, albeit maybe not the usual choices, a little creativity can go a long way in making delicious foods and even enjoying the process of troubleshooting missing ingredients. Many people have had their financial situation upturned these past weeks and may be struggling to secure food for their families. If you would like to help but are unsure how, please contact resources such as the Community Food Bank, the YMCA (they’re offering free emergency childcare to essential workers who cannot work from home), and many others (read more here).