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Simple Living



Economical Food Substitutions


by Nikki Willhite


Many people think when they follow a recipe from a cookbook they must follow it exactly. This is not true, and it is not cost effective.

This is especially true when it comes to casseroles. Some recipes have numerous ingredient, many which can be discarded without any significant loss of flavor.

You need only to look up the recipe for something like Beef Stroganoff in several different cookbooks to see the many variations of this basic dish.

If you are trying to save money in the kitchen, you will want to make your food as delicious as possible, using the fewest amount of ingredients possible. A lot of recipes call for things we don't normally stock in our cupboards. If we buy them, we may only use a portion of them, and the rest may go to waste.

Sometimes a recipe calls us to purchase just too many ingredients. We don't make it because we calculate that the cost per servicing is too expensive.

Sometimes we can get the flavor we want by using substitutes for items we don't want to buy. There are many commercial substitutes already...such as IMO for sour cream, and margarine for butter. I use IMO both in dip and when I make beef stroganoff. I almost always use margarine.

Here are a few substitutes that may help you. You can decide if there is a noticeable difference in quality.

Cake Flour

If a recipe calls for cake flour, just remove 2 Tbsp of flour for every cup of flour.

Self-rising Flour

For self rising flour add 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt to every cup of flour.


If out of milk, use 1/2 cup evaporated milk mixed with 1/2 cup water.

To make whole milk out of 1 cup of skim milk, add 3 Tbsp of cream.


A buttermilk substitute can be make from yogurt. Add 2 Tbsp milk, and 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. Let it set 10 minutes and then stir.

Cream Cheese

A cream cheese substitute is 1 cup of cottage cheese mixed with 1/4 cup of butter/margarine.

Sour Cream

For sour cream use 1 cup of yogurt mixed with 3 Tbsp melted butter.

Baking Powder

For baking powder use 1/4 tsp baking soda mixed with 1/2 tsp cream of tartar.


When baking with chocolate, 3 Tbsp cocoa with 2 1/2 tsps butter is equal to one unsweetened chocolate baking square.

Lemon Juice

For lemon juice, use 1/2 tsp of white vinegar.

Tomato Sauce

All canned tomato products may be interchanged. Add water to tomato paste to make tomato sauce.


Olives, mushrooms, green peppers, onions...and such can usually be left out of recipes. Think of a dish like a pizza. You can eat a plain cheese pizza, or you can eat one that is fully loaded.

About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! 


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