Thursday, February 11, 2010

Eating what you have and substituting for what you don't have.

Last month I had fun joining in with the Eat from your pantry challange. We were (and are) well stocked up on the basics so it wasn't to hard. I did have to work at having enough variety to suit me. One of the ways that I find that really helps in economical cooking and baking is being willing to substitute. This is something I have always done a lot of as I watched my Mom doing it the whole time I was growing up. Ken teases me regularly about this trait, he is convinced that I absolutely never follow a recipe, I think I do once in a great while, but perhaps he is right.

  Your food can still turn out fine even while substituting, there are just some basic quidelines that help a lot. Here are some of the ones that I can think of right now:

  • Feel free to substitute flours. I use recipes all the time that call for regular flour but I rarely use it. Instead I use whole wheat flour, rye flour, corn meal, oatmeal and other whole grain flours. As long as it is dry and has a similiar consistency it should work! :-) The product won't be indentical to that in the cookbook but if you haven't used that recipe before anyway you won't know the difference!
  • Exchange liquid for other liquids. In my baked goods especially I do a lot of substituting here. My basic rule is look at how much liquids are used (Add up milk, oil or butter, etc) and then I put in whatever else I want to. I have been using a lot of pumpkin which adds a little nutrition but generaly doesn't change the flavor. (I probably wouldn't do this in an angel food cake!)
  • Things like fruit, nuts or chocolate chips in baking can usually be changed however you desire. Generally you can leave them out and still have a nice finished product or add them in to a recipe that doesn't have them or change them. If it calls for blueberries but you have raspberries, then swap them! You can come up with wonderful new recipes this way!
  • How about sweeteners? I am still in the learning process with this. All my life I have done things like cut the sugar in half but lately I have been working to eliminate sugar from our diet so I have been trying to use maple syrup, molasses and honey instead. This is a bit complicated as all of these are liquid. What I have found to work pretty well is to eliminate some of the other liquid and also the sugar in the recipe and then add the liquid sweetener in the amount to replace the liquid you eliminated.
  • Cooking is even easier to mix things up in than baking. Feel free to use hamburger insteand of diced steak or maybe even cooked chicken for a different style. Just let yourself be creative! I usually just use recipes as an idea starter or a guideline. From there you can totally do what you want!
 Personally I have a lot more fun in the kitchen if I can be creative and do something different. I would love to hear your good or wacky substitutions!

  If you want to do some very careful substituting check out this very comprehensive list!

  I also thought I should report on how I did on the Pantry Challange. I finally got all the reciepts together and added it up and now tonight I can't find my paper! Here is what I remember:

For Dairy and Produce I had alotted $100. In this area I went slightly over and spent $104 and a few cents. It was interesting to see just how much we spend on milk! I am curious how much milk other families use. We drink it usually for every breakfast and supper (for lunch and in between times we drink water) and we go through4-5 gallons a week. If you don't drink milk for meals what do you drink? I am just curious.

I had bought some Gluten free diet for our experiment with having Megan go Gluten Free. That cost $31. That was according to my plan. We are off the gluten free diet, I had fun doing it for her for 2 weeks but it seemed to hinder more than help.

I did "cheat" and bought Ketchup for $1.88.

I did a little stocking up but not nearly as much as the $75 I alloted. I spent around $35 in that area.

My total was around $172 which was under the $205 that I had allowed myself. I was pleased with the end result.
I also did not go to Walmart as planned. I am hoping not to go to Walmart in February either. I am hoping to stay under $250 for groceries this month. We still have quite a lot of food to eat from the pantry. Some of my other goals this month are going sugar free (using natural sweeteners instead) and drinking a lot of water!

For more frugal thougts please visit Life as MOM.


Kathryn Lang said...

We must be related somewhere down the line. I USE recipes, but I rarely follow them ;).

I used pumpkin pie mix in a yellow cake (from the box) and it was the best thing I've tasted! It will be a staple in our home for the holidays now. No need for any icing, just cooked it like a pound cake.

Also, the crock pot is a great place to mix and blend pantry items.

I wish I were able to stay under that for our staples, but with three boys (teens) in the house, we can go through a gallon of milk each day - EASY!

Thanks for the tips.

Jackie said...

I love all of your substitution ideas. Great reminders. I also desire to use less refined sugar. This is something I want to work on. Thanks for all of your great tips.

Mum in Bloom said...

These are great substitution ideas and I printed the list you linked too (gosh, it was 11 pages). You did really well on the pantry challenge, eh? Keep up the good work :)

Nola said...

I also do a lot of substituting and changing things around. Its become the way I do things. I make notes all over my recipes about different things I have done, how long they took to make, etc.

Wow you don't spend much on groceries...I am amazed, but at the same time I realize that everyone's family is different...different areas of the world and different eaters etc. I would love to hear more how you make it work for you. We spend a lot more than that, but we don't live in the US and we don't live near a big city either. I have been doing the pantry challenge too and so far I have managed to save some from our bill.

You might want to check out this really neat cookbook I got its called "wow this is sugarfree" its got recipes on using whole grain flours (spelt, wheat or other) and hints for allergies as well as obviuosly sugar free- using mainly apple juice, concentrated fruit juice (can make your own) and stevia as options. I am sharing this with whoever I can since I love the book...its helped me so much.

Erin said...

When my husband compliments me on a new dish I often say, "Well, I just followed the recipe..." He then asks how many substitutions I made, and it becomes clear that it was more of a guide than a recipe. Substituting is the greatest way to be frugal in the kitchen! :)


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