I admit that I spend a lot of time looking at recipes online. The Internet has basically become my digital cookbook. However, the problem I often find with a lot of the food blogs out there is the ingredients. From vanilla beans to fancy steaks, a lot of these items aren’t going to be found in my pantry and some give me sticker shock when I go searching for them in the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $6 to spend on 2 ounces of anything. For all the cooks out there looking to save an extra buck, here are some cheap ingredient swaps for the most expensive ingredients I could find.
1. Use cream cheese instead of goat cheese
Go on any food blog and I guarantee you’ll find at least one recipe featuring goat cheese within the first few pages. However, this cheese can run from $4 to $7 dollars per small package. Cream cheese is an excellent substitute for this. It has all of the creamy texture of goat cheese and none of the ridiculous price. If you find that you miss the tanginess of goat cheese try cutting the cream cheese with a bit of plain yogurt or sour cream.
2. Use porcini mushrooms instead of truffles
Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to find truffles if I wanted some, and at $1,400 a pound I don’t even want to go near them. Many suggest using truffle oil instead of shavings as it’s a fraction of the price and should deliver the same flavors, but that’s still going to leave you with a lot of spaghetti nights, coming in anywhere from $20 to $75 depending on quality, not quantity. Plus, many of those oils use synthetic flavors, and who wants that? I recommend trying porcini mushrooms in lieu of the more expensive fungi. It will give you a similar flavor and texture without the high price tag.
3. Use turmeric and paprika over saffron
This is the most expensive spice in the world. I know I certainly don’t want to pay $300 for a seasoning, so instead I use a combination of turmeric and paprika. These two closely replicate the bittersweet taste of saffron without blowing this month’s rent. If you really feel the need to get the real deal, Trader Joe’s sells small portions of saffron for a relatively doable price.
4. A quick guide for substituting liquor
If you’re anything like me, you either don’t have a huge variety of liquor on hand or you’re saving it for the weekend. A lot of recipes I’ve come across have bourbon or rum in it so here are some handy swaps.
One part vanilla extract to two parts water for each tablespoon of bourbon.
You’re trying to replicate the sweetness of the rum here so if you feel like this is a recipe you’re likely to use often, get rum extract. You can combine that with a ½ cup of apple juice or water. If you don’t want to buy the extract (I know, it’s expensive) you can use orange or pineapple juice.
5. Try pure vanilla extract in place of vanilla beans
Unless you’re working for a bakery or in someone else’s kitchen there’s no need to always buy actual vanilla beans. Most of us have never even tried the real thing to begin with, so skip the pod and opt for the extract instead. Just make sure to get the pure authentic stuff because that is worth the price.
6. Cook a flat iron steak instead of filet mignon
Mignon is French for “cute” or “dainty” but the price is nowhere near “dainty.” Rachael Ray suggests a flatiron steak instead. You won’t get the same tenderness of a filet mignon, but this cut is way more forgiving on both your culinary skills and your wallet. Reserve the filet mignon for dinner with your parents or grandparents.
7. Here’s two last-minute substitutes for eggs
Technically eggs aren’t all too expensive but sometimes you just want some cookies and halfway through mixing all your ingredients you realize you don’t have any eggs. This is for all the people out there who never have those eggs ready when they suddenly decide to bake.
• 3 tablespoons mayo for each egg
• 1/2 of a mashed ripe banana plus 1/4 teaspoon baking powder for each egg