5 Tips to Reducing Recipe Costs

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on May 11, 2009

Do you ever look at a recipe and think I would love to make that, but I don’t have all the ingredients?  Usually having to make an extra trip to the grocery to get the extra ingredients will put you over your budget and cause you to impulse buy.  Well, at least that is what always happens to me. 

Below are a 5 areas I frequently substitute with what I have on hand to make a recipe work for me. 

1.  Carbohydrates:  I have learned to substitute whatever starch my recipe calls for.  A good example is pasta.  I have recipes that call for a certain type of pasta; I just use whatever I have on hand.  If I am making lasagna, and I don’t have lasagna noodles, I will just use whatever type of pasta noodle is in the pantry like ziti, rigatoni or bowtie.  It tastes the same and my kids love the fun shapes. 

Another way I substitute starches is using rice in place of pasta in a casserole.  I get lots of flavored rice boxes free (or close to it!) and I will use those and just cut back on the salt and flavorings in the dish. 

2.  Fresh Herbs:  Fresh herbs tend to be pretty pricey, especially in the winter when I don’t have a garden to pull from.  So, one idea I do is to just use the dried variety, I already have in my cabinet.  In order to know how much to substitute, I always use about a 1 to 3 ratio;  or 1 teaspoon dried to 1 tablespoon fresh.   

In the summer towards the end of each herbs run, I harvest them and freeze them to use all winter.  That way in many recipes I can still use “fresh herbs”.  You can see my post here on freezing fresh herbs and pesto.   

3.  Dairy:  One of my goals is to try to keep unnecessary calories out of our meals, and dairy is a great place to do that.  I have lots of recipes that call for heavy cream or half and half, but I just substitute it with whatever milk I have on hand, usually 2% or whole.  I did that here when I made Tomato Basil Soup.  I substituted the heavy cream for whole milk and the fresh basil for dried, and the soup tasted great! 

Sometimes the less fat cream can change the “thickness” of the dish.  A tip I learned to overcome that is to use cornstarch or flour.  I usually opt for cornstarch, because I need a lot less.  As a rule, I use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken every 2 cups of liquid to a medium consistency. Mix cornstarch into a little cold liquid (like water), is stirred into the hot food during the final stage of cooking.  Go here to read more on using flour and cornstarch. 

4.  Meats:  We make a lot of soups in our house, because they are great “one pot” dishes.  One of my favorites is Taco soup or Chicken Tortilla soup.  What meat I have on hand usually determines which name I call it!  Taco soup has ground beef and the Chicken Tortilla version has diced chicken breast, you could even use shredded roast beef from yesterday’s pot roast.   

Another example is my Black Bean Enchilada recipe here.  This recipe becomes whatever meat we have on hand.  It calls for ground beef, but I have used ground turkey or chicken, sliced chicken and shredded pot roast. 

5.  Omit Ingredients:  Many times items in a dish are very easily omitted without ever noticing the difference.  You can leave things out of dishes and substitute them with your family’s favorite picks.  Often if I am making a casserole and it calls for peas or carrots, I will substitute it with other veggies my family prefers, like tomatoes and onions.  This is also great to do with soups. 

My main goal is to use what I already have on hand and sometimes that means experimenting.  Some of my family’s favorite dishes have come out of leftovers or using only what I had from our stockpile. 
 
To see more ideas on how to “morph” your recipes to work for you, check out my Cooking 101 series here. 

Faithful Provisions is the result of founder Kelly Hancock’s efforts to apply Biblical principles of financial stewardship to her household. Now voluntarily unemployed, she left a good job at a Fortune 500 company to stay at home with her two young children and manage her household. Through trial and error, patience and prayer, Kelly learned how to make the most of her husband’s income and watched God faithfully provide for their every need on 20 percent of their previous budget. She loves to share her knowledge to equip others to do the same.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Poltzie May 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm

excellent advice, thanks Erin!

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Tiffany May 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Those are great ideas. I’m all for substituting ingredients for taste, cost and availibility. I encourage my readers to make substitutions and I love when they share how they “made do” in the comments. I like how you gave ideas in an organized list. Great post!

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Family Travel Mom May 13, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Substitute heavy cream with evaporated milk (cans). They slightly thicken without added high carb corn starch or flour. Very good, condensed tips that get right at 5 points we can all use tonight for dinner prep!

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Melissa May 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Do you have suggestions for recipes that do not use alot of carbohydrates as fillers?

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