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Eke out your kitchen stores with these food substitutes

Eke out your kitchen stores with these food substitutes

The 75th anniversary of VE Day, which marked the official end of fighting during the Second World War in Europe, falls on 8th May. It’s interesting to think how the homemakers of that time, feeding their families under strict food rationing, would recognise our current situation under lockdown.

The parallels are undeniable. Many staple foods on restricted sale, people turning their hand to growing their own fruit and veg, meals made from scratch rather than bought in and, of course, avoiding food waste at all costs. 



There are many parallels between postwar food rationing and our current circumstances.

Delaying the grocery shop supports our amazing key workers

While we’re all trying our best to stay at home, each and every day’s delay to the big grocery shop is a win. Why?

>> Fewer of us shopping online means more opportunities for those that are self-isolating to book all-important grocery deliveries. 

>> Fewer of us visiting supermarkets allows for more effective social distancing in-and-around the shops, as well as shorter queues for the time-pressed key workers getting food for themselves and their families. 

To avoid having to pop to the shops when you run out of a key ingredient, try these canny ingredient substitutions and alternative recipes… 

Fewer of us visiting supermarkets allows for more effective social distancing in-and-around the shops.

Sussing out how to substitute ingredients

The rule of thumb when substituting ingredients is to match the flavour and purpose of the foodstuff you’re leaving out with the qualities of the item you’re replacing it with. For example, the sourness and acidity of lemon juice can be replicated with wine vinegar. Or the tang and sweetness of onion with leeks.

You mustn’t expect a recipe to turn out the same as usual once you’ve made a substitution in the ingredients. The results will definitely be different, though not necessarily less tasty. You may even discover some unexpectedly delicious combos! 

To add acidity into recipes. Squeeze lemon juice is interchangeable with a splash of white wine or a half-and-half vinegar-and-water mix.  



Beef stock substitutes. If you don’t have any cubes or bouillon powder lurking at the back of the cupboard, measure a tablespoon of soy sauce into 250ml of hot water, multiply the ratio up to the amount of stock you require. 

Beans or pulse swaps. If a recipe calls for a specific bean or pulse, generally you can substitute these with a similar item without too much thought, such as split peas instead of lentils, or one tin of beans for another. Just be mindful of those dried foods that require an overnight soak. 

Greens exchanges. The important distinction here is between watery greens that wilt in heat (spinach, chard greens, lettuce and watercress) and more leathery greens that retain their structure (Savoy cabbage, white and red cabbage, curly kale). Stick to swaps within those groups and your dishes should turn out a treat. 

To add bulk to meatballs or for crunchy pie toppings. If you’re out of stale bread for breadcrumbs, smash up some savoury biscuits, potato crisps or cream crackers and use those instead.  

Baking has its own rules for substitutions

Most home cooks realise at some point that, while it’s possible to tweak a stew or curry as you go along, you mess with the chemistry of the bake at your peril! 

The lightness and fluffiness of a sensitive sponge cake will suffer from substitutions. You may want to plump for deliberately ‘stodgier’ bakes at this time, such as that wartime favourite: naturally sweet carrot cake

See Also

Egg substitutes

For each egg in the recipe, add in two tablespoons of mayonnaise, or half a teaspoon of baking powder plus one tablespoon of vinegar. If you don’t mind a slightly fruity flavour, you could also try adding around 70g of cooked apple puree, or half a mashed banana, per egg. 

Butter substitutes

Replace 100g of melted butter with 85g of vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt if the recipe calls for salted butter.  

Milk substitutes

If you can root out a tin of evaporated milk from somewhere, you can mix this 50:50 with water for an effective milk substitute. Plain yoghurt or sour cream can also be used at an equal amount to the milk the recipe calls for, though if you have Greek yoghurt then you’ll need to thin it with a little water first. Non-dairy milks will also do the job. 

Bread with no yeast

Classic Irish soda bread is fun to make and fairly foolproof. Much easier than messing around with sourdough starters

Bread with no wheat flour

Dried chickpeas whizzed to a powder in a decently-powered food processor become gluten-free ‘gram flour’. While you can make this into moreish French socca bread, this versatile flour can also coat leftover vegetables for spicy bhajis, or even make a decent frying pan pizza.  

How are you faring with food shopping during these difficult times? What are your top ingredient substitution tips? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! 

>> Love your spuds – how to keep potatoes fresher for longer

>> Tastier leftovers from the freezer? Yes, with these tips! 

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