Necessary Substitutions

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, I guess that frugality fits somewhere in that family tree too. For many years our little family only had one car. And, since my husband worked odd hours, that put me at home without transportation most of the time. I learned a lot about being creative and “getting by” during those years. I still apply many of those lessons today, especially in the kitchen.

During that time of pinching pennies (which I still do), I learned to bake bread and make just about everything possible from scratch. I also learned that recipes are not sacred. It is perfectly fine to experiment and substitute. Don’t have enough cans of tomatoes for a crockpot of chili on a snowy day? Pour in that jar of salsa from the fridge instead. Out of cinnamon or brown sugar? Don’t have cayenne or basil? Look in the cabinets for something comparable. Use white sugar or pancake syrup instead of brown sugar. Try cloves, or chili powder, or oregano instead of a similar spice. I’ve often interchanged vegetable oil, shortening, and butter. And, have you ever started making pancakes, only to find an empty milk jug? Instead of jumping into the car, open the refrigerator. Did you know that yogurt makes fluffy pancakes? I’ve even used sour cream thinned with a little water. Maybe not my first choice, but it worked.

These kinds of “necessary substitutions” can also be a great way to use up things that are about ready to expire. This is how I discovered that yogurt (yep, that yogurt again) works great in biscuits. I used the same (almost) past-due carton to make pancakes and smoothies that week. Apples that are getting soft become applesauce for lunch or get added (with some cinnamon) to a muffin recipe. And the opened jar of spaghetti sauce from two weeks ago? Why not use it on a homemade pizza?

Now, I no longer have to make substitutions and get creative. I could easily grab my keys, hop into the car, and take my wallet to the nearest store. But this principle is more about a frugal mindset than transportation. It’s about daring to be creative. It’s about thinking outside the box. And personally, instead of spending more money at the store, I’d rather take my wallet to my bank!



  1. says

    I think that’s one of the best ways to save money. Cause not only do you not go and buy what you are missing, but you don’t end up buying the extra cartload of things you come across.

  2. says

    * Loud Applause * !!!! Your experiences are very similar to mine. No car for years, everything from scratch, learning to cook from what I have on hand. Good for you!

  3. says

    I hate driving, especially when there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground, so I’m really with you on finding substitutes in the house whenever possible so I can avoid a trip to the grocery. You can often leave something out completely and no one even knows.
    BTW, do you know you can make your own brown sugar if you have molasses in the house? It takes about a tablespoon of molasses mixed into a cup of sugar–I’d look up the recipe to find the right proportions for dark or light, but that’s about right.

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