Just because a recipe calls for a pricey ingredient doesn’t mean you have to skip it to stay on budget. Consider making a simple swap instead – creativity is key when it comes to cutting out processed food without breaking the bank!
10 Ingredient Swaps to Save You Money
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts >> Save $0.80 (per pound)
I often prefer the flavor of chicken thighs over breasts, so this one is a win-win in my opinion.
- Black or pinto beans for half the ground beef in tacos >> Save $1.05 (per pound)
I often just double my taco meat by adding 1 to 2 cans of (drained) beans to 1 pound of ground meat as well as double the spices.
- Lentils for half the ground beef in spaghetti sauce >> Save $0.81 (per pound)
Another great way to stretch ground meat is with veggie and other add-ins such as mushrooms, lentils and minced carrots.
- Walnuts instead of pine nuts >> Save $5.50 (per 4 ounces)
Pine nuts are good, but boy – are they pricey! Try out walnuts instead for pesto and salad toppers.
- Cream cheese instead of goat cheese >> Save $9.98 (per 8 ounces)
When used as a spread on crackers or grilled sandwiches, cream cheese would be just as tasty.
- Frozen berries instead of fresh >> Save $2 (per pound of strawberries)
Especially if you are using berries in a recipe (such as a smoothie or muffins) go with frozen – I never use fresh for that!
- Dried beans for canned >> Save $2.03 (per pound)
You’d obviously need to cook them first, but it’s far cheaper than buying the beans in the can.
- Dried herbs for fresh >> Save $3 (per purchase)
Substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (unless you grow your own, of course!)
- Chicken or veggie broth instead of wine >> Save $2.91 (per bottle)
The flavor is not going to be identical here, but it will definitely work if you’re trying to pull together a sauce on a budget.
- Honey for pure maple syrup >> Save $3.32 (per 8 ounces)
Whether it’s to go in a recipe or on top of your morning waffles, honey is often a cheaper substitute.
I’d love to hear your favorite real food budget substitutions in the comments!
23 thoughts on “10 Ingredient Swaps to Save You Money”
Where did all the containers in the article photo come from?
Hi Kelly, you can see Lisa’s entire pantry re-do in this post: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/pantry-redo-organization/
It also tells you where she bought some of her containers.
Good old “sour” milk if you don’t have heavy cream. Put a shot of vinegar in a cup of milk and let it sit for a few. It curdles up a little; stir it and viola, “heavy” cream.
Once I saw a chef on a cooking show switch out pomegranate juice for red wine. Just sayin’ :)
I love the honey for maple syrup one. Honey is also more widely available internationally as well!
Try Koshary…an Egyptian recipe…Spaghetti with lentils. May seem rich and extravagant at first but remember most Egyptians eat once or twice a day. This is also a street food trend in Egypt. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gallery/2009/mar/02/ahdaf-soueif-koshari-recipe
I’ve actually used a mixture of cream cheese and heavy whipping cream instead of ricotta (not sure if it’s cheaper!) in lasagna. I also will add veggies like, onion, red/green peppers etc., to our taco meat if I need to stretch it. I’m loving the idea of adding beans to the meat as well!!
Growing up in Japan, we alreays used half tofu and half meat in meat patties called. hamburg, (I assume the name comes from hamburgers.) These meat patties are like meatloaf, much smaller and individual size.
All meats are expensive in Japan and we always stretch it this way, or cut them up in small bite- size pieces and cook with variety of vegetables.
This isn’t a food swap, but a cooking swap. Natural gas is so much cheaper than electricity (at least where I live). So I always try to find ways to use my gas stove or oven instead of a crock pot or microwave.
These are good to know! Can cooked beans be frozen? I noticed that when substituting walnuts in pesto, it tasted bitter unless I roasted them first.
Just googled freezing beans and found this handy guide http://www.kitchentreaty.com/how-to-cook-dried-beans-and-freeze-them-for-later/
I live in Europe so some of the price issues don’t apply. For example, pine nuts don’t break the bank but pecans do. Also, slivered almonds toasted in a pan make an amazing salad topper. Also, mushrooms in a pasta sauce make an amazing meat substitute.
Here in Germany they have frozen herbs that taste much better than dried and only cost 70 cents per pack. Not sure if they have that in the states.
A berry compote, some jelly or gold syrup (a syrup made from sugar beets here in Europe) is great on pancakes or waffles.
Tomato paste is cheap and can add real depth to a sauce made with broth. Sautee some onion, celery and carrot, add in the paste and then the broth.
Thanks for the tips as always!
If you have a pressure cooker, the dried beans option is even easier!!
Quinoa also works well to stretch taco meat!
Agreed! Same for chili, I love how quinoa bulks it out and thickens it.
When adding lentils to spaghetti sauce, do you cook them first or add them dry?
I cook mine first to save on time and to preserve the liquid content of my homemade canned sauce.
You will need to cook them first.
I second black beans in taco meat. Even cheaper, since I cook my own dried beans and freeze them in can sized bags (1 1/2 cups plus some cooking liquid). I also add a large onion minced.
If you dehydrate the beans after you’ve frozen them, they don’t take up space in the freezer. They re-hydrate in minutes and are wonderful! Freezing old beans makes them more soft, also
Oooh. I think I’ll try this! Thanks for the idea!
After I cook my dried beans, I drained them and spread over wax paper on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once frozen I put them in a gallon size zip bag and when I need the beans I can take right from the freezer the amount I need without having to thaw.
Pine nuts are so expensive that the little ethnic grocery I go to keeps them behind the cash register!