Simple Substitutes

I’ve mentioned before why I’m not a huge fan of supermarkets. Tantruming kids (mine), waaay too much choice, clutter, buying things that weren’t on the list… want me to go on?

I grocery shop once-a-month and pop in about once a week to pick up some milk with cash. My system is pretty good but it’s not perfect and yes, I do sometimes go to make something and realise I’m missing an ingredient.

That doesn’t mean a trip to the grocery store though. You’d be surprised how many exclusive ingredients can actually be replaced with substitutes. There’s a bonus here –  some of the substitutes are a lot less expensive than the item they’re subbing in for.

Using substitutes also means that you can have fewer items in your kitchen and still be able to make the same things. I’m all for minimalism and less clutter in the kitchen.

Some of my favourite substitutes:

  • buttermilk 1 cup – 1 cup milk + 3 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • sour cream, natural yoghurt and cream can all be used in place of each other in most recipes
  • sour cream – the same amount of cream with a few tsp of lemon juice
  • oregano, thyme and marjoram can be used interchangeably in most recipes
  • egg – 1tsp cornstarch + 3 tbsp water
  • self-raising flour 1 cup = 2 tsp baking powder +1 cup plain flour (I never buy SR flour)
  • golden syrup, molasses, treacle and corn syrup are pretty much interchangeable but I prefer to use honey, rice malt syrup or maple syrup for a much healthier alternative
  • icing sugar – sugar whizzed in the blender until it is fine – I like to use un-refined rapadura sugar
  • bread crumbs – rolled oats processed a bit in the blender or food processor, almond or other nut meal, polenta, crushed crackers
  • cream of tartar, lemon juice and vinegar can be used interchangeably except when the lemon is for flavour
  • ricotta and cottage cheese can be used for the same purpose
  • wholemeal flour 1 cup – 3/4 cup plain flour + 1/4 cup rolled oats it won’t have the same fiber but will still be better for you than using just plain flour

I also use white vinegar in my dishwasher instead of rinse-aid or dishwasher cleaner and white vinegar mixed with water as a spray cleaner for the bench.

I could keep going all day but I’m sure you get the gist – nearly everything has a pretty close substitute.

Next time you think you need to go to the shops, do a quick Google and see if you can replace the missing item with something you already have.

So you can keep this little list handy, I’ve created a downloadable version that you can save to your photos on your phone or print it out and keep it on the fridge. Just pop your details in the form below or click on the image to download.


  • Mary France

    Reply Reply April 25, 2017

    Its so true. I feel like I am known for improvising sometimes. So much more coast effective to use what you have then running to the store just to get THAT one thing you are missing. You learn so much about cooking it the makings too!

    • Claire

      Reply Reply April 25, 2017

      Exactly Mary! It’s amazing the things you learn when you’re looking for an alternative.

  • Ariel Wilstead

    Reply Reply April 24, 2017

    Hey Claire, thank you so much for sharing these substitutes!
    I’m always missing something in the recipes I decide to make, so some of these are complete lifesavers! Instead of using eggs in baking, I use flax seeds or even some applesauce. It doesn’t change the taste and it’s perfect for us since we typically don’t have eggs in the house.
    Also, I don’t like using store bought cleaners. For an all purpose cleaner I mix vinegar, water, and some essential oils! It leaves the kitchen clean and smelling great!
    What would you suggest as a substitution for milk? We don’t have dairy in our household and I know there are a lot of different options out there, but have you found one is better than the others when it comes to cooking (since we don’t really drink it a lot anyway)?

    • Claire

      Reply Reply April 25, 2017

      Hi Ariel. I love vinegar for cleaning too!
      Coconut milk and almond milk are the best substitutes that I have found depending on the recipe. Baking I use these two successfully. It just takes experimenting I find.

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