Lower Your Food Costs With Creative Recipes

Father and Daughter Studying RecipeAccording to the US Census Bureau, the average family of 4 with a moderate cost food plan will spend $185.50 to $221.00 per week on groceries, depending on the ages of the children.

Just cutting those costs by a mere 10% will save $18.55 to $22.10 per week, or up to $1149.20 a year!

If you are trimming your food budget, you have probably already made a shift from highly processed foods to homemade foods. This not only saves money, but is usually much healthier since your homemade dishes will not have the preservatives, food colorings, artificial flavorings, and added fat that so many processed foods have.

One way to further cut your food costs is to be willing to experiment with recipes. If you want to make a new recipe, first read it all the way through. Does it call for a specialized spice or have one expensive ingredient? Why not experiment with substitutions?

For example, does your recipe call for allspice? Try substituting cinnamon or a dash of nutmeg. Dry mustard? Substitute prepared mustard (use 1 Tbs prepared for each 1 tsp dry.)

Does your recipe call for shrimp? Experiment with substituting chicken (really!) or any variety of fish.

The new cookie recipe calls for butter? Experiment with butter-flavored shortening (get the kind that has zero trans fat for a healthier cookie.)

Is a cup of wine part of the recipe?  Try grape juice, apple juice, or even chicken stock. The NDSU link below even has a substitution using water, lemon juice and sugar.

You can also use the expensive ingredient, but cut back on the amount. For example, in a casserole, use 3/4 lb of meat instead of 1 lb. in the recipe. If this affects the volume of the dish, make up the difference with a vegetable, cheese or pasta.

Here is a very comprehensive list of ingredient substitutions from the North Dakota State University. Excellent resource – bookmark it for future use!

Learning to use tasty, yet less expensive, ingredients in your recipes can be a tremendous help with your food budget.

It can also help with your gasoline budget if learning to substitute will save you from making an emergency trips to the store to pick up missing ingredients.

What about you?  What substitutions or changes have you made to recipes that save money yet still make a delicious result?


Other resources:

Mayo Clinic Healthy Recipes: A guide to ingredient substitutions

All You Magazine: Save in the Kitchen: Ingredient Substitutions









  1. […] Keep in mind that you can use most any vegetable to make stock – be creative! […]

  2. I love this. I have been working really hard at cutting my grocery budget and am a cooking novice, but I will get better. Tips like this certainly help.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Leftover Turkey RecipeMy Profile

    • Patti says:

      Funny thing is, as you cook more and more, you’ll find that some of your best dishes come from either accidentally following the recipe wrong, or from having to make a substitution because you discovered you were out of an ingredient. Best of success with your cooking, you already have the right attitude! Glad that you found this helpful.
      Patti recently posted..What to do With that Turkey CarcassMy Profile

  3. Pauline says:

    I live in Guatemala and dairy is pretty expensive and hard to keep fresh for a long time, this substitution table is fantastic! Thank you for sharing.
    Pauline recently posted..Friday recap, an herb garden and a casualtyMy Profile

    • Patti says:

      Glad you left a comment, Pauline … Guatemala? Wow! I just take for granted how easy it is to reach for a gallon of milk, but now I have a new perspective.
      You are right, the substitution table is really a great resource, the ND State University really put some effort in it.
      Patti recently posted..What to do With that Turkey CarcassMy Profile

      • Pauline says:

        Where I live we are surrounded by cattle farm. I even own bulls myself! And no one milks the cows and sells milk. It may be because it is hot and it would go bad quickly. They just sell meat. I have cultures and make yogurt from powder milk but have yet to learn how to make cheese. Cheese comes from the capital city 300 miles away and is really insipid, and expensive.

  4. […] Lower Your Food Costs with Creative Recipes at The Fat Dollar Blog. I am now on the lookout for ways to cut my grocery budget, and this post has some great subs for expensive ingredients. […]

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