Cooking on a budget doesn't mean you have to say so long to your favorite dishes. You can still eat your favorite foods with just a little modification to make them less expensive. Here is a list of great substitutes to help stretch your food budget.
1. Eggplant - Come on; you know you love eggplant Parmesan. This meaty vegetable lends itself well to pasta dishes and stir fries.
2. Mushrooms - These are a very versatile meat substitute in recipes you're trying to make cheaper. As a base for a veggie burger or just a portobello burger, they taste divine. Use them in enchiladas or casseroles and many stews too. They take on the flavor of other things which is what make them a great and cheap substitute.
3. Beans - Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you...save. Stews, soups, chili, and salads, beans are a perfect protein substitute in many dishes. They are healthy and very cost effective.
4. Imitation vanilla - Do you bake? Here's a little-known secret: you don't need to get real vanilla which can be a rather costly ingredient in baking. Imitation vanilla does not alter the taste of recipes and you can get it at a fraction of the cost.
5. Cooking wine - This is a perfect and cheaper substitution to wine in recipes. Unless you know you'll drink that Chardonnay with dinner, then purchasing cooking wine is the way to go. Or for an even cheaper alternative (and one that appeals to some recovering alcoholics), use chicken broth - something you also might have on hand when a recipe calls for wine.
6. Pork in place of veal - Pork doesn't taste all that different from veal and it's much cheaper. Chicken can be used as a substitute in veal recipes as well.
7. Steak - Wouldn't you love a nice Kobe steak? Sure, we all would, but alas that is not a budget-friendly food. That doesn't mean you can't find a good cut of meat, though. Try a USDA prime beef, or if that's still too expensive, a choice graded cut of meat will do. The key is to find one with a good marbling to get that Kobe beef texture that's so sought after.
8. Fish - When it comes to fish it can be pricy. There are cheaper alternatives which taste the same and are easily interchangeable in recipes. For tuna, try yellowfin tuna instead of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Love that Chilean sea bass, but not the price? Then try an Alaskan sablefish instead. Pacific cod is cheaper than Atlantic cod and just as flaky, so it's easy to make that switch. When in doubt ask your local grocery's seafood clerk. He can usually tell you what a good less expensive substitute is for different kinds of fish.
9. Yogurt - In place of sour cream, try plain yogurt instead. Not only is it cheaper, but it's healthier for you, too. There are lots of great probiotics in yogurt.
10. Imitation buttermilk - Need buttermilk? Just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to every cup of milk. Let it sit for about five minutes to ferment.
These ten ingredient substitutions will really help your food budget stretch further. You really don't even have to sacrifice taste for inexpensive ingredients. In most instances no one will know the difference unless you tell them. What are your favorite ingredient substitutions?