Don't let empty shelves overwhelm you.
March 27, 2020 - 5 p.m. EST
I’ve cooked more in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life. Cooking three meals a day can be challenging, but it’s even more frustrating when you realize everyday ingredients that you’re used to using are constantly out of stock at your local grocery store. It’s time to get creative; if you can’t find what you need, there are a few recipe substitutions if you’re missing crucial ingredients to be aware of that can really come in handy.
From making bulk dinners to fun desserts, here are a few workable swaps that can help make your life easier.
If You Can’t Find Pasta Sauce...
Non-perishable pantry staples are flying off of shelves fast. If you can find pasta but not pasta sauce, or maybe have a chicken dish that needs a sauce, you can easily whip one up with a few ingredients.
All you need is an onion, garlic, spices, and a can of crushed tomatoes, which is typically around $1 a can at most grocery stores. If you can’t find fresh garlic, try jarred/pre-minced garlic. Here’s an easy recipe you can follow. You can add your choice of meat to this sauce as you wish, or go vegan.
If You Can’t Find Eggs…
This one’s tricky. Nothing can replace a fresh, cracked egg in the morning, but vegan or “fake” eggs can come pretty close. In fact, chef Danny Boome told DoctorOz.com, that fake eggs are equal to real chicken eggs in protein and calories. Even better, fake eggs don’t have cholesterol because they’re plant-based and therefore have less fat. Try searching for these at your grocery store in the vegan or vegetarian aisle.
If you need eggs for baking, applesauce or even mashed bananas are common and effective substitutes for a dessert recipe that calls for eggs. As an example, 4 tablespoons of applesauce can typically replace one egg in any cookie or cake recipe.
If You Can’t Find Bread...
Do you have flour and water? Then you can make sourdough starter. When you leave the starter over time, it naturally grows bacteria to help it turn into a yeasty bread base. You can begin baking your own bread in a matter of days.
You can also try experimenting with tortillas or wraps as an everyday sandwich bread replacement for the time being.
If You Can’t Find Chicken or Veggie Stock…
A great make-ahead meal is soup; you can make it in large batches and freeze it for later. But it can be frustrating when you’re trying to throw in all your unused veggies for a stew and your local store is out of chicken or vegetable stock.
Did you know that stock can easily be replaced with water for a hydrating soup base that still has all the flavor? I recently went on a Google-spree when I was out of stock and wanted to make a quick vegetable soup. I found multiple sources that said using water is just as good — if not better.
I tried it myself and seasoned my soup with 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, and a generous amount of salt. It came out delicious and I couldn’t tell the difference.
You can also use water as a base for smoothies instead of milk. I personally notice a difference in the taste of my smoothie if I use water instead of milk, but if you add a vanilla or chocolate flavored protein powder, you get that “milky” taste without having to use it.
If Your Frozen Food Section is Wiped Out…
Try buying fresh veggies and freeze for later. Buying bunches of kale, celery, or carrots fresh is typically cheaper than buying it frozen or bagged. If you’re worried about COVID-19 contamination on fresh produce that’s sitting out at stores, evidence says you have little to worry about. There’s currently no proof that COVID-19 can survive on or in food; it needs a host to live on such as people or metals and plastics (though it dies much sooner on metals and plastics).
Just make sure to wash produce in water when you return home, and wash your hands after handling the plastic it may come in. Discard plastics and move food into an air-tight container.
All of these recommendations may be a little out of the ordinary of what you’re used to, but if you see cooking with new ingredients as a creativity challenge, it can be less of a strain and more entertaining to try and make things work with different ingredients.