I just love to bake. I like cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, breads, muffins—and if the recipe in question includes chocolate, even better! I have also been known to pay up to three dollars per cookie when my carb cravings strike (needless to say, this is like an automatic budget smackdown…and one my scrawny monthly budget can ill afford). Or I make a panic run to the grocery store, paying top dollar for the first suitable item that catches my eye. Lately, my mom, master chef and baker extraordinaire, has been teaching me about how to substitute ingredients in my favorite recipes to save cash. So I thought I’d pass what I’m learning along to you!

Why substitute instead of shop? 

The truth is, last minute emergency runs to the grocery store can add up quickly. When you need an ingredient ASAP, all of the following tend to apply.

  • You pay full price because the item you need is not currently on sale.
  • You don't remember to check if you have coupons.
  • You don't have time to price compare at local stores.
  • You are at the mercy of whatever brand the nearest grocer carries (which often isn't generic).

In a nutshell, last minute shopping trips simply cost more. So save yourself a trip—save the gas, save your time, and save your budget—by making one of these easy recipe substitutions instead!

1. Brown sugar

  • What you need: Molasses and white sugar
  • What to do: Combine one cup white sugar with 2 Tbsp molasses (for light); add an additional Tbsp molasses (for dark).

2. Heavy cream

  • What you need: Regular milk (any kind) and either butter or margarine
  • What to do: Combine ¾ cup milk together with 1/3 cup of either melted butter or melted margarine to get "heavy cream." (This will work in recipes but not for whipped cream!)

3. Molasses

  • What you need: Brown sugar (or "brown sugar" from #1 here) and water
  • What to do: Combine ¾ cup of warmed brown sugar together with ¼ cup water.

4. Buttermilk

  • What you need: Regular milk (any kind) and either white vinegar or lemon juice
  • What to do: Combine one cup milk with 1 Tbsp of either white vinegar or lemon juice to get "buttermilk."

5. Self-rising flour

  • What you need: All-purpose flour, salt and baking powder
  • What to do: Combine one cup all-purpose flour together with 1 ¼ tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt to get "self-rising flour."

6. Sour cream

  • What you need: Regular milk (any kind), either cottage cheese or plain yogurt, and lemon juice
  • What to do: Combine together 1/3 cup of milk with one cup cottage cheese or yogurt and 2 tsp lemon juice to get "sour cream." (It’s best to do this in a food processor.)

7. Cake flour

  • What you need: All-purpose flour and cornstarch
  • What to do: Combine one cup of all-purpose flour together with 2 Tbsp cornstarch to get "cake flour."

8. Powdered (confectioner's) sugar

  • What you need: White sugar and cornstarch
  • What to do: Combine one cup white sugar together with 1 Tbsp cornstarch to get "powdered sugar."

9. Whole egg

  • What you need: Mayonnaise
  • What to do: Add 2 Tbsp mayo in place of the whole egg.

10. Cream of tartar

  • What you need: White vinegar or lemon juice
  • What to do: Add ½ tsp of either white vinegar or lemon juice in place of the same amount cream of tartar.

11. Oil

  • What you need: Unsweetened applesauce, melted butter, or melted margarine
  • What to do: Substitute the same amount of unsweetened applesauce, melted butter, or melted margarine for the oil (by the way, this is also a way to cut fat in recipes).

12. Cornstarch

  • What you need: Arrowroot or tapioca (instant) pudding or all-purpose flour
  • What to do: For every 1 Tbsp cornstarch, substitute either 1 Tbsp arrowroot or 2 Tbsp tapioca or 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour.

13. Baking powder

  • What you need: Baking soda and cream of tartar (or "cream of tartar" from #10 here)
  • What to do: For every 1 tsp baking powder, substitute ¼ tsp baking soda combined with 5/8 tsp cream of tartar.

14. Baking soda

  • What you need: Baking powder
  • What to do: For every 1 tsp baking soda, substitute 3 tsp baking powder and omit any salt.