There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re out of an ingredient when you’re in the middle of cooking. Maybe you used it all up and haven’t been to the store to replace it yet. Maybe you forgot about it, and it spoiled before you could use it.
For whatever reason, you’ve found yourself without an ingredient you need to get dinner on the table.
Or perhaps you’re noticing shortages of fresh ingredients at the grocery store, and you’re wondering what you can use to replace them.
When we rely on grocery stores for the bulk of our fresh ingredients, we rely on a long supply chain to make sure it arrives on the shelves. Many people have begun to see just how tenuous that whole network is during this past year.
As it’s becoming common to see empty grocery store shelves, more people are choosing to plan ahead. We’re all starting to pay closer attention to where our food comes from.
But what do you do when that supply chain is disrupted, and an item you need isn’t available, or in the reverse situation, you can’t get to the store?
Start by putting up a few dried ingredients in your pantry that can be substituted when their fresh counterpart isn’t available.
We don’t need worldly troubles to put them to good use. Having a few dried items in your pantry means you don’t have to go to the grocery store when you’re sick. When the weather is bad and you can’t get out, it’s no big deal. Of course, there’s my favorite reason to poke around in the pantry instead of heading to the store – I want to stay home and don’t want to go out.
Having a few alternatives to fresh ingredients tucked away is just as much about convenience as it is about saving for a rainy day.
Canned vs. Dried
Some of these items can already be found canned, which means they have a nice long shelf-life. So, what’s the advantage of purchasing the dried version instead of canned?
Canned goods are great, but boy, they take up a lot of room in your cupboards. And they aren’t exactly light. A bag of dried beans is much easier to tote home from the supermarket than six cans of the same amount of canned beans.
Dried goods take up far less room in your pantry than their tinned counterparts.
Grab your grocery list and a pencil, and we’ll add a few handy dried items that can be substituted for their fresh counterparts. You may even be surprised that some of these exist. (Ever since I learned of #3, I make sure I always have some on hand.)
If you plan accordingly, you’ll never get caught out when you run out of these fresh ingredients. You’ll have a dry backup in the pantry ready to save the day.
1. Powdered Milk
While it’s not something most of us want to drink every day, having powdered milk in the pantry does come in handy. I don’t know about your family, but milk is one of those items we seem to run out of the most. It’s always on the grocery list.
When you keep a box of powdered milk in the cupboard, there’s no need to make a special trip just for milk.
Not to mention it’s great to have on hand for weather emergencies. Whether you lose power from a storm and don’t have refrigeration for a while or get stuck at home due to a blizzard, you don’t have to worry about running out of milk.
Mirepoix is the French name for the mix of carrots, onions and celery that make up the foundation of so many tasty dishes. This trio is the start of good stew, soups, and fancier fare like Bolognese.
While it’s always best fresh, sometimes you find yourself with only two out of the three ingredients on hand. Or, if you’re like me, sometimes you just can’t be bothered with all of the chopping, so tossing in a cup of dried mirepoix to your soup or stew is just easier.
3. Powdered Heavy Cream
Oh my gosh, dear readers, if there is one thing off of this entire list you should start keeping around, it’s powdered heavy cream.
I discovered this stuff ages ago when I was working out my homemade keto hot cocoa mix. I wanted something extra creamy and low carb, and this did the trick.
However, I quickly found powdered heavy cream to be indispensable. I was reaching for the tub time and time again. It’s great for coffee creamer when you’re camping, without all the gross stuff in ‘normal’ coffee creamer.
I keep my powdered heavy cream in the freezer to extend the shelf life even further.
Where I live, heavy cream shortages keep popping up, and this has been a lifesaver for someone who takes heavy cream in their coffee in the morning.
4. Dried Beans
Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. The tinned ones are faster, and you would be right. However, it’s still a good idea to have a couple of bags of dried beans on hand. Again, whether it’s for emergency use or just because you don’t want to run to the store. They last much longer than tinned beans, too.
And if you’re on a budget, dried beans are the way to go.
5. Powdered Eggs
Nuts! You’re making chocolate chip cookies and go to grab the egg carton when you notice it’s suspiciously light – one egg left.
No worries, you’ve got powdered eggs in the pantry. So, you add eggs to your shopping list, grab your powdered eggs and continue baking your cookies.
While they might not make for an appealing breakfast, powdered eggs are excellent for baking emergencies. And they work quite well for emergency emergencies too.
6. Powdered Coconut Milk
This is a great vegan option for powdered milk. It’s also just great to have on hand if you do a lot of Asian cooking. It works out to be around the same price (once reconstituted) as canned coconut milk but lasts longer and takes up a lot less space in your pantry.
And for those of you who love your bulletproof coffee, a tablespoon of powdered coconut milk gives you your MCT oil without creating “greasy” coffee.
7. Cheddar Cheese Powder
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but you can unwrinkle your nose. This isn’t that gross powdered orange stuff on Cheetos (or your preteens son’s jeans every time he eats them). Nope, this is 100% the real deal, only in powdered form.
This is another one that is kept as a ‘just in case’ but gets used far more often. Sprinkle it in scrambled eggs, dust broccoli with it for picky eaters, and sprinkle it over popcorn for movie night.
You can also store this in the freezer to help extend the shelf life.
8. Dried Onion Flakes
I’ll admit to reaching for this one even when I have fresh onions on hand. Sometimes you just don’t want to mess with the hassle of peeling and slicing an onion. Dried onion flakes are inexpensive and last nearly forever.
Whether it’s for convenience or just in case, keep a jar of dried onion flakes in your cupboard, and you’ll always have one of the most commonly used fresh ingredients on hand, no matter what.
9. Butter Powder
Again, this is another ingredient that we use all the time and that it’s very easy to find yourself missing suddenly. I don’t know how many times I’ve reached into that little flap on the door of my fridge to find it empty – no more butter.
Even when I know I have more in the freezer; sometimes the butter powder is faster.
This is another one of those things that, once I discovered it was a thing, I try to keep on hand. Butter powder is so useful when you can’t get to the store.
Homemade broth or stock is the bee’s knees, and you just can’t beat it when cooking. While I prefer to make my own stock using my Ugly Broth Bag method, there’s always at least one jar of bouillon in my pantry.
And it always gets used.
Whether it’s because of time constraints or you just forget that you’re completely out of broth, having some bouillon tucked away in the pantry can save the day. Or at least dinner.
Bouillon isn’t the greatest option to reach for every time you need broth. It usually has a lot more sodium than liquid stock or broth and almost always contains MSG. That being said, it has its place and works great in a pinch when it’s all you have on hand. Bouillon is inexpensive and has an impressive shelf-life making it the perfect rainy day pantry staple.
I know it seems like a relatively small list of items, but having each of these on hand can help you out in a pinch or offer you a buffer when the fresh items aren’t in stock at the store. Having a little food security in the back of your cupboard always makes life easier.