The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in people – and in some cases, the worst. Like the toilet paper hoarders, or the food stockpilers. Why people hoard is a bit of a mystery, but some research shows hoarding is one thing we can all control – even if our lifestyles dictate we don’t need a garage full of stuff.

Lately, the run on toilet paper has eased up a bit – but now it’s flour and yeast (everyone is into baking their own bread!), eggs, canned goods, frozen items and stuff we normally take for granted (hearts of palm anyone?)

What to do? Substitute! Trade up barley for rice, reach for canned or frozen if you can’t find fresh. Let your creative juices flow – it’s not written in stone that only one item and one item alone will do. Regular chicken eggs missing? Look for duck eggs or even quail eggs (and they are everywhere) – duck eggs in particular are bigger, richer and more flavourful.

When I was looking for food substitutions, I reached for the bible – the Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim (RobertRose), a definitive read offering more than 5,000 substitutions for ingredients, equipment and techniques. Check your cupboards for whatever supplies you have – they may come in handy for substitutions.

Here’s a small list of ideas you want to have close by – who knows what’s next to be hoarded!


CHEESECLOTH: substitute coffee filters (for straining and bouquet garni) or a clean, never used nylon stocking

CASHEWS: substitute peanuts or pine nuts – try nuts you’ve never used.

ALLSPICE: substitute 1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves

ALMOND EXTRACT: substitute 1 drop almond oil with 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) vodka and 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) almond liqueur

BACON: Substitute 1 thin slice of pancetta or 1/2 a smoked sausage or 3/4 oz. (22 g) smoked ham

BAKING POWDER: Substitute 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) each baking soda and, cornstarch plus 1/2 tsp. (2mL) cream of tartar. Or you can use 1 tsp. (5 mL) ammonium bicarbonate

BAKING SODA: Substitute with 1 tsp. (5 mL) potassium bicarbonate

BEER: (for cooking such as stews or soups) substitute 1 cup (250 mL) chicken or beef stock with 2 dashes Angostura bitters or 1 cup (250 mL) sake (Japanese rice wine)

BUTTERMILK: Substitute 1 cup (250 mL) milk with 1 Tbsp. (15 bmL) lemon juice or white vinegar (let stand 5 or 10 minutes before using.)

CREAM: Substitute thick yogurt or evaporated milk

EGGS: (for cakes) 2-3 Tbsp. (30-45 mL) mayonnaise. Or look for duck eggs, which are larger, richer and more flavourful. You can even use 3-4 quail eggs for one large egg

ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR FOR THICKENING: substitute 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) unsifted all-purpose flour with 1-1/2 tsp. (7 mL) cornstarch, potato starch or rice starch mixed with 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) cold water. Or 1 tsp. (5 ml) instant mashed potato flakes, or 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) cornmeal or two egg yolks

ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR FOR BAKING: substitute with 1 cup (250 mL) with 1 cup (250 mL) plus 3 Tbsp. (45 mL) cake flour (creates much lighter texture for cake and not recommended for cookies or quick breads.)

HONEY: substitute 1-1/4 cup (310 mL) granulated sugar with 1/4 cup (60 mL) liquid called for in recipe or 1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar with 3/4 cup (175 mL) maple syrup, light or dark corn syrup or light molasses

WHOLE MILK: substitute with one cup (250 mL) skim less 3 Tbsp., (45mL) plus 3 Tbsp. (45 mL) melted butter

MOLASSES: substitute 1 cup (250 mL) with 3/4 cup (175 mL) light or dark brown sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup (60 mL) hot water or liquid in recipe

RICE: swap rice with uncooked orzo pasta or uncooked pearl barley or even couscous

SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK: substitute with 1 cup (250 mL) evaporated milk plus 1-1/4 cups (310 mL) granulated sugar, heated until sugar dissolves.

TAHINI PASTE: substitute 1 cup (250 mL) sesame seeds ground in a blender with enough untoasted sesame oil, peanut oil or vegetable oil to create a smooth paste.

BAKER’S YEAST: This is a bit of a difficult one, but if your recipe calls for 1 package of regular yeast or quick, active dry yeast, you can substitute it for 2 ¼ tsp of regular or quick active dry yeast or 1 package of compressed yeast.

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There are several ways of making small batch butter (anyone have an old-fashioned churn handy?) but the simplest way is with fresh, full fat cream and a mason jar. Here’s one of my favourite recipes from award-winning chef Brad Long, who celebrates all things butter in his book aptly titled Butter (The Harvest Commission.)

What you’ll need:
Full-fat, 35% cream, (about 1½ cups/375mL), or heavy whipping cream, 1 large Mason jar with a watertight lid. Pour cream into mason jar, making sure to leave a few inches of space so that liquid can vigorously slosh around when you shake it. Shake jar for 15-20 minutes. Keep shaking until fat breaks out and away from the “water” and then forms itself into a pale-yellow blob. Strain contents through a fine-mesh sieve so you don’t lose any of the loose bits of butterfat. Using your hands, compress fat into a ball. Keep liquid (the buttermilk) to use in recipes, or to drink. Your delicious “homemade” butter is good to go!

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So you’ve stocked up canned food you’re afraid you’ll never find again. How far will they go? Reach for the Canned Food Calculator, an online service that helps you figure out how long your canned food supply will last based on how many people living in your home, and how many meals you will be preparing. The brainchild of Foodmaestro food company whose
mission it is to help consumers answer one simple question – “Can I eat this?” – Foodmaestro’s award winning platform combines label information with clinical health and wellness data to give it meaning that can be read and understood by all.
Check the canned food calculator at

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