11 Savvy Swaps for Ultra-Pricey Ingredients

Save hundreds of dollars at the grocery store and still nail recipes that call for the most expensive ingredients (saffron, truffles and pine nuts, oh my) with these smart substitutions.

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Shave Your Grocery Bill

Ingredients like bacon, imported cheese, or fancy olives will always be pricey, but they're also very potent. “You can often get away with using far less than you'd think and still get a lot of added flavor,” says Beth Moncel, author of Budget Bytes. Of course, when that isn't an option, try these swaps from Moncel, Gabi Moskowitz of the nationally-acclaimed brokeassgourmet.com, Carrie Robinson of thefrugalfoodiemama.com, and Amy McCoy, author of Poor Girl Gourmet.

Saffron

$1,149 per pound.

Savvy Swap: Turmeric, Dried/Ground or Fresh 

$2.05 per oz. The flavor is similar, and the color it lends dishes is nearly identical. Savings: almost 100 percent.

Truffles

$30 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Truffle Salt 

$7.50 per oz. Note: Truffle oil is frequently made with chemical compounds, rather than with actual truffles, which is why we recommend truffle salt purchased from a reputable vendor instead. A little goes a long way, so see if any of your friends would be interested in splitting a jar, and be sure to store everyone's share in airtight containers. Savings: 75 percent.

 

Porcini Mushrooms

$5 to $8 per oz. for dried; $4.29 per oz. Not only are porcinis pricey, but fresh ones are difficult to find.

Savvy Swap: Baby Bella (Crimini) Mushrooms 

$0.38 per oz. Savings: up to 95 percent.

Expensive, Aged Balsamic Vinegar 

$5.29 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Inexpensive Balsamic Vinegar

$0.18 per oz. Reduce it on the stove until it thickens and the flavors concentrate. Savings: 97 percent.

Vanilla Bean Extract

$2 to $5 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Mini Bottles of Bourbon or Rum 

$0.88 per oz. Savings: up to 82 percent.

 

Pine Nuts 

$3 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Shelled Pumpkin Seeds or "Pepitas" 

$0.38 per oz. Another substitute is shelled raw sunflower seeds, $0.29 per oz. Savings: up to 90 percent.

Prosciutto 

$2.33 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Thinly Sliced Deli Ham

$0.38 per oz. Savings: 84 percent.

Lump Crabmeat

$2.38 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Cooked, Flaked Tilapia (or other inexpensive white fish)

$0.63 per oz. Flaked white fish works especially well for crab cake recipes. Savings: 74 percent.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese 

$1.88 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Pecorino Romano Cheese 

$0.72 per oz. Savings: 62 percent.

Dried Cherries 

$1.43 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Dried Cranberries

$0.60 per oz. Chopped prunes ($0.28/oz.) or raisins ($0.20/oz.) work as well. Savings: up to 86 percent.

Mascarpone Cheese

$0.63 per oz.

Savvy Swap: Whipped Cream Cheese 

$0.29 per oz. Savings: 54 percent.

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