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Bright Ideas · 10 Simple Substitutions You Can Make In a Pinch
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10 Simple Substitutions You Can Make In a Pinch

It’s happened to all of us – you’re in the middle of a project, when you suddenly realize you don’t have that one thing you need. I really hate having to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store, so I’m always looking for ways to “make it work” (as Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say!)

Luckily for me (and for all of us!) there are many simple substitutions you can make in a pinch that can eliminate the need for that one-item trip to the store.

Here are a few of my favorites, but I know there are a LOT more out there! If you know of a simple substitution that wasn’t listed here, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below this post! 🙂

10 Simple Substitutions You Can Make In a Pinch

1.  All-Purpose Cleaning Spray
Shaving foam has a high concentration of soap – typically about 8 per cent – which makes it perfect for removing stubborn greasy stains. The long-lasting foam also gives the soap a chance to really work on grease and grime.

Grab a can of foaming shaving cream and spray a dollop on your table or countertop. Spread the shaving cream around with your hand or a rag, then let it sit for about 10 minutes. Wipe the cream away with a damp sponge or towel.

2.  Shampoo
You can use plain old cornstarch as a dry shampoo in a pinch. Sprinkle it on your scalp and use your fingertips to work it into your roots, then shake your hair to get rid of any excess. The cornstarch absorbs oils in your hair, leaving it clean and smelling fresh!

3.  Hand Sanitizer
You can use antiseptic mouthwash as a hand sanitizer if you’re in dire straits! Just make sure it’s alcohol-based and sugar-free, otherwise you’ll be a sticky mess.

4.  Dish Soap
You can use a plain shampoo to hand-wash dishes if you can’t find any or make your own dish soap. Don’t put it in your dishwasher though… that’s a bubbly disaster waiting to happen!

5.  Deodorant
If you have some lemon juice on hand, pour a bit out onto a paper towel, and wipe your underarm area with it. The lemon juice kills bacteria and will smell fresh (for a few hours, anyway.) Or you can always make your own all-natural deodorant!

6.  Bread Crumbs
You don’t always have to have a box of Panko on hand for bread crumbs! You can crush up a sleeve of crackers, or even grind up some oats to use as a crumb-y topping. Or if you have some sandwich bread at home, you can always toast up a few pieces to make your own bread crumbs.

7.  Buttermilk
How often have you found yourself in this situation? You want to make a recipe, but you don’t necessarily want to buy an entire carton of buttermilk when you only need a half-cup. Here is a simple solution:  make a quick buttermilk substitute by adding 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk.

This mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will perform its role in a recipe just as well. Incidentally, yogurt or sour cream thinned with milk (or plain water, in a pinch) also work well as buttermilk substitutes.

8.  Vinegar OR Lemon Juice
Vinegar and lemon juice can be used interchangeably in a lot of recipes, since they have a similar acidic quality. Use 1/2 teaspoon vinegar per 1 teaspoon of lemon juice needed.

9.  Baking Powder
Mix 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar to make a baking powder substitute. Cream of tartar actually has a wide range of household uses. For instance, if I needed one Tablespoon of baking powder for a recipe, I would just add one teaspoon of baking soda and two teaspoons of cream of tartar instead.

10.  Arrowroot Powder OR Cornstarch
Arrowroot powder and cornstarch can be used interchangeably in most recipes. They are both starchy powders that help thicken whatever mixture they are added to.

While this post focused on simple substitutions you can make in a pinch, there are plenty of pantry staples that you can make right in your own kitchen. For all the details, read my post on 20 Pantry Staples You Can Easily Make Yourself.

Do you use a simple, in-a-pinch substitution that wasn’t listed in this post? We’d love to hear about it! Leave your idea in a comment, or email it to [email protected], and your idea could be featured in a future blog post!


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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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