Healthy Substitutions for Expensive Ingredients

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When it comes to cooking healthy meals, it can often feel like the cost of ingredients is a major barrier. However, there are plenty of healthy substitutions that can save you money without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. By incorporating more affordable options like grains, vegetables, and proteins into your meals, you can create satisfying dishes that won’t break the bank. Here are 10 healthy substitutes for expensive ingredients that will leave you wondering why you ever thought healthy cooking had to be expensive. So, let’s dive in and explore these creative and affordable alternatives.

Substitute with Grains

Substitute With Grains
Looking for budget-friendly alternatives for expensive ingredients? Look no further than the grains section. Not only do grains offer essential nutrients, but they also provide a hearty, flavorful base for any dish. By swapping out quinoa for brown rice or farro for barley, you can save on cost without sacrificing taste or nutrition. Plus, grains such as steel-cut oats and millet can easily replace pricier options like buckwheat and freekeh. By incorporating these whole grains into your recipes, you can keep meal costs low while still reaping the health benefits. For more tips on budget-friendly meal planning and pantry essentials, check out our meal planning budget tips and budget pantry essentials for healthy cooking.

Brown Rice for Quinoa

When it comes to healthy substitute for expensive ingredients, brown rice is a great alternative to quinoa. Though quinoa is a superfood that provides more nutrients, brown rice is also a nutritious option that can save you money while still offering nutritional benefits.

Brown rice is a good source of fiber, vitamins B1, B6, and E, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. It’s also a complex carbohydrate that can keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods of time, making it a great option for weight management.

To incorporate brown rice into your meals, try using it in place of quinoa in your favorite recipes that call for this expensive ingredient. One example is using brown rice instead of quinoa in a seasonal vegetable bowl topped with a delicious dressing.

Other ways to enjoy brown rice include making fried rice, rice pudding, or even adding it to soups and stews. With its versatility and affordability, brown rice can be a staple in your pantry for many different meal options.

Replacing quinoa with brown rice is a great way to save money while still enjoying similar health benefits. Incorporating it into your meals is easy and can be done in a variety of creative ways. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new recipes with this healthy and affordable ingredient.

Barley for Farro

When it comes to finding an affordable and healthy substitute for farro, barley is a great option. Although farro is a delicious and nutritious ancient grain, it can be quite expensive and may not always be available in your local grocery store. Barley, on the other hand, is a readily available and affordable grain that can be easily substituted for farro in many recipes.

Here are some benefits of choosing barley over farro:

  • Barley is a great source of fiber, which can help regulate digestion and promote feelings of fullness. One cup of cooked barley contains 6 grams of fiber, compared to 3 grams in one cup of cooked farro.
  • Barley is also a good source of important nutrients such as selenium and manganese.
  • Barley has a mild, nutty flavor that is similar to farro, making it a great substitute in many recipes.

To prepare barley as a substitute for farro, simply follow the same cooking instructions as you would for farro. For example, if you were making a farro salad or pilaf, you would use the same amount of barley and cook it in the same way.

Here is a recipe for a simple and delicious barley salad:

  • 1 cup barley, cooked
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the salad, simply mix together the cooked barley, diced bell pepper, diced red onion, and chopped parsley in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

In conclusion, substituting barley for farro is an easy and affordable way to enjoy a delicious and nutritious grain. Whether you’re making a salad, pilaf, or soup, barley is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different types of recipes. For more ideas on affordable and healthy meal prep, check out our article on budget-friendly meal prep.

Steel-cut oats for Buckwheat

When it comes to preparing healthy and delicious meals, it’s not uncommon to come across recipes that feature expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. Fortunately, there are many healthy substitutions that can be made to keep your cooking affordable and accessible, while still maintaining the nutritional value of your dishes.

Steel-cut oats are a great substitute for buckwheat, an ingredient that is often used in gluten-free recipes. While buckwheat can be quite pricey, steel-cut oats are a more affordable alternative that has a similar nutty taste and texture.

To make this substitution, simply use steel-cut oats in place of buckwheat in your favorite recipes. For example, you can use steel-cut oats in place of buckwheat in salads or porridges for a delicious and nutritious meal. Additionally, steel-cut oats are a great pantry staple that can be used in a variety of cooking and baking applications.

Not only are steel-cut oats more affordable than buckwheat, they’re also packed with nutritional benefits. Steel-cut oats are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a healthy addition to any meal. Plus, they’re easy to prepare and can be cooked in bulk to use in a variety of recipes.

If you’re looking for more ways to make your cooking more affordable and accessible, be sure to check out our article on budget-friendly recipes using leftovers, as well as our guide to frugal seasonings and our tips for zero-waste cooking. With these resources, you’ll be able to create healthy and delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Millet for Freekeh

When it comes to grains, freekeh has been gaining popularity as a healthy and flavorful option. However, it can be quite expensive and not as widely available in grocery stores. But fear not, as there is a healthy and affordable substitute: millet.

Millet, like freekeh, is a whole grain that is packed with nutrients such as fiber, protein, and vitamins. It is also gluten-free, making it a great option for those with gluten sensitivities. Millet has a mild, nutty taste and a slightly crunchy texture, similar to freekeh.

Here is a comparison table of the nutritional value of 1 cup of cooked millet and 1 cup of cooked freekeh:

Millet Freekeh
Calories 207 222
Protein 5.5 g 8 g
Fiber 2.3 g 4 g
Iron 2.1 mg 0.8 mg
Vitamin B6 0.2 mg 0.3 mg

As you can see, millet is not far behind freekeh in terms of nutritional value. Plus, it is often cheaper and more readily available in stores.

To use millet as a substitute for freekeh, simply cook it according to package directions and use it in your favorite recipes, such as salads, stews, or grain bowls. Plus, millet is incredibly versatile and can even be used in baking, such as in muffins or bread.

So, if you’re looking for a healthy and affordable alternative to freekeh, give millet a try. Your taste buds and wallet will thank you.

Substitute with Vegetables

Substitute With Vegetables
Are you tired of shelling out big bucks for expensive vegetables? Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable and healthy substitutes that can help you cut down on your grocery bill. By swapping out pricier produce for more budget-friendly options, you can still enjoy the same flavor and nutritional benefits without breaking the bank. Check out these clever vegetable substitutions that won’t disappoint your taste buds or your wallet.

Carrots for Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to finding healthy substitutions for expensive ingredients, vegetables are a great place to start. Carrots are an excellent substitute for sweet potatoes in many recipes. Not only are they cheaper, but they also provide a similar sweetness and texture.

To help illustrate this point, here is a comparison table of the two vegetables:

Carrots Sweet Potatoes
Price per pound Cheaper More expensive
Taste Similar sweetness Sweeter
Color Orange Deeper orange
Texture Firm Soft
Nutrition High in vitamin A and fiber High in vitamin A and C, fiber, and potassium

As you can see, while sweet potatoes may have a deeper orange color and be slightly sweeter, carrots are a great alternative that won’t break the bank. Plus, they still provide many of the same nutritional benefits, like high levels of vitamin A and fiber.

So next time you’re thinking of making a recipe that calls for sweet potatoes, consider swapping in carrots instead. They might just surprise you with their versatility and deliciousness.

Zucchini for Asparagus

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to asparagus, zucchini could be your go-to vegetable. Zucchini is a versatile vegetable that is easy to find in supermarkets and grocery stores. Here are some reasons why you might want to substitute asparagus with zucchini:

  • Cheaper: Asparagus can be an expensive vegetable, especially when it’s out of season. Zucchini, on the other hand, is available year-round and is usually less expensive.
  • Slightly different taste: While asparagus has a distinct flavor, zucchini has a milder taste. However, they both have a similar texture, making zucchini a good substitute for asparagus in many recipes.
  • Healthy: Zucchini is a low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage.

So, if you’re preparing a recipe that calls for asparagus and you want to save some money, zucchini is a great option to consider. Try using zucchini instead of asparagus in stir-fries, roasted veggie dishes, or grilled vegetable skewers. You might be surprised at how similar they taste and how much money you can save by making the switch.

Kale for Spinach

Looking for a healthier and more affordable substitute for spinach? Look no further than kale! Kale is packed with essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidants, making it a great alternative to spinach. Plus, kale tends to be more affordable than spinach, making it an ideal choice for those on a budget.

Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional benefits of kale versus spinach in this table:

Kale Spinach
Calories 33 23
Fat (grams) 0.6 0.4
Protein (grams) 2.9 2.9
Calcium (mg) 101 30
Vitamin C (mg) 80.4 8.4
Antioxidants High in flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C High in vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and flavonoids

As you can see, kale and spinach have similar amounts of protein, but kale beats spinach when it comes to most other nutrients. Kale has over three times more calcium and almost ten times more vitamin C than spinach. Additionally, kale contains more antioxidants, which can help protect against free radicals and oxidative stress.

Not only is kale healthier than spinach, but it’s also more versatile in the kitchen. While spinach is typically used in salads and sautés, kale can be used in a variety of dishes such as smoothies, soups, and casseroles. So the next time you’re looking for a healthy and affordable substitute for spinach, look no further than kale.

Broccoli for Brussels sprouts

If you’re looking for a healthy and wallet-friendly substitute for Brussels sprouts, consider trying broccoli. While Brussels sprouts may be a nutritious vegetable, they can often come with a hefty price tag. Broccoli, on the other hand, is typically more affordable and offers similar health benefits.

Check out this comparison table to see how these two vegetables stack up:

Broccoli (1 cup, chopped) Brussels Sprouts (1 cup, cooked)
Calories 55 56
Protein 4.3g 4.1g
Fiber 2.6g 4.1g
Vitamin C 135% of the Daily Value 129% of the Daily Value
Vitamin K 116% of the Daily Value 219% of the Daily Value
Vitamin A 11% of the Daily Value 15% of the Daily Value
Folate 14% of the Daily Value 24% of the Daily Value
Potassium 8% of the Daily Value 14% of the Daily Value

As you can see, both broccoli and Brussels sprouts offer similar nutritional value. While Brussels sprouts may have a slightly higher fiber and vitamin K content, broccoli packs a stronger punch when it comes to vitamin C. Additionally, broccoli tends to be a more versatile vegetable and can be used in a variety of recipes, from stir-fries to salads to roasted veggie sides.

So next time you’re browsing the produce section and debating whether to splurge on Brussels sprouts, consider giving broccoli a try instead. Your wallet (and your taste buds) may thank you!

Substitute with Proteins

Looking for some healthy protein-packed swaps to your expensive meat and seafood options? Look no further! Here are some nutritious and affordable substitute options that will help you satisfy your taste buds and meet your daily protein needs. So, let’s delve into these protein-rich substitutes that are just as delicious as the original ingredients.

Lentils for Beef

One great substitution for expensive beef is to use lentils. Lentils are not only more affordable, but they are also packed with protein and other nutrients. Here are some ways to incorporate lentils in place of beef in your meals:

  • Lentil Sloppy Joes: Instead of making traditional sloppy joes with ground beef, use lentils for a healthier and cheaper option. Simply cook lentils until tender and mix with your favorite tomato-based sauce.
  • Lentil Shepherd’s Pie: Replace the ground beef in Shepherd’s Pie with cooked lentils. You can even add some vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery to make it more nutritious and flavorful.
  • Lentil Tacos: Lentils can also be a great alternative to ground beef in tacos. Cook lentils with taco seasoning and serve with your favorite toppings like avocado, salsa, and cheese.
  • Lentil Stew: Make a hearty and filling stew by replacing beef with lentils. Add vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and celery and season with your favorite herbs and spices.

Incorporating lentils instead of beef in your diet can not only save you money, but it can also be a delicious and healthy way to add more plant-based protein to your meals. Plus, lentils have a longer shelf life than meat, making them a great ingredient to keep on hand for last-minute meal planning.

Beans for Fish

When it comes to finding healthy substitutions for expensive ingredients, replacing fish with beans is a smart and cost-effective option. Beans are a great source of protein, fiber and other essential nutrients that can help keep you full and satisfied for longer periods of time. They are much cheaper than most types of fish, making them a budget-friendly alternative for those looking to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

Here are some of the different types of beans that can be used as a substitute for fish:

Types of Beans Benefits Uses
Lentils High in protein and fiber, low in fat Can be used in soups, stews, salads or as a meat substitute in dishes such as tacos or burgers
Black Beans High in protein and fiber, low in fat Great addition to salads, soups, or as a filling for burritos or tacos
Chickpeas High in protein and fiber, low in fat Perfect for making hummus, or as a filling for wraps and tacos
White Beans High in protein and fiber, low in fat Great in soups or as a side dish, and can be mashed and used as a substitute for mashed potatoes
Kidney Beans High in protein and fiber, low in fat Perfect for making chili, or as a filling for burritos and tacos

To sum it up, replacing fish with beans is a healthy and affordable way to enjoy the benefits of a protein-rich diet without breaking the budget. Whether you choose lentils, black beans, chickpeas, white beans or kidney beans, you can be sure that you are getting a delicious and nutritious ingredient that is not only good for you but also for your wallet.

Eggs for Chicken

One healthy substitution for expensive chicken is eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, often much cheaper than chicken. Here is a breakdown of the nutritional value of both chicken and eggs:

Chicken (100g) Egg (1 large)
Protein 27g 6g
Fat 3.6g 5g
Calories 165 80
Vitamins Contains Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, and E Contains Vitamin A, D, and E
Minerals Contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc Contains iron and selenium

As we can see, while chicken is a great source of protein and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, eggs still provide a significant amount of protein and contain some essential vitamins and minerals as well.

In terms of cost, eggs are often much cheaper than chicken. Plus, eggs have a longer shelf life, making them a more convenient and budget-friendly option.

When it comes to substitution in recipes, eggs can be used as a replacement for chicken in a variety of dishes, including salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries. Hard-boiled eggs can also be a nutritious snack on their own.

Making the switch to eggs as a substitution for chicken in your diet can help save money while still providing essential nutrients.

Tofu for Pork

When it comes to substituting protein sources, tofu is an excellent alternative to pork. Tofu is a great source of protein, and it is also low in fat and calories, making it an ideal choice for those who are trying to reduce their intake of animal products or looking for a healthier option. Below is a table highlighting the differences between tofu and pork:

Ingredient Calories Fat Protein
Tofu (1 cup) 176 10g 20g
Pork (1 cup) 335 24g 29g

As you can see, tofu is lower in calories and fat than pork and still contains a significant amount of protein. Tofu is also a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in many ways, from stir-fries to sandwiches to smoothies.

If you’re looking to substitute pork with tofu in a recipe, keep in mind that tofu may not have the same texture or flavor as pork. However, tofu can easily take on the flavor of the other ingredients in the recipe, making it a great option for dishes like stir-fries, curries, or stews. You can also experiment with different types of tofu, such as firm or extra-firm, to find the texture that works best for your recipe.


After exploring various healthy substitutes for expensive ingredients, we can conclude that making small changes to our ingredients can have a big impact on both our health and our wallets. By opting for less expensive yet equally nutritious grains like brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, and millet, we can save money while also diversifying our diets. And by substituting in different types of vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, kale, and broccoli, we can further increase the variety of nutrients we consume while also reducing our grocery bills.

Protein substitutes like lentils, beans, eggs, and tofu offer not only a more affordable option, but also a more sustainable one. Choosing plant-based proteins over animal-based ones can significantly reduce our carbon footprint and benefit the environment. Additionally, these protein substitutes can be just as satisfying and delicious as their more expensive counterparts when used in creative and flavorful ways.

Overall, these healthy substitutions provide us with the opportunity to save money while also promoting our health and the health of the planet. By embracing a more conscious and thoughtful approach to our food choices, we can make a positive impact on both ourselves and the world around us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute brown rice for quinoa?

Yes, brown rice is an affordable and healthy substitution for quinoa. It’s high in fiber, protein, and essential nutrients, making it a great addition to any meal.

What’s a good substitute for expensive farro?

Barley is a great substitute for farro. It’s a cheaper and more widely available grain that’s high in fiber and nutrients.

Can I use steel-cut oats instead of buckwheat?

Yes, steel-cut oats are a healthy and affordable alternative to buckwheat. They are packed with fiber and essential vitamins, and have a similar nutty flavor.

Is millet a good replacement for freekeh?

Yes, millet is a great and budget-friendly substitute for freekeh. It’s a high-protein grain that’s loaded with vitamins and minerals.

What can I use instead of sweet potatoes?

Carrots are a good alternative to sweet potatoes. They are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision and immune function, and also have a natural sweetness.

Can I swap asparagus for zucchini?

Yes, zucchini is a healthy and affordable alternative to asparagus. It’s high in fiber and has a similar texture and flavor.

Is kale a good substitute for spinach?

Yes, kale is a great and budget-friendly alternative to spinach. It’s high in iron and other important vitamins, and can be used in a variety of dishes.

Can I use broccoli instead of Brussels sprouts?

Yes, broccoli is a nutritious and affordable substitute for Brussels sprouts. It’s high in vitamin C and fiber, and can be cooked in many different ways.

What can I use instead of beef to save money?

Lentils are a great and affordable alternative to beef. They are high in plant-based protein, fiber, and iron, and can be used in a variety of dishes such as soups and stews.

Is tofu a good replacement for pork?

Yes, tofu is a healthy and affordable substitute for pork. It’s high in protein, and can be cooked in many different ways.