MISS MONEYSAVER: How to turn white sugar into brown… and other secrets to baking on a budget
We always had cake in the larder when I was growing up and I still remember how proud I was, aged six, of my first batch of scones.
Even now, my day is not complete without a piece of cake.
But, like everything else, baking ingredients have shot up in price recently. For instance, a dozen eggs cost £3.26 on average last month, up from £2.59 a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics — making a home-made cake much more of a luxury than it used to be.
Luckily there are canny substitutes you can make to keep baking costs down without scrimping on flavour.
These include using flax seeds to make your own cut-price ‘vegan eggs’ in place of hens’ eggs, according to the master bakers at fabflour.co.uk. To make a ‘flax egg’, combine one tablespoon of flax seeds (£1.20 for a 150g bag at Tesco) with three tablespoons of water and let it stand for five minutes.
If your recipe calls for brown sugar but you only have white granulated, you could add black treacle to it. Add one tablespoon of black treacle for every 200g of white sugar
If you have leftover apple sauce, you could pop that into a cake recipe in lieu of eggs. It adds sweetness and moisture, and because apple is naturally high in pectin, also helps bind the cake. It may also give a denser texture. Use 62g of unsweetened apple sauce per egg.
There are clever swaps you can deploy if you find yourself short of other ingredients — or are reluctant to splash out on something you may rarely use.
There’s no need to buy buttermilk especially for a recipe — you can easily make your own by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 250ml of milk and letting it stand for five minutes.
You can also make your own buttermilk — and homemade butter — from leftover cream, says Great British Bake-Off contestant Val Stones.
Val advises beating the cream until it separates, forming a fatty solid (butter) — ‘which can be wrapped and frozen until needed,’ she says. Leftover buttermilk can be used to make pancakes.
Luckily there are canny substitutes you can make to keep baking costs down without scrimping on flavour. These include using flax seeds to make your own cut-price ‘vegan eggs’ in place of hens’ eggs (Stock image)
Ricotta cheese (currently £1.40 for 250g at Sainsbury’s) is delicious crumbled over pasta, roasted with cherry tomatoes or used to make a cheesecake — but there’s no need to buy it specially. Val makes her own using leftover milk and heating it to 90c before letting it cool. You’ll find simple instructions online; these involve beating in white wine vinegar or lemon juice to separate the mixture into curds and whey before straining it through a sieve and pressing into a mould.
If your recipe calls for brown sugar but you only have white granulated, you could add black treacle to it. Add one tablespoon of black treacle for every 200g of white sugar. A 454g tin of Lyle’s black treacle is £1.75 at Ocado.
Chefs at meal kit delivery company Gousto suggest using cinnamon and vanilla extract as sugar alternatives. They’re great for adding sweetness to stewed fruit and even tea and coffee.
There are wallet-friendly tips you can use with savoury dishes too. For breaded chicken, try coating chicken breasts with mayo if there’s a jar open in the fridge, instead of dipping them in beaten eggs — a suggestion from the makers of Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Swapping fresh for canned or frozen foods can also save you a packet. Research from Love Canned Food estimates families could save more than £650 a year by switching fresh produce for canned fruit, veg, fish and meat.
Great British Bake-Off contestant Val Stones makes her own ricotta using leftover milk and heating it to 90c before letting it cool. You’ll find simple instructions online (Stock Image)
The research, which compared costs of 25 of the most popular products, found 80 per cent of canned alternatives were cheaper than the fresh counterparts.
Tuna is an obvious example — yellow fin tuna steaks are £8.20 for two (or £3.47/100g) at Tesco, compared with 80p for a 145g tin of Tesco tuna chunks in brine (or 78p/100g). Tinned mackerel (95p /125g tin at Tesco) or sardines (47p/ 120g tin at Tesco) are also cheaper than fresh.
As you might expect, the MoneyMagpie team are also switched on when it comes to food swaps. My colleague Vicky Parry loves using crushed butter beans as mash. And they are high in healthy fibre.
A 400g tin of butter beans costs 59p in Aldi, so if you can’t stretch to the £1.59 bag of Maris Piper potatoes — or don’t think you’ll use the full 2.5kg before they go off — try mashing butter beans instead.
Please send in your ideas for food swaps as I’m always interested to hear them. The good news is that with a bit of research — and a dollop of creativity — there are plenty of tasty ruses you can use to enjoy home-baking without breaking the bank.
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