Substitute, Improvise, and Make Do With What You Have

Posted by Jill on February 3, 2011

I can’t tell you how many times recently I have been caught without something I needed. I don’t have a car and rely on public transportation and/or walking to get me anywhere I need to go. While it works most of the time, getting anywhere requires a little bit of planning – not great if a last-minute need arises.

I’ve found that a little creativity and/or search-engine prowess can help me get out of almost any bind with things I already have in my apartment. Here are some quick fixes I’ve used to save me time, money and stress.

Quick-Fix Ideas

  • Cooking: I bought everything recently for a slow cooker pot roast I was so excited about. But when I got home I realized I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce. A quick internet search told me that soy sauce and a pinch of cinnamon was a good substitute – and the pot roast turned out so well I think I’ll make it that way in the future! I have also substituted a can of chicken broth and a little soy sauce for beef broth and thrown a can of tomatoes in the food processor when I realized I didn’t have tomato sauce.
  • Baking: I was making cookies the other day and already had the mixer going when I realized that the recipe told me to sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the dough. I don’t have a sifter – in fact, the only person I know who does is my grandma! But I realized that a sifter just helps get out any lumps. So I put the appropriate amount of powdered sugar in a small Ziploc bag, rolled over it a few times with a rolling pin, and pushed out the rest of the lumps and bumps with my fingers. I’ve also used a Ziploc bag to smash up avocado for guacamole and as a substitute for a pastry bag.
  • Gift wrap: If you find yourself without a gift bag or roll of wrapping paper in your house just minutes before leaving to a party, get creative. Magazine or newspaper ads can make great gift wrap if used creatively. I’ve even made bows out of newspaper by curling long strips of brightly colored sections
  • Laundry: Frequent trips to the dry cleaner are both expensive and impractical for somebody with no car. When I have a dry-clean only item that is actually clean but just a little musty from too much time in the closet, I freshen it up by putting it in the dryer with a scented dryer sheet for just a few minutes. If your dresser or wardrobe leaves your clothing smelling like wood, dryer sheets also make a great substitute for scented drawer liners or expensive sachets.
  • Linens: I recently bought a new twin daybed when my full-sized bed didn’t fit in my new apartment. I thought I had twin sheets left over from college but realized I didn’t. For the first several nights, I just folded my full-sized sheets carefully towards the back of the bed, and didn’t even notice the difference. While I did purchase twin sheets eventually, I never did replace the dust ruffle at the bottom of my bed – I just folded the large one in such a way that the extra hangs towards the back. Since I don’t plan to use the twin bed beyond this year, there was no reason to invest in new, expensive items.

What have you made do with recently? Did you find the substitute was as good or better than the original? Tell us in the comments!

You can get my latest articles full of valuable tips and other information delivered directly to your email for free simply by entering your email address below. Your address will never be sold or used for spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Comments to Substitute, Improvise, and Make Do With What You Have

  1. “Use what You Have!” is my motto for this year. I am trying to remember to use what I have instead of buying anything extra.

    I was just showing my daughter last night how to search on the internet to find substitutions for the ingredients in her recipe. A lot of times there are many suggestions. I think that makes a good cook anyway, is learning what will work and just going with the flow.

    So this year, when I hear myself (or family members) say “We need ________” I stop and try to find a suitable solution to the problem without having to buy anything.
    It saves $$ & gets your creative juices flowing.

    My husband is getting the hang of it too. It is infectious. I come from a long line of DIY’ers and it is second nature for me, but some people were born consumers and have to be re-programmed, lol.


  2. I ditched my contract phone and am making do with prepaid wireless from net10. I took a leap of faith but I have to say I am very happy with the service and I pay so little every month compared to my very high bills before. I would encourage others to see if they could do without a traditional contract cell phone because the savings really add up.


Previous article: «
Next article: »