Say farewell to paying top dollar for kale, Greek yogurt, and more.

By Stacey Ballis
February 12, 2021
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These days we are all on tight budgets, so finding smart ways to save on food without sacrificing flavor or quality is a great thing to do right now. For many, this may mean swapping in store brands for famous labels, buying in bulk, or relying more heavily on inexpensive pantry staples. Hopefully, it means your focus is on cooking from scratch instead of prepared or processed foods, which is your first best step towards saving money with food.

If you're already cooking a lot from scratch, great! But you can go further with these savvy swaps for popular ingredients. Here are 8 clever ingredient swap-outs that will save you money at the checkout.

Swap out kale for collards

Kale is the darling superfood of the last decade, and that popularity comes with a price tag to match. Trendy foods will always be more expensive, both because of what the market will bear, but also because with that popularity comes scarcity. You be all-in on making everything from kale chips to kale salads to sauteed kale for the wonderful hearty texture, balanced bitter flavor, and health benefits, but you are noticing the pinch? Collard greens can go anywhere kale can go, for anywhere from $1-2.50 less per pound. Many think that collards can only be braised for a long time, for Southern style greens, but they are actually very similar to kale and can be swapped 1:1 in any kale recipe, with any style of cooking.

Swap out pine nuts for sunflower seeds

Pine nuts are an amazing ingredient. Their slightly resiny flavor makes them a terrific nut for more than pesto: using in cookies and toasting as a garnish for salads or pastas. But their price tag is staggering. Enter your new best pal, the humble sunflower seed. Similar in size, these small seeds can go anywhere your pine nuts would have gone deliciously, for a savings of around $4 or more per ounce!

Credit: Getty / Cavan Images

Swap out goat cheese for cream cheese

Goat cheese, with its mild flavor and creamy spreadable texture, is wonderful. But at about $12 for half a pound, it is no small expense. Cream cheese can bring you many similar attributes for about $2.50 for the same 8 ounces. And while you might miss the slight barnyard funk, you won't miss the expense.

Swap out saffron for annatto

Saffron brings both a musky flavor and wonderful yellow orange color to dishes like paella and risotto, but this rare spice comes with the heftiest of price tags, at a cool $38 per ounce or so. Annatto seeds, which can usually be found in either the spice aisle or in the Mexican section of your grocery store, are about a dollar an ounce, and while they don't have the floral punch of saffron, they do bring the color and a wonderful, mild flavor. Grind the seeds or steep in hot water or hot oil to bring out the flavor.

Swap out chives for scallions

Fresh herbs are a great way to bring flavor, but they are not inexpensive and come in small packages. Oniony chives are a delicious garnish for many dishes, but you can get the same allium punch from the green parts of scallions! Slice thin and save the white parts for other dishes or to re-grow for more greenery.

Swap out dried cherries or cranberries for raisins

Dried fruit can be really costly, and the more expensive the original fruit, the more expensive the dehydrated version. Which isn't terrible if you just need a small amount, but if you are baking or snacking it can add up quickly. If your recipe calls for dried cherries or cranberries, which might run you between $.50-1.50 per ounce, try raisins for around $.30 per ounce.

Swap out light meat for dark when it comes to chicken and turkey

Dark meat is always less expensive than white meat when it comes to poultry and has more flavor to boot! So, whether you are buying whole cuts or ground, you will always get more bang for your buck and more taste if you switch from white meat to dark.

Swap out Greek yogurt for regular yogurt

Greek yogurt is really just a thicker yogurt, created by extra straining. So, begin with regular texture plain yogurt at about half the price. Then, make your own Greek style by simply lining a colander or sieve with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and filling it with regular yogurt. Put it over a bowl, cover, and let sit in the fridge for as little as an hour or as long as overnight, depending on how thick you like your yogurt.