Overcoming food shortages with substitutions

Most of us have been stuck at home for weeks, many of us homeschooling while working or wishing we were working. Thinking back to how nice it was to miss our family occasionally, while still trying to treasure every moment. It seems unfair that during these uncertain times we also have to worry about grocery stores being fully stocked. Know that you are not alone and Extension and Outreach is here to help. 

It seems that people are stocking up on frozen and canned items that will last longer, which can make it difficult to find the grocery items that you are used to buying. 

For frozen and canned vegetables 

The understanding that most vegetables are interchangeable is helpful here. Substituting carrots, peas, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, kale, even celery or cabbage for each other will not negatively impact a recipe’s final product. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary slightly, so check your vegetables for doneness before serving. I recommend picking vegetables you know you like, but if you’re feeling adventurous try out a new one!  

Use any frozen or canned vegetables/beans you want in the following recipes:

Vegetable Quesadillas – Kids love helping to build their own.

Quick Pad Thai – A fun take on takeout, try with tofu or edamame for protein if you’re low on chicken.

Pizza on a Potato– Another dish that’s fun for kids and good as a side dish or the main course!

Four Layer Supper– Substitute any canned vegetable or 1 cup frozen vegetables in this recipe in place of green beans.

Making fresh produce last

If you want to extend the shelf life of your fresh produce, Extension and Outreach has some great resources here. This is also helpful to have in mind as summer starts up and farmers markets and gardens start filling up with Iowa’s bounty. 

Substitutes for meat

It has been especially difficult for us to find the cuts and type of meat we are used to lately, so I have taken to using more beans, tofu, and eggs to get our protein. Like vegetables, these items are fairly easy to exchange for each other. Beans and tofu* can be added with the vegetables in a recipe, as they don’t need to be pre-cooked. 

*A note on tofu: We usually buy extra firm (non-silken) tofu, as it holds its shape and substitutes well for meat. Silken tofu is good for soups and smoothies, as it has a much softer texture. I like to marinate my extra firm tofu up to a day ahead of time (use your favorite seasoning and a tsp of oil). If it is your first time using tofu and you are worried about your family liking it, then fry it in a little oil and season it before serving it alongside something they enjoy. 

Here are some of our favorite recipes that work well with non-meat protein sources.

Frittata– Quick and easy weekend breakfast, or we have even been known to have it for a weeknight dinner!

Teriyaki Rice Bowl– Substitute tofu for the protein here for a truly Asian-inspired dish.

Sausage and Vegetable Skillet– Try substituting beans for sausage here, just skip the second step and add beans in with the vegetables.

Black Bean Burgers – Kids love to help form the patties!
Now more than ever it is important to rely on each other and be adaptable. When you are planning your week, stick to recipes that you feel comfortable using different vegetables and protein sources for. AnswerLine is always available if you have any questions regarding substitutions 1-800-262-3804 (9 am-12 pm and 1-4 pm CST). We are all in this together.

Written by Kathryn Standing, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

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