FoodSaver® Blog

Article Image

9 Cheaper Alternatives to Expensive Ingredients

  • Top Tips
  • Share

If you consider yourself a foodie, then you'll know that with the refined palate and world-class flavours comes a serious dent in the wallet. For the foodies out there, pulling yourself away from the ingredients that make your meals truly special can be difficult, but if you're on a budget, there's no need to fork out when it comes to flavour.

There are plenty of cheaper alternatives to your favourite ingredients. Rather than paying for expensive items that will see minimal use and are pricier in the long term, we've assembled a list of discounted recipe staples that offer more versatility and won't break the bank.


The most expensive spice in the world, saffron's bitter fragrance gives curries and paellas their distinctive colour and subtle floral flavours. But since it's so labour-intensive to produce, it doesn't come cheap.

At a fraction of the price, a mix of turmeric and paprika should give your recipes that same deep yellow hue and a slight kick without damaging the bank balance.


Another pricey spice, cardamom enhances Indian, Middle Eastern and Scandinavian dishes with strong powerful aromas and a deep, long-lasting fragrance. As the third most expensive spice in the world, it's something of a luxury but the warmth of cinnamon, or a blend of equal parts of cinnamon and nutmeg, will help capture some of the authenticity of far-flung cuisines.

Cardamom can be found in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.Cardamom can be found in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, but there are alternatives.


A foodie favourite that's surely the mark of any refined palate, truffles' unbelievable price tag means they're not something you can regularly pick up on a Sunday shop. Luckily, there are quite a few alternatives that'll still help give dishes that trademark nuttiness.

Truffle oil, for one, infuses dishes with a similar flavour without the buyer's remorse. Likewise, mushrooms are a superb substitute, particularly the porcini's strong, pungent flavour.

Additionally, dried mushrooms are a great addition to your kitchen cupboard. They last for months and months, and add intense, smoky notes to pasta dishes with ease. Throw in some garlic and parsley, and you've got a simple, but flavourful meal in a matter of minutes.


Parmigiano-Reggiano, or parmesan as it's better known, is an undoubted Italian classic. Dubbed the King of Cheeses for good reason, it's also more expensive than you'd think. Considering that it's mainly used as topping for salads, pizza and pasta, it's quite a luxury.

You can't have Italian cuisine without Parmigiano-Reggiano.You can't have Italian cuisine without Parmigiano-Reggiano, but what about Grana Padano?

Grana Padano may be the cheaper alternative, but its subtle (near-negligible) differences in flavour mean it's practically interchangeable with pricier parmesan. For that extra kick to your favourite meals, this cost-saving cheese is an essential ingredient to have on hand.


On the superfood side of things, quinoa has proved exceptionally popular over the past few years. Loaded with the right amount of carbs and calories and plenty of protein, it's a great alternative to rice, and works exceptionally well in curries, stews and soups.

Lentils, on the other hand, have been around for a comparative age and much of the same properties as quinoa, with fewer carbs and more fibre, which is great for keeping you full long after you've finished eating. In dry and tinned form, they're incredibly cheap, take no time to cook and - you guessed it – they work exceptionally well in curries, stews and soups.


Whether you buy into kale's much-feted superfood powers, you're also buying into a pricier per kg expenditure. Broccoli, whether you view it as a dinner plate nemesis or an excellent addition to just about any meal, is loaded with the same supposedly 'super' properties of kale.

Kale is key to a healthy diet.Kale is key to a healthy diet, but broccoli can be a nice substitute.

Calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and fibre all come as standard, but it also contains more vitamin C and potassium than kale. With winter on the way, keep broccoli in mind for those lovely warming soups when the cold kicks in.


An excellent all-round food brimming with protein, healthy fats, and fibre, as well as a surprisingly expensive price to go along with the good stuff. Consider swapping them out for chickpeas, they feature fewer calories and are a super cheap essential that proves exceptionally versatile in the modern kitchen.

From roast, spiced versions for a healthy work day snack to wrap fillings and bases for robust curries, the humble chickpea is something your kitchen cupboards should be stocked with at all times.

Fresh Pasta

They say "when in Rome do as the Romans". Therefore, don't purchase Fresh pasta. You might be surprised to hear that Italians prefer to buy dried pasta over fresh, unless it's stuffed varieties like ravioli and orecchiette. Frankly, they'd baulk at the idea of paying more for classics like spaghetti, too.

Just because it's cheaper, doesn't mean what you're buying is an inferior product. Italians generally consider dried varieties to be better. Fresh is certainly en vogue right now, but it doesn't last as long, and ends up being pricier. Stick with dried if you're looking to save.


Likewise, pancetta is something you don't really need to bother with unless you're really looking for that authentic Italian flavour. Since truly fantastic pancetta has to be imported from Italy, you're looking at a hefty price tag too.

There are alternatives to pancetta.There are alternatives to pancetta.

Any decent streaky bacon will do the trick without putting a strain on your finances. There are types of bacon spiced in a way that mimic pancetta's marbled goodness, just cut it up, fry it in oil and throw it in with your favourite pasta or mix with sprouts for a great little side dish.

For more food and recipe ideas, don't forget to check out the rest of the FoodSaver blog. Alternatively, to find out more about our range of innovative vacuum sealing devices, visit the FoodSaver homepage.