Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Substitute This for That

I spent most of my childhood growing up on a farm with my grandparents.  They were not rich by any stretch of the imagination and most of the things they did was dictated by having grown up during the Great Depression.  There are A LOT of things that people are running out and buying right now that my grandparents (and many people around the world today) would have never even considered buying.  Here's how to substitute common items for things that you would otherwise think you had to buy to survive the coronavirus or any other disaster...

  • Instead of kleenex, use a handkerchief.  It saves paper, saves money, and many people around the world still use hankies instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money on paper to blow their nose into.
  • Instead of paper towels, use rags.  This is what everyone used up until paper towels came into common use.
  • Instead of Clorox wipes and similar products, use rags soaked in water with a little bleach in it.
  • Baking substitutes.  Whether there has been a run on a necessary ingredient at the grocery store or you run out of an item and don't want to trek to the store to get more--but you still want to bake your cake--there are several things you can use to substitute for all kinds of baking supplies (examples here, here, and here).
  • Instead of toilet paper, there are several other things you can use (which about 70% of the world uses on a daily basis because toilet paper is expensive when you are poor).
  • Instead of disposable items, use more durable alternatives.  Basically anything that is meant to be thrown away after one use has a non-disposable alternative.  Nalgene water bottles, titanium eating utensils, fabric or nylon shopping bags, rechargeable batteries, reusable coffee filters, using a tea ball instead of a tea bag...anytime you go to throw away something, think of what could be substituted for the item that you would only need to buy once.
  • Use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers.  Yes it's more hassle but it is also much cheaper and you won't panic if suddenly every store in your town is out of plastic diapers.
  • Instead of buying dozens of household products like laundry soap and cosmetics, having a few general purpose items on hand will allow you to make many of the products yourself that you would otherwise pay top dollar for at the store.
  • Did you know that instead of throwing your vegetable scraps into the garbage bin or compost pile you can regrow many of them and create your own, unending, mini garden?
  • I try to eat vegan as much as possible and in doing so, I've needed to find substitutions for using animal products when cooking.  Here are a bunch of substitution ideas for commonly used foods.
  • Before you run out to the store to buy an item (or if the shelves are bare due to panic buying) consider alternative substitutions for what you need (the internet is full of clever ideas to both save money and re-purpose items around your home).
  • Homemade cold and flu remedies can be an alternative to store-bought items.  There are a bunch of caveats to this of course...never try to make prescription medicine at home, if you are really sick go to the doctor immediately, don't use vet medicines like fish mox unless it really is the end of the world and you have no other alternative, and strive to always have the most common first aid items on hand (Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc).
  • Sometimes when there is a shortage of a certain food, you just have to go without.  There have frequently been times when there was no lettuce in the stores, tomato shortages, etc.  Making meals without a few common items isn't that difficult to do, plus you can often substitute some foods for other foods without a great difference in taste.
I'm guessing that all of this panic buying will blow over soon but until then, then internet is full of useful and interesting alternatives for nearly everything that you think is a necessity in your life.


  1. I no longer have 40+ washcloths, but when I did, I used washcloths instead of tp. I used cloth for my three babies, and this is soooo much easier. I do keep tp for solid and use washcloths for wet. I have many yards of knit fabrics that I could turn into squares for wiping. For now, I intend to sew with the fabric, so I will not cut it up unless necessary.

    I believe fish mox is identical to the human med.

    Good post.

    1. Using anything BUT toilet paper is what many people do the world over. Same for diapers. And fish mox is what some people use for antibiotics but it was have to be pretty "end of the world" for me to use it!