The Pantry: Help! The Stores Are All Closed!

It’s the night before Thanksgiving and you’re completely on track with your baking.  It’s time to make the next dish, and…wait.  Where is it?  You just knew you had a second bag of brown sugar in the pantry.  Or vanilla, or powdered sugar, or even pumpkin pie spice.

But no.  Despite your best efforts–  the hours of planning, the lists, the three trips to the grocery store– somehow you missed something, and here you stand in your kitchen, contemplating a Pumpkin Pie-less Thanksgiving because all of the grocery stores have closed and you forgot to grab an extra bag of brown sugar.

Take a deep breath.

Hopefully, this will save your holiday sanity.  They aren’t perfect duplications, but they definitely do in a pinch.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

For approximately1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, mix together  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon cloves.  Use the ground spices.  I’m sure you already knew that, though!


So, the thing is that allspice isn’t really a bunch of spices mixed together.  It’s actually a ground up berry.  But if you don’t have it in the pantry, there’s an easy substitution:  mix together 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

Powdered Sugar

In a blender, using the grind setting, grind 1 cup of granulated sugar until it’s fine.  Make sure you periodically give it a rest, and stir the sugar around (with the blender turned off!), so that you don’t burn out your motor.  I’m sure the food processor would work as well.

Brown Sugar

For light brown sugar, blend together 1 cup of sugar with 2 teaspoons of molasses.  Coat your teaspoon with non-stick spray so that the molasses slides out easily.

For dark brown sugar, up the molasses from 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon.

Follow the same instructions as you would for the powdered sugar, briefly blending molasses and sugar together with the grind setting of you blender.


There are a couple of things you can do to substitute for buttermilk.  You can pour 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar -or- lemon juice into a 1 cup measuring cup, and fill the cup up the rest of the way with milk.

If the buttermilk is for a baked good, you can just substitute the full amount with sour cream.

Vanilla Extract

This particular one won’t help you in a pinch, but I keep some on hand for the times when I run out of the store bought kind.  Take a decorative bottle, put in a vanilla bean, and then fill the bottle up with with bourbon or whiskey, and cap or cork the bottle.  In two weeks, you have some darn good vanilla extract.  You simply top it off when the bottle runs low.

When I’m in dire straits for vanilla extract and I don’t have my back-up vanilla, I simply substitute the vanilla extract with bourbon.


If you run out of butter, but you happen to have some whipping cream left over in your ‘fridge, then you can make your own this way.

Six days and counting.  Happy Cooking!


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