I'm 18 years old and I live in a college dorm with a communal kitchen and fridge, so buying wine for cooking is pretty much impossible. So, it seems my options are to just stay away from recipes with wine in them (or any alcohol for that matter), or try to find a substitute. I've heard of cooking wine, and most people seem to be against it, but then again, they suggest buying cheap wines (which I can't). Is it at least acceptable in a pinch? I've also seen non-alcoholic wines, but I'm not sure they' be much better...
Any other ideas?
It helps to distinguish between recipes where the wine is an essential part of the flavoring, and ones where it just adds to the flavor (and liquid). The cup or two that some French and Italian recipes call for (Beef in Burgundy sauce, old chicken in wine) is harder to replace than a 1/4c in others. We were just talking about a Bolonaise sauce that uses 1/2c of wine per 1.5lb of meat. An equivalent amount of other liquid, and maybe a bit extra tomato paste would be fine there.
i agree with suggestions to use stock or fruit juice, whichever seems appropriate to the dish, and also reiterate the idea of adding some vinegar or lemon juice, as acidity is one of the elements wine brings to the dish.
another idea would be to buy an inexpensive bottle of wine and freeze it, either in an ice cube tray or in a ziplock bag, flat, so it can be easily snapped into useable quantities. if the issue is that wine in a communal fridge gets consumed, that might solve the problem.
another alternative (if you are of legal age, and it is okay for you to have in your dorm) is an inexpensive bottle of vermouth. it lasts much longer in the bottle, at room temp, than wine will, and people would be less likely to drink it (altho, at college, that's not a guarantee...i recall everclear being consumed with gusto, and to me, that's lighter fluid...).
if you have a trader joe's nearby, they will have an inexpensive vermouth. get dry, not sweet, for most cooking uses.
Please do avoid cooking wines--they're high in sodium and bitter, and if you're in a dorm with a shared kitchen, it's likely that at least one person will attempt to drink it.
I agree with the juices, as well as adding a few drops of balsamic vinagre to red-wine based substitutions.
If you are using grape, apple, cherry, or other strong juices, dilute it at least by half with water--they have a much higher sugar content than wine and may make your dish overly sweet.
The best non-alcoholic wines I've tried are from Navarro, but they're at least $9/bottle+shipping from the vineyard. Fre tastes like a dry sparkling grape juice, so you may as well use juice.
Dry grape ginger ale might work too.
It depends on what you are cooking but fruit juice (I use apple juice a lot instead of white wine) or grape juice for red. You can also sub in stock. If things seem too sweet after, dump in a bit of white wine or red wine vinegar and take a taste after each splash. I see the person who will be above me said sparkling cider - lovely idea.