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Improvising with the wrong ingredient

My dear hubby has done some grocery runs for me lately and despite my efforts to be clear on ingredients, I've found lots of need to improvise with what he brings home. I ask for 1lb. of Velveeta (to make the kids' fav mac&cheese) and he brings home 16oz of Velveeta individually wrapped slices (I made him unwrap them and tried to use it because it was a holiday and stores were closed; result was nasty). I ask for chicken breast tenders (to make mustard-panko chicken fingers) and he brings home refridgerated, ground-white-meat chicken nuggets.

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  1. I wonder why the individual slices of velveeta didn't work. Are the ingredients somewhat different than the block?

    The chicken nugget thing is just weird.

    If I'm asking DH to get unusual ingredients at the store, I often text him a picture of the needed item. It helps.

    1. There was a time we sent a non-cooking friend to the supermarket to get "a head of lettuce" for a salad. She came back with an enormous head of green cabbage.

      We made cole slaw instead. And we STILL get mileage out of that one.

      3 Replies
        1. re: egit

          I asked my wife to pick up a head of lettuce and I got escarole. Which was OK..

          1. re: drongo

            I would have seen it as an upgrade, but I understand how it wouldn't be for everybody. I LOVE escarole

        2. i had to use cilantro instead of parsley more than once. luckily, i like cilantro.

          a pound of chuck has been a pound of ground mystery meat (labeled ground chuck).

          deli meats can be anything at all. and usually not what was on the list...

          11 Replies
          1. re: Gastronomos

            hahaha, this reminds me...my husband called me from supermarket telling me he is with a clerk trying to figure out which is parsley and which is cilantro....both didn't know..so i told him to buy both.

            1. re: Monica

              I agree. just buy both. I rarely run out of parsley these days. lessons learned. I do often need cilantro and have to get myself to the market for that fix, but i'll just go myself...

              1. re: Monica

                That's when i snap off a leaf and eat it :)!

                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  try and explain that to my wife. if it ain't labeled ON the item, no dice. and even when it IS labeled ... let's say they are just happy mistakes. LOL

                  1. re: Gastronomos

                    Exactly..If you don't know what it is tasting won't help a bit. Lol

                  2. re: Ttrockwood

                    I sniff it... Sometimes I go overboard and bury my nose in a bunch! I've gotten a few dirty looks.

                  3. re: Monica

                    I love your solution!

                    Reminds me of a decades-old Ann Landers advice column answer. A person wrote in to complain that his or her spouse wanted ketchup in the fridge while the writer wanted it in the pantry. Landers' reply: buy two bottles of ketchup and go both ways.

                    Interesting that I remember this 30 or more years later, partly because I felt so keenly that, yes, there's a good answer here, but also that this couple is probably just on its way to something else to dicker about.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      We have his-and-hers mustard and mayo... DH likes regular yellow mustard and full-fat mayo, I love spicy brown and light mayo. Rather than squabbling about it, I buy both, and if I run out of mine I'll put up with his, but he says his sandwich 'tastes funny' if it's not made the right way.

                      1. re: Kajikit

                        One thing the three of us agree on, Emeril's horseradish mustard is the best thing ever for mustard.

                    2. re: Monica

                      Lol, asked husband to p/up a bunch of cilantro last week. He bought two since he thought they looked good. Both clearly marked "Italian Parsley" on the band. So now I had two new bunches and the one I already had in fridge.

                      Everything we ate last week had a fresh grassy leafy topping. :)

                  4. That's what cell phones are for. And if that doesn't work, that's what baseball bats are for.

                    YES, I AM KIDDING.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Been there, done that. Other than asking for pickup of a gallon of milk, loaf of bread (any type) or chips (any type) it really is easier to do my own shopping. Not so much due to ingredient substitution but overall time involved. And especially when I want to stay within budget.

                      My favorite was when I needed to keep my fevered self at home so asked him to get dried cranberries for his favorite cookies. He came home very tired an hour later with a baggie filled at top-dollar-cost from the organic bulk bins, rather than the "Craisins" I'd expected. He'd even seen the "Craisins" but I'd asked for "dried cranberries" which the produce staff were eventually able to find for him.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MidwesternerTT

                        I told my friend to get soda and he got chips. Then people wanted to drink soda and we had none. Husband had to go to the pharmacy which was the only thing open.

                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                          It's now a running joke between me and my husband, as there is almost always something wrong, but I love him for trying, with a smile no less! The cell phone call is pretty much expected for just about anything other than milk. :)

                          1. re: BobbieSue

                            Your husband and my husband must go to the same supermarket. He always find something wrong and calls me like 10 times before he gets it.

                        2. Years ago, I overheard two women in the dairy aisle:

                          "He said he needs plain yogurt for the chicken dish"

                          "Here's vanilla - that's plain, right?"

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: WNYamateur

                            My mom always had a knack for getting something 90% right, but overlooking 1 key thing. Like buying bagels, but oops, they're onion flavor and no one likes that. Or accidentally getting the fat free version of whatever item she wanted. Ranch dressing would say "cajun-style" or something like that. It was funny because she never noticed it until we pointed it out!

                            1. re: jboeke

                              My mom is the same way. She once bought cooking wine instead of red wine vinegar because "they look exactly the same."

                              1. re: Isolda

                                My mom is like that, too. She usually (but not always) buys the right thing for herself, but has a much harder time if my Dad or I ask her to pick up something. I remember my Dad once complaining that he was running a fever, couldn't keep anything down, etc., and when he asked my Mom to get him some 7-Up she bought diet 7-Up. Because when you haven't eaten for two days, what you need is diet soda! He accused her of trying to starve him!

                              2. re: jboeke

                                I make mistakes like this myself. I have a long row of canned tomatoes in my basement that I didn't notice had various herbs or garlic etc included -- I just didn't read the labels closely. I will donate them because I'd prefer to add my own herbs, garlic.

                                1. re: jboeke

                                  Many years ago my mother sent me and my sister to the store to buy Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce, cautioning us several times to get the right kind. She was insistent that we would know it because in small lettering on the label, it said, "Not enchilada sauce." Puzzling.

                                  We found the product, Old El Paso HOT enchilada sauce, and thus a family legend was born.

                                  Once i turned 40 and lost my close up vision, I understood the whole thing much better.

                              3. It sounds like he heard "blah blah blah velveeta, blah blah blah chicken fingers."

                                I never send the man to the store unless I'm very ill for fear of what might come home.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: weezieduzzit

                                  Same here. If it came down to me being unable to go to the store myself, and him having to go, I'd order a pizza.

                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                    You got it! I rarely send him, but on 2 recent occassions based on kid-sport obligations, it just made sense. And technically he wasn't totally wrong...it was a lb. of Velveeta, just the wrong form. The chicken a bit more questionable since I NEVER buy those pre-made nuggets, but he ended up suffering because he had to eat them.

                                    1. re: jboeke

                                      The chicken fingers/ tenders mix up is good one!

                                    1. My hubby does pretty well these days....

                                      1. My husband does a good job of shopping. I however am able to mysteriously grab the wrong thing sitting next to what I want. In the last year, I have come home with 1 can of pumpkin, and one can of pumpkin pie filling (went to the food bank this Christmas) and one quart of plain yogurt and one vanilla (gave to my FIL who is not as sweet adverse as I am).

                                        1. Jarred cocktail sauce when the dish called for ketchup. A few teary eyed guests but we laughed over it...eventually.

                                          1. My brilliant solution to this is to take a picture of the almost empty container (when available) and text it to DH while he's at the store. That way he gets the brand correct, as well as the actual ingredient. Most of the time....

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Isolda

                                              That would explain the # of shoppers you see standing in the aisle of the international food section asking the person on the other end of the cell phone which curry sauce they wanted.

                                            2. I feel your pain. WITH A LIST yet, my H will forget at least one item, buy the wrong item entirely (I ask for shelled walnuts, he brings home nut butter), and then buy five jars of pickles because they were on sale and he was feeling peckish. I try to name brands and aisle placement as an aid, but still...

                                              But at least our DHs food shop. My next-door neighbor is recently a widower, and was saying how he hated his wife's snoring for fifty years but misses it now.

                                              1. I rarely send my fiancé to the store unless I absolutely can't get there myself and that's mostly because I feel he over pays for things. But a few months ago I was on a cranberry juice kick and I asked him to bring home 100% cranberry juice NOT juice cocktail.

                                                He first came home with the cocktail, which I took back to the store the next day and brought home the 100%, which he said he didn't see. Now he knows exactly what I mean when I say cranberry juice. Sometimes I'll show him a container of what I'm sending him to the store for. It helps...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                  Haha...last time he went to buy milk , I had to take a picture of it with his phone before he left home..horizon brand organic whole milk with dha...I guess it is alot to remember..

                                                2. Not sure why this is on Home Cooking. From the title of the post and the location on HC, I was expecting a discussion on improvising with substitute ingredients when you don't have what the recipe calls for -- using sour cream for yoghurt, etc.

                                                  Instead, it mainly seems to be a series of anecdotes about hapless husbands who don't know how to grocery shop. Seems very sit-com like to me, and completely foreign to my experience.

                                                  My husband cooked and shopped for himself before we were married, continued to do almost all the cooking for the first 15 years of the marriage and for much of that time did most of the grocery shopping too (we had one car & he took it to work, whereas I rode public transport, so it made more sense for him to shop than I).

                                                  I do the regular grocery shopping now but I've got no qualms that he will buy the "wrong" thing on the few occasions when he stops by the supermarket to pick up something we need. The worst that happens is he buys something that he prefers that I typically would not buy, but he is fully aware of what he is buying.

                                                  As to my original impression of the post, sometimes improvised substitutions work and sometimes not so much. A few weeks ago I made a chowder, using leftover scalloped potatoes as my base. Not because we were out of raw potatoes but because I wanted to use up the leftovers, and was inspired by Chopped to improvise a recipe. Turned out great, btw.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    your husband and I have much in common in this context.

                                                    1. re: masha

                                                      Well, in point of fact, I'm a man and I do the cooking at home. My fiancee certainly can cook, she managed to provide sustenance for herself for quite some time before we met.

                                                      And she STILL sometimes gets the wrong thing on the few occasions I ask her to pick something up at the store. As often as not it's because I wasn't specific enough about what to get. One time a product was mislabeled. e.g. "Yeah, I thought it looked like parsley, but the sign said cilantro and the guy at the store assured me the sign was right."

                                                      To your point about chowder from scalloped potatoes, that's the kind of thing I *love* doing. It reminds me of the time I made gnocchi from about 3 cups of leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.

                                                      1. re: egit

                                                        She sounds like my husband, who successfully fed himself as a bachelor into his fifties, before we met. Not great food, but he wasn't one of those guys who subsists on TV dinners and ordering pizza. A health-conscious and athletic guy, he rarely ate out and cooked his meals at home. Despite that, he was sometimes buying blind at the grocery store, and would certainly buy things I wouldn't.

                                                        So, sure, if I send him to the store, sometimes he gets the wrong thing, and I have to deal with it. Heck, sometimes I'll send him into the garden asking him to pick me some basil, and he'll come back in with oregano. So I'm learning, that if it really matters, I need to be very specific, and describe the thing. If I want a certain olive oil or vinegar, it helps to show him the empty bottle or take a picture. He will really go out of his way to find the right thing, as long as he is sure about what the right thing really is. He appreciates the food I cook and understands that the ingredients are important. He just needs a little more information.

                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                          I love your post. I have to tell you about the time I sent DH out to the garden to pick some basil, and barely caught him before he started harvesting the patchouli. He's pretty aware, but they looked enough alike...

                                                    2. It's always amusing when I am asked at a grocery store (by a man) where to find something. I can tell by the look on his face he has no idea what it is, and he is nowhere near the aisle where it would be located. I am always happy to help, and wonder how it is that I look like the type of person to ask, lol.

                                                      A few weeks ago, I had to show someone where the light whipping cream was. Honestly, that is a confusing item to find, and a lot of items are, if you don't cook much yourself.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: BobbieSue

                                                        "where the light whipping cream was"

                                                        he was hitting on you...

                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                          I sincerely doubt it. Maybe he was just joking. But thanks, you made my day!

                                                        2. re: BobbieSue

                                                          Once sent out my husband to buy a cream of tartar...the whole supermarket team was ended up getting involved in locating this item because nobody knew what it was and where to locate it. lol

                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                            ...but...but...but...they looked EVERYWHERE in the dairy aisle!

                                                            1. re: Monica

                                                              At least he asks for help. Mine would leave the store empty-handed before admitting defeat to a stranger.

                                                          2. Smart guy, I bet in the future you won't send him shopping unless absolutely necessary.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: zackly

                                                              Actually, you could be on the right track. I am reminded of how badly my husband used to change diapers.

                                                              1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                A friend of mine has a term called "cultivated incompetence." I think it applies here.

                                                                1. re: egit

                                                                  I will *never* forget my younger brother, then late teens or so, doing a *terrible* job ironing something. My mother said "I guess guys just can't do this". I said "he's playing you"

                                                            2. I know I'm gonna get kicked out of the club for this, but EVERY husband with experience knows that the best way to avoid being asked to do any chore is to do it poorly. Doesn't matter what it is. Washing dishes, scrubbing toilets, changing diapers, grocery shopping...Do it poorly enough and your wife won't ask because she's afraid of the results.

                                                              Sorry, guys...bet we knew it was probably the worst-kept secret, anyway.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                This only applies in households where the default assumption is that these are all "her" jobs, where he is "helping out." We started out with the proposition that there were household chores to be divvied up -- not that he was taking things off my plate. E.g., in our early years, before we had paid domestic help to do the housekeeping, there were Saturdays set aside when he dusted, vacuumed, and washed the kitchen floor, while I cleaned our one bathroom. The ground rules on cooking and washing up after dinner, which have applied for over 35 years, is that one person cooks and the other cleans up.

                                                                1. re: masha

                                                                  No, it holds no matter what the chore. Changing the oil. Mowing the lawn. Slaughtering chickens. Making a dog house. (This one I know from personal experience!) Do any of them poorly enough, and you won't be asked to do it again.

                                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                                    I know this happens. =) I think guys might not even totally realize that they are doing it.

                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                      yeah, I admit, I quit doing the kitty litter because of that crazy disease you can get from it if you're pregnant. My youngest is almost 18 and it's still not my job :)

                                                                  2. re: ricepad

                                                                    As a woman, I think I can say that women are guilty of that as well -- checking the air in the tires, cutting the grass.

                                                                      1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                        Yeah, I think that's why Mrs. ricepad does a crappy job washing dishes. She must know subconsciously that I would prefer to have them done my way....hence, I usually do them.

                                                                      2. re: ricepad

                                                                        It's role reversal @ my house. I'm a retired chef so I do everything food related and my wife is terrible with laundry. She was a "career" woman who lived in Manhattan and I think she sent everything out to the laundry to be cleaned. When she does my laundry everything comes out wrinkled even the wrinkle free pants and shirts.I rarely ask her to do any of my chores.And forget about grocery shopping. She doesn't look @ prices or read labels. I could spend hours in a grocery store because I'm fascinated with food. She just wants to get in and out. She shopped with me recently and when I was on the checkout line I realized I had forgotten to grab some milk.I asked her to get some and when she came back I asked her what the expiration date was. She just sighed and trudged back to the dairy case.

                                                                        1. re: zackly

                                                                          'When she does my laundry everything comes out wrinkled even the wrinkle free pants and shirts.'


                                                                      3. My husband is a good cook and a decent shopper, but he will often fail me when I send him to the store for specific items. Part of me thinks that he just isn't engaged and paying attention when he isn't the one cooking...part of me thinks it might be that he is so adept at improvising himself that he doesn't see the need for precision...and part of me wonders if it isn't his way to keep his "honey-do" list very short.

                                                                        1. Can't remember her name, but a totally CLEAN, comedienne does a really funny routine on Yuotube about a shopping list. Can probably be found without much trouble.

                                                                          She has send hubby to supermarket on occasions and had similar results to Jboeke, so decides to be VERY specific on her list. She's making some kinda cake and needs pretty much EVERY ingredient... maybe 10?? SOO she numbers them... 1 dozen eggs... thru 8 vanilla, 9 5lb sugar, 10 5 lb flour. Know it's a comedy bit, but hubby comes home with just what she wrote... down to EIGHT bottles of vanilla, NINE 5lb bags of sugar, & TEN 5lb bags of flour.

                                                                          This isn't a bit of passive aggression for being sent to market is it?? :)

                                                                          1. Ceck out Jeanne Robertson... "Don't send man/husband to grocery store" or something similar.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. Husband called his wife and asked if he could get anything on his way home from work. His  wife said,  "Could you buy one carton of milk, and if they have avocados, get six"?

                                                                              A short time later the husband came home with six cartons of milk.

                                                                              His wife asked  asked him,  "Why did you buy six cartons of milk"?

                                                                              Husband replied, "They had avocados".