Make Substitutions When Eggs are Expensive

Eggs 3

Today, reasonably priced eggs are generally available year-round, but a hundred years ago people worried about the high price of eggs.

Hereโ€™s some advice in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:

The demand for fresh eggs is great, and so many eggs are exported, that the price is high. Twenty-five cents a dozen is a reasonable price, but this is below the average at the present date. Thirty-five cents a dozen will permit the moderate use of eggs as the main dish for breakfast or luncheon sometimes, but not a liberal use in cakes and desserts.

If a recipe for soft custard calls for three eggs to a pint of milk, leave out one egg or even two, and use one or two tablespoons of cornstarch.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)

53 thoughts on “Make Substitutions When Eggs are Expensive

  1. I cannot imagine making custard without the full complement of eggs–I mean, isn’t that point of custard? I’m glad we never have to worry about eggs these days!

    1. I appreciate sentiment of the post, but need to comment on “why” eggs are relatively cheap now…battery cages. I have laying hens and we use their eggs, sometimes they are broody and hatch out a clutch. They all have such unique personalities that I cannot imagine how stressed and deprived they would be if they had to live in a commercial egg house in battery cages with only enough room the size of a typical piece of writing paper.

            1. Here there are some indoors ones during the winter. They have eggs year-round, though the selection of vegetables gets extremely limited during the winter.

    2. As the number of eggs decrease, and the amount of corn starch increases it’s, starting to sound less like a custard and more like a pudding to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Such an interesting flash back and a reminder of when we were closer to our food, bought in season and had to deal with these real situations. A reminder too of our dependence today on factory farming with its dark side.

  3. There’s a lot we take for granted in the food department these days. As I’m writing on my Alaska homesteading book I can see the food hardships we had at the time compared to where we had come from. Mother at one time paid $1.25 a dozen for fresh eggs and thought that was awful. This was in the early 60’s. After researching that I found the normal cost was about 50 – 60 cents per dozen elsewhere, so I guess she had reason to complain. On the other hand it was Alaska – everything cost more and was harder to get! ~Elle

  4. Now everybody in my household knows that I will start into baking without looking to see if I have enough ingredients…..so i have to find substitutes. I’ve never substituted eggs in a custard ,but sure have in cakes or cookies. Add a 3 to 4 Tbsp of milk to 1 tsp of cornstarch. It works๐Ÿ˜„

    1. This is good to know. I never would have thought of substituting milk and corn starch for eggs. I hate to have to run out and get an ingredient if I discover I’m out of something in the middle of a recipe, and will substitute whenever possible.

  5. Isn’t this advice useful on a recurring basis? Every once in a while the price of eggs goes up so that you don’t want to use them with abandon. As for the idea of ditching desserts, I might just go and eat a spoonful of sugar in protest!

  6. Our family always had chickens when I was growing up. My sister and husband still raise them on the home place and gave us three dozen when we visited them last weekend so I can splurge on baking. With the price of eggs now, one uses them carefully. Interesting substitutions.

    1. Times sure have changed. Food expenditures have become a much smaller percentage of household expenses over the past hundred years–but there are also costs associated with it. Farming has become much more industrialized; food is much more processed, etc.

  7. I’m paying $6/dozen for mine now, but they come from a farm where they live a truly free-range life. Beyond that, their taste is wonderful, and since I only use a dozen every couple of weeks, it’s worth it. After all, the cost of a dozen organic eggs is no more than a Starbucks grande-whatever. I’ll support my farmers, and cut elsewhere.

    That said, it’s nice to have another tip to tuck in my book of tricks. And here’s an interesting article you might enjoy, from The Paris Review: Favorite Recipes of Famous Women.

  8. My older recipe books use butter, sugar and eggs very sparingly. The cakes and biscuits are every bit as good as the more modern recipes. Custard, when I was younger, was only made with custard powder or a combination of custard powder, cornstarch and one egg.

  9. Great reminder of how lucky we are to live in a time and place when we don’t suffer from food shortages, and when the most basic ingredients are within the reach of most people’s budgets!

    1. Based on what I’ve seen in old magazines and books, my sense is that most people spent a relatively higher percentage of their income on food back then than what they do now.

  10. We take so many things for granted – eggs are a staple for most if not every household. The way things are going we should save your helpful hints we may need to use some day.

  11. A lot more people lived on farms back then than now–but many lived in towns and cities. Your comment sent me searching for the percentage of the population on farms back then. According to a New York Times article about 32% of the US population lived on farms in 1916.

    1. It wonderful to hear that you like A Hundred Years Ago. I also love history, and really enjoy thinking about the differences (and similarities) across the years.

      1. My kiddo and I spend a lot of time immersed in the “Little House on the Prairie” series. It’s so fun to compare their times to our times. Especially in areas of household, cooking, and even gardening. Love how some of the things we do today are an expansion of things learned from generations past. Pretty neat. ๐Ÿ™‚

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