Without measuring cups or even spoons to measure with, it’d be easy to think making a recipe would be difficult. Fortunately, there are plenty of items commonly found around the house that will allow you to obtain relatively precise measurements.
Here is a list of ways you can use regular household items to replace your measuring instruments.
1. Use a Food Scale (The Best Method)
This is actually my go-to method and far superior to any of the others, assuming you have an accurate food scale.
In fact, it is even more accurate than using your regular measuring cups and spoons. So, if you have one, this can be the perfect tool for you to use.
The table below has some common measurements and how much they will weigh when you use a food scale to measure ingredients.
|Measurement (Cups, Tablespoons, Teaspoons)||Weight Equal to Measurement|
|1 cup||8 ounces|
|3/4 cup||6 ounces|
|1/2 cup||4 ounces|
|1/4 cup||2 ounces|
|1 tablespoon||0.6 ounces or 17 grams|
|1/2 tablespoon||0.3 ounces or 8.5 grams|
|1 teaspoon||0.2 ounces or 5.5 grams|
|3/4 teaspoon||0.15 ounces or 4.25 grams|
|1/2 teaspoon||0.1 ounces or 3 grams|
|1/4 teaspoon||0.05 ounces or 1.5 grams|
The way I use this is to set the mixing bowl on the scale, reset the scale to 0 (if possible on your model), and add the ingredient. If you can’t reset to 0, you’ll have to do some math, but that shouldn’t be too heavy of a lift.
2. Baby Spoons
As a parent of teenagers, we still have our baby spoons tucked away for sentimental reasons, and I’m sure many other people do as well. They can be used as a replacement for your measuring spoons.
This is not an exact science, but a typical baby spoon holds about 1 teaspoon of any dry or liquid ingredient, so if you need to measure out 1 teaspoon, a baby spoon will work just fine. You can also fill up a baby spoon about halfway to measure out 1/2 teaspoon.
Because there are 3 teaspoons in 1 tablespoon, you’ll be able to use a baby spoon to measure out 1 tablespoon of something by multiplying it by 3 or measure out 1/2 tablespoon by measuring 1 and 1/2 half teaspoons with the baby spoon.
3. Regular Silverware
From a standard set of silverware, the large spoon can be used as a temporary measuring spoon.
It will typically measure out about the same as 1 tablespoon. You can also shallowly fill one of the small spoons and get pretty close to 1 teaspoon.
You can also use these spoons to measure out cups:
- Use the large spoon 4 times, which will measure out a 1/4 cup.
- Continuing with this math, 8 scoops will equal 1/2 a cup
- 12 scoops will equal 3/4 cup
- 16 scoops will equal 1 cup.
A Note About Spoons for Coffee and Tea
if you are an avid coffee or tea drinker, you may have more tools than just a nice mug to drink your preferred drink out of. You likely have some of those cute measuring and stirring spoons that come with your teacups or coffee mugs.
Well, you can use them to help replace teaspoons as well, much in the same way as you would use a baby spoon as a replacement. These may replace a teaspoon if the spoon is small and shallow, whereas larger stirring spoons may measure a substance more equally to a tablespoon.
The problem is, that these are not typically a standard size. However, if you have a food scale, you can measure how much your coffee spoon will measure as a way to replace your actual teaspoons and tablespoons.
Remember that 1 teaspoon is equal to 4.2 grams, so if the substance measures approximately 4 grams, you have a teaspoon-sized stirring spoon, but if it measures closer to 16 grams, you have a tablespoon-sized stirring spoon.
Basically, you need to experiment with this stuff and find what will work for measuring particular ingredients.
4. Pinch and Dash
In the “old days,” people relied a lot more on things other than measuring spoons. They would simply use their hands to obtain accurate measurements for their recipes. This is basically how it works.
Using a “Pinch”
A pinch of salt equals how much salt fits in between your thumb and first finger.
- 1 pinch is about 1/16 of a teaspoon
- Two pinches would be about 1/8 a teaspoon
- Three pinches would be 1/4 a teaspoon
- Four pinches would equal about 1/2 a teaspoon.
- 8 pinches would measure out to about 1 teaspoon
The limitation of using a pinch is that it only really works well for ingredients of about 1 teaspoon or less. So, this is mainly for measuring out the spices in a recipe.
Using a “Dash”
This is a bit less of an exact science than a pinch, but it can still get you pretty close.
A dash is about 1/8 a teaspoon.
This can be used for both dry and liquid measurements, and it is quite literally how much falls out of the cup or bottle when you pour a few drops (or comes out the holes in a spice container) into the mixture, and the dash makes a bit of a splash in the mixing bowl or pot.
A couple of dashes will equal about 1 teaspoon, but if you’re measuring dry ingredients, you can measure a large pinch with three fingers, and that will be considered equivalent to a dash.
5. Ruler and Paper
If you have nothing to use to measure a dry ingredient, you can grab a ruler and lay it down on paper, draw a box of one square inch, create four equal square inch boxes next to each side, then construct a paper box the size of a cubic inch.
To construct it, cut the shape out around the edges, then cut to separate the squares from each other except where they touch the middle square. Then form the box by folding up those edge squares and taping them securely together.
This tiny makeshift box will measure out 1 tablespoon. You will then pour your dry ingredient into that cubic inch box, and it will measure a tablespoon.
If you know that 1 cubic inch equals 1 tablespoon, you could make a box with each side measuring 4 inches, and that will be your crafty 1/4 cup measurement.
If you really want to get creative, you can make spoons out of paper with origami:
If you have coins on hand, you can use them to help you measure out ingredients. On a piece of paper, trace a dime. Inside that circle, you can measure your dry ingredients.
- A dime will measure about 1/4 teaspoon
- A penny will equal about 1 teaspoon
- A nickel will equal about 1/2 teaspoon
- A quarter will equal 1 tablespoon.
These will also work if you reference that size when pouring seasonings into your hand and then dumping that amount into your bowl.
For the bigger measurements like tablespoons, you will do better measuring in your hand so that the volume of the measured amount can be represented better.
7. Mugs and Cups
You can use mugs and cups to measure cup measurements.
Look at the mugs in your cupboard and determine if they are standard or oversized. For our purposes, you will want to grab your most average-sized mug.
First, read the bottom of the cup to see if there is a label that indicates the number of fluid ounces it holds. That will make it really easy, and you don’t need this article anymore.
If the measurement isn’t listed, you should find that a standard mug holds roughly 1 cup. This is no accident. Cup manufacturers usually standardized their cup sizes.
8. Smaller Solo Cups
You’ve probably seen red solo cups at your local grocery store, and some folks keep them on hand to use as shot glasses.
Well, the smaller solo cups are almost always 9 ounces. Since a 1-cup measurement is 8 ounces, you can fill it most of the way, leaving some room at the top, and it will work in place of 1 cup measuring cup.
If you want to apply this method to other measurements, consider using the tiny shot-glass solo cups or small paper dixie cups and see how many ounces they hold. Of course, those small paper cups are sometimes 8 oz, so you might want to confirm their measurement with another method on this list.
9. Mason Jar
A mason jar can be the best tool to use because sometimes they will conveniently have measurements marked on the glass if you look closely. Sometimes we forget that we have these common items, and they are very useful in more ways than one.
The measurements might work best for measuring 1 cup or more, but if the measurements (after converting the ounces to cups or tablespoons) match up with the recipe you are following, you can easily substitute a mason jar for a measuring cup.
10. Shot Glass
If you have a shot glass in your cupboard, it will make for a great measuring tool. A standard shot glass is 1.5 ounces. So for odd measurements, like 3 oz, 4.5 oz, etc., it can be very handy.
You can also easily measure larger amounts as well:
- To measure 1/4 cup with your shot glass, fill the shot glass once and then 1/3 of the way up.
- For 1/2 cup, you will use the shot glass 2 and 1/3 times to equal 4 ounces.
- For 1 cup, you will use the shot glass 5 and 1/3 times.
Don’t fret about being exact in your measurements, as what you are making will likely turn out great either way.
Here is a quick reference chart from the info provided in this article:
|1 cup||16 tablespoons||mug, spoon, scale, mason jar, red solo cup|
|3/4 cup||12 tablespoons||mug, spoon, mason jar, red solo cup|
|1/2 cup||8 tablespoons||mug, spoon, mason jar, shot glass, red solo cup|
|1/4 cup||4 tablespoons||mug, spoon, mason jar, shot glass, red solo cup|
|1 tablespoon||3 teaspoons||spoon, baby spoon|
|1/2 tablespoon||1.5 teaspoons||spoon, baby spoon, coffee spoon|
|1 teaspoon||–>||baby spoon, coffee spoon, coins, ruler|
|3/4 teaspoon||–>||baby spoon, coffee spoon, coins, ruler|
|1/2 teaspoon||–>||baby spoon, coffee spoon, coins, ruler|
|1/4 teaspoon||–>||baby spoon, coffee spoon, coins, ruler, pinch, dash|
I hope this article has been helpful.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss The 7 Best Substitutes for an Electric Mixer.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.