I never quite warmed up to those pre-packed microwave instant “soup in a second” type soups or stews. We’re missing the pleasure of simmering and stirring a gigantic pot of delicious, aromatic ingredients. A big pot of soup or stew does more than fills your family’s bellies… it says “we’re home.” Ladle out big bowls of homemade soup and you not only thrill your family, but your pocketbook, as well.
If you have a traditional family recipe for chicken soup or beef stew, but you have not ventured much further, this struggling economy could, and should, be the time to experiment. There is a vast variety of soups, stews, and chowders that are just waiting for your creative hand. And, don’t worry, just because they are economical doesn’t mean they are less nutritious. On the contrary, you may be surprised by the amount and quality of nutrients in these simple dishes.
Many soup and stew recipes use chicken broth as an ingredient. You can buy it or you can make it. Picking up a few cans at the grocery store is convenient, but costs you a lot of your budget. Reconsider making your own homemade broth. It’s not difficult, you just need chicken, water, and if you like some onion, celery, carrot, salt and pepper. Now you can tweak the ingredients and come up with your favorite recipe. Pile up a bunch of containers of chicken broth in your freezer and you’ll be making soup whenever you want, and with a lot less impact on your food budget.
There are two ways to make chicken broth. One is to simmer a whole chicken. This leaves you with a nice supply of cooked chicken in which to make other dishes. The other way is to simmer the leftover carcass and bones from a roasted whole chicken dinner. The method is the same. You put the chicken in a big pot, cover it with cold water, throw in your veggies, and cook it up. Cool it down quickly and then freeze it. Whether you use a whole chicken or the bones, you will create a broth that is suitable for using to cook up a hearty batch of soup or stew.
Soups and stews often use meaty bones to create the stock base. All meat departments will have soup bones available for purchase. If you don’t see them on the counter, ring the butcher and ask. They will be more than happy to sell them to you. Soup bones are very reasonably priced and offer great flavor and some will have enough meat left on the bone after you are done simmering it, so you can pick off enough to add back into your soup or stew. Don’t forget your dog! If you have a sturdy bone, like a “knuckle bone”, your pup will love to finish it off for you after you’re done with it.
When you’re talking economy and nutrition, nothing tops the ever versatile bean. Packed with nutrients, beans and peas can be used as a protein substitute for non-meat eaters as well as an additional vegetable source in your diet. There are countless combinations of ingredients to try, so you’ll never be bored with your selection. Starting with a traditional Split Pea Soup, or Black Bean Soup, you’ll quickly be moving into more complex soups and stews like Chickpea and Butternut Squash Stew. Once you compare the cost and nutritional value, you’ll be trying all sorts of bean, pea, and Lentil Soups. The flavor will keep you coming back for more.
Potato Soup in all forms was one of the staples in our house when I was growing up. Potatoes were plentiful, flavorful, and cheap, so that was all we needed to know. My Mom would take a big ham bone, start it simmering in the morning with some onion and celery, and by dinnertime we were diving face-first into steaming bowls of creamy, yummy Potato Soup. This is a great simple pot of soup to build off from by adding cheese, bacon, ham, and vegetables, but the traditional beginnings are always the best when it comes to Potato Soup.
Then there are the Chowders. You most likely have made a classic Corn Chowder in your lifetime. That in itself is a very satisfying meal. You may like to take your recipe and tweak it just a bit to add in some ham or seafood just to get your family interested again. However you make your Chowder, you are guaranteed some happy, warm bellies pushing away from the dinner table, while your food budget remains safe.
Include one or two soup meals when you plan your week’s menu. Your family will appreciate pulling their chairs up to a table set with big bowls of steamy soup, and your budget will appreciate the hand-up, too. Feels like home, doesn’t it?
A big pot of soup for dinner a few days each week could really save that budget. Try serving your family steaming bowls of our Hearty Black Bean Soup or try a pot of White Bean and Kale Soup for something a bit different. Both nutritious, delicious and sure to please!