Monday, March 9, 2009
Soup and Bread are Frugal!
One of the easiest and yummiest ways I save money is to serve soup and bread once a week. Broth based soups are relatively low-fat and can be incredibly cheap. I especially like bean and/or lentil soups so that we get our protein and the beans and lentils fill us up.
I especially like to pair our soup with some kind of homemade bread. It could be actual yeast bread (whole-wheat bread, French bread, pan rolls) or a quick bread (biscuits, soft bread sticks). Either way, what can be better than warm soup and fresh homemade bread?
Wise Bread recently featured an article entitled Seven Money Saving Menu Strategies for Every Day of the Week. The idea for Sundays? Soup for Sunday! They focused on the idea that Sunday is a day where everyone wants to slow down and spend more time with their families. Soup is so easy (especially if you use your crock pot!)
There are tons of recipes for soup on the internet. You can also get soup cookbooks (I actually own one called Soup and Bread by Crescent Dragonwagon). I do have a few recipes that I really like, but most of the time I just make "soup." You know, "What are we having for dinner tonight?" "Oh, we're having soup."
There are some basic rules for making "soup" but it lends itself to infinite variations. You can make this as exciting or boring as you want. Here's how you do it:
Start by sautéing some chopped veggies. I always use onion and carrots and usually celery. After the onions are soft and wilty I usually add some garlic - have I mentioned that my family likes garlic?
Next you add your liquid. You can of course use plain old water but you soup will be plain and old. I add water and bouillon cubes or soup base. You can use canned broth or stock too. Depending on what you are adding later you can use veggie broth, chicken or beef broth or whatever you desire. I used half veggie and half miso the other night and it was fabulous. I try to add about a cup and a half per person. So for my family of 6 I use about 8 cups of stock or so, but I want to make sure I have leftovers.
After that, add a grain. If you are making a taco soup add some rice. A chicken soup? You could add noodles or rice. A beef soup is great with barley. I try to add something "whole" to the soup - brown rice, barley, or quinoa. Of course, if I'm making chicken noodle soup, I just use regular old noodles. Don't add too much of any of these as they soak up the liquid. A half a cup of rice or barley for 4 c. of stock is about right. Noodles for chicken noodle soup can be much more generous.
Add some veggies next. I usually add a can of tomatoes. I usually blend it so there aren't any chunks of tomato - my son wouldn't eat it otherwise. Then, depending on what I want the end to be I add peas or corn or green beans, mushrooms, cabbage, or chopped kale. You can add what your family likes. You just want to make sure you don't add something that will get super mushy too early in the cooking. You don't want broccoli mush in your vegetable beef soup. (Well, maybe you do but I don't!)
Then add a protein. You can add cooked beans, lentils, chopped chicken, cooked sausage, chopped ham, leftover roast beef, cooked ground beef or a combination of any of the above.
The lentils need to cook for 40 minutes but everything else is very flexible.
The last thing you want to add is a seasoning. You can add salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme. You can also add worchestershire sauce or anything else you want.
Then just let it simmer. Your crockpot is perfect for this. But you can do this on the stove if you forget in the morning. Just let it simmer until the grains and/or lentils are tender and the flavors have blended.
The best thing about soup is it is almost always better the next day. Make extra and save some for lunch the next day.
So there it is,
Sautéd aromatic veggies (onions, carrots, celery, garlic)
Liquid (stock, broth, miso)
Grain (rice, pasta, barley, quinoa)
Vegetables (tomatoes, peas, corn, etc)
Protein (chicken, beef, ham, beans, lentils, sausage)
Seasoning (salt, pepper, basil, thyme, etc)
So easy and so open to variations. Plus, soup is perfect when you don't have anything to make. Just scrounge around in the cupboards and you can find enough to make soup, I promise. And with grains, protein, vegetables, it is a complete meal in a bowl!
Schedule yourself a soup and bread night this week!
Tomorrow I'll share some bread ideas.