My apartment smelled delicious last night after I threw the following into a pot: chicken stock from the freezer, organic chicken stock from a carton, a bunch of spices, a little balsamic vinegar and half a can of tomatoes.
While it simmered, I diced carrots and cooked them along with frozen corn and peas. I added some pasta to the stockpot; after it was tender, I added about a third of a cup of leftover quinoa and the strained vegetables.
And wished it weren’t hours past suppertime. I wanted soup. But I had to wait until the next day, except for the few spoons that I tasted in order to, um, adjust the seasonings.
A nice thick soup, served with crackers or “calypso bread”and fruit, is just the thing for a raw winter evening. It was a frugal recipe, too:
- The freezer stock had been made with the bones and pan juices from chicken drumsticks (69 cents a pound) simmered overnight in the slow cooker.
- The organic chicken stock was 29 cents a quart thanks to double coupons.
- The pasta cost about 8 cents.
- The on-sale frozen vegetables plus fresh carrots were about 35 cents.
- The canned tomatoes were among the last survivors of a three-for-a-dollar stockup.
All in all, nearly as frugal as “garbage soup,” a recipe once discussed by MSN Money readers. The basic premise: Over a period of weeks or months you toss any leftover bits of veggies, meat, poultry, rice, mashed potatoes or gravy into a bowl or bag in the freezer. When full, it becomes “soup starter.”
Each batch is unique
Garbage soup is frugal because it uses up those last couple of bits of uneaten food that might otherwise get tossed. You can limit sodium (as in, don’t add any salt) and the fat content (if you go easy on the gravy or omit it entirely).
And it certainly keeps your dinner partners guessing. By definition, each batch is unique. It can never taste the same way twice because its ingredients vary so widely.
Here’s how you work with potage de garbage. Simmer stock and seasonings, and maybe some tomatoes (or maybe not). After 15 or 20 minutes, add the frozen soup starter. Once the thawing is done and the mixture is about to boil once more, adjust the seasonings if needed.
Dinner is served.
Should that particular batch be light on veggies you could add a few of whatever you have on hand. You could also add a can or two of rinsed and drained beans to make it an even heartier stew.
It’s in the bag
Mine wasn’t garbage soup per se, although the stock came from bones, vegetable cooking water and defatted pan juices – things that some people toss out.
The only reason I haven’t made garbage soup is that I’ve never met a leftover I couldn’t use. But for those who hesitate to save the last two spoons of green beans or a quarter-cup of unused gravy, garbage soup makes sense.
If that’s you, then get your bag working and keep some stock, homemade or prefab, on hand at all times. A few artistic touches and you’ve got a very fast meal.
Bonus: Your place will smell as good as mine did.