Need dinner in a flash? Have I got the answer for you!
Soup is not only a great way to get the most bang for your grocery buck but it is the ultimate in comfort food.
In restaurants, not only does soup make a great appetizer, but it reduces food cost (fancy phrase for grocery budget) by using things that can’t otherwise be served either because there’s not enough to put it on the menu or because of the aesthetics (looks) of it. Everyone wants those beautiful perfectly carved slices of turkey, but what about all the little pieces? Make soup! Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas took this to a whole new level when he added chili to the menu creating his recipe using hamburgers that hadn’t been sold quickly.
The base I used is a simple Broccoli & Cheese soup mix that I bought on sale 2 for $4. The directions call for water only so that is 8 cups of soup for $2. A great start to a fast & frugal dinner. I also substituted some of my homemade chicken stock for additional flavor as well. Add the dry mix to the water/stock, bring to a boil and it’s done.
I always add a pinch of Coleman’s dry mustard to anything cheesy… mac & cheese, fondue, cheese sauce, cheese soup. It really just makes the flavor pop.
- Cheese soup from scratch is very, very easy to do…. Just combine 8 cups of stock, a pinch or two of Coleman’s dry mustard, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. While you’re waiting for that to come to a boil, take 2-1/2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and toss it with 3 tbsp of flour. When the stock boils, slowly start adding the cheese to the stock while stirring constantly. You will see it change from shreds, to melted gooey strings to cheese soup before your eyes.
- For a beer cheese soup, just replace 1-1/2 cups broth with a bottle of beer. (I wouldn’t put more than that in or the flavor will be overwhelming.)
- For an amazing cheese fondue, combine 4 cups stock, 1 cup white wine, a splash of Worcestershire, 3 cups of shredded cheddar tossed with 4 tbsp flour, 1/8th tsp of Coleman’s dry mustard and an 1/4 tsp garlic powder. Serve with crusty bread pieces, chunks of apples and raw broccoli.
- My daughter’s favorite “Tortilla Soup” – Cheese soup with chicken, a can of green chilies, and chopped fresh cilantro served with white corn tortilla chips.
So why the dry mix?
First it’s frugal. I can get that soup mix on sale for $2, but I cannot get 2-1/2 cups of sharp cheddar for that price. Second, I like having it in my pantry for throw-togethers like this one. The only thing it truly requires is water which makes it a great pantry item to have on hand. Utilizing leftovers I can make it into anything I want it to be.
Also frankly, there’s not much broccoli in it. If I was making it just as broccoli cheese soup, I would still add some chopped broccoli to it. So as long as you don’t tell picky eaters, you should be able to play it off as just cheese soup with “herbs”. (I told Kid that spinach was really Italian parsley for years after my mother’s creamed spinach incident.)
I was going to add leftover chicken from my Herb Roasted Chicken the other night but as it turned out there wasn’t any left. So I took a boneless, skinless chicken breast from the freezer, cut it up in small pieces and put it in my saute pan with some thyme and tarragon and a little stock and cooked it through. When it was done, I poured the whole thing into the soup.
Any meat will do… pot roast, steak, chicken, turkey, ham. Everything is good with cheese soup! Since these are all leftovers, the cost is really negligible (especially if your family would rather toss them).
Bacon, well because… it’s bacon!
A half pound of bacon diced and fried adds a lot of flavor. I buy this when it goes on sale for $2 and stock up, so the amount I used was only a dollar. When it’s cooked, be sure to put some of the grease in there too for extra flavor. If a lot of fat renders off the bacon, just pour it into your bacon fat jar in the fridge to use later. (Great for cooking eggs, frying potatoes and seasoning green beans.)
I had cooked off a couple of potatoes in the microwave and put them in the fridge to chill. I find that leftover potatoes work best; you don’t have to wait for them to cook and they don’t get mushy. I actually prefer to keep some on hand in the fridge for fried potatoes & omelettes because they just need to be browned and they don’t absorb all the grease that fresh potatoes do when frying. They just needed to be diced and added to the soup for a few minutes to heat through.
When it was all said and done, 15 minutes later, I ladled it into bowls, topped it off with some diced green onions (50¢ a bunch if it’s not in your garden already) and served it with a loaf of crusty French bread ($1.29).
So there it is… dinner for 6-8 people for about $5 in less than 15 minutes! Bestie took a bowl of it with her to work and made the whole place jealous, they had no idea I used a packaged mix! Simple little additions can take it from out of a box to out of this world in short order!
You can freeze this in large muffin tins and then put them in a Ziploc in your freezer for individual portions later on. So much less expensive than canned soups in the store! For other freezing and portioning ideas, check out Work Smart, Save Money, Eat Great! for more great ideas.
Tell me what great combinations you come up with! Enjoy!