Soup of the Day, literally
Have you ever thought about soup as being one of the most economical meals you can prepare? Any and every soup contains two or more of these five basic categories of ingredients: a soup base, protein, produce, seasonings, and/or grains/starches. That’s all there is to it, and with that combination in mind, you can invent literally hundreds of soups yourself.
For penny-pinchers, nothing beats soup because there needn’t be any expensive ingredients.
In the soup base category, try investing in a #10 can of bouillon, available at Shelf Reliance, or Shirley J’s excellent bouillon. I recommend spending some $25 or so on a large amount of bouillon because it’s much more cost effective than buying the little jars at the grocery store.
A cream base doesn’t have to start with whole cream, although it’s the only way to go if you want a rich, decadent soup. I’ve been making a really great potato and corn chowder using dried milk. I double the amount of dried milk when I reconstitute it, and you would never know that fresh milk hadn’t been used.
If your soup has a tomato base, you’re in luck if you have tomato powder on hand. Acidic tomato sauce and tomato paste in cans have a shelf life of 12-18 months or so, which isn’t bad if you’ll be rotating them in with your everyday cooking, but tomato powder is the better bet when it comes to long-term storage.
Add a little protein
The addition of protein can be beans or legumes (very budget-friendly), canned/freeze-dried/fresh meat/chicken or TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). A little protein goes a long way in a soup, and many options are suitable for long-term storage. And, if you combine some rice with beans in your soup recipe, you have a complete protein combination right there. Just by switching out chicken for a cup or so of black beans will change the flavor and texture of your soup, and voila! You have a new soup recipe!
Produce adds nutrients and fiber
There are so many different ways to have veggies on hand. If you have certain favorite veggies or ones that you use most often, store them in layers. In other words, if you use corn in a lot of recipes, for example, keep frozen corn, freeze-dried corn and canned corn on hand. Heck, grow your own corn if you have the space and a green-ish thumb!
If you’re adding several different veggies to your soup, you’ll probably need less than a cup of each variety. Soups are where dehydrated and freeze-dried produce really shine. Number Ten cans of mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, green onions, and more are easy to store for several months in an opened can. Just make sure to keep the plastic lid on the can once it’s opened. Humidity is not a friend of dried food. It usually doesn’t take much of any one ingredient for a soup to be a success.
Seasonings for variety
A black bean soup can have a Cajun flavor, a Mexican flavor or a hearty ham flavor depending on how it’s seasoned. Stock up on a healthy supply of herbs, spices, and other seasonings so you can add variety at a moment’s notice. Here’s a list to get you started.
Grains/starches add fiber, calories and nutrients
Those buckets of wheat contain a grain that adds flavor, texture, vitamins and more when they’re cooked up in a soup. Yes, cooked wheat, or wheat berries, is a very healthy addition to soups. Barley, quinoa, and white or brown rice are inexpensive additions, adding calories and bulk for filling up tummies. Farro is another grain that I have just become acquainted with.
Potatoes in just about any form are yet another inexpensive and versatile ingredient. A few scoops of leftover mashed potatoes are just right for finishing off a creamy leek soup. Dehydrated potato dices are inexpensive, and a little goes a long way.
Bottom line? You really don’t need a recipe for making soup! Add a little something from two or more of these categories, heat, and give it a taste test! You know better than anyone which ingredients your family likes best and what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Soup is really the perfect survival food, and there’s no reason to not enjoy a different variety every day!
© 2011, thesurvivalmom. All rights reserved.