How To Save Money and Eat For a Week on a Handful of Dollars

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    Saving money is important for every family and just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be eating really good food.

    Today I am going to share one recipe that will only cost you about $10 and an hour of preparation but it will last you an entire week. Well how long it lasts will depend on the size of your family.

    Once a month I make homemade soup and it is very easy to do. I like to make a very large pot of it. Normally I can get about 10 quarts of soup without problem and the total cost is usually under $10.

    I don’t eat the soup at every meal but I will have it either for lunch or dinner and it is very satisfying in the colder months when you need a little extra protein and something warm to fill your belly.

    First lets look at what you will need to cook the soup.

    So since you are going to be making a very large pot of soup you will need a very large pot. I purchased mine at a local superstore. Its a 12 quart stainless steel pot that is taller than it is wide. The base of the pot fits right on my large burner so I get really good use of the heating element. Most of the cooking will go on in this pot and it will be used for storing in the refrigerator.

    I also use a smaller pot that I think is about 3 quarts to cook the beans I will put in the soup.

    I have a large stainless spoon for stirring that I picked up at the dollar store. A cutting board and a knife that you like chopping with. Don’t use one you don’t feel comfortable with.

    Thats about it pretty much for equipment.

     

    To start the cooking I first sort and clean a 1 pound bag of dried beans. Dried beans are economical but if you continually have problems rehydrating them go with a large can.

    To rehydrate the beans follow this method and you won’t go wrong. It just works.

    Fill your 3 court pot half way with water and bring it to a boil while you clean your beans.

    You first need a small bowl and a large bowl for sorting. Cut a small half inch hole in the top of the bag and pour one level thick of beans into the small bowl. Look for any debris, dirt clumps, bad beans or stones. Almost every bag will have something so catch it in the small bowl a little at a time then when your happy pour the cleaned checked beans into the large bowl.

    By the time you’re finished sorting the beans the water will be boiling. Add the beans to the boiling water and allow it to boil again while you prepare your vegetables. Normally that will take me about a half hour. You should turn the temperature down to 2 or low to just let the beans simmer not a violent boil with the lid on.

    Now you start preparing your vegetables. I like to put a mixture of canned, frozen and fresh vegetables in my soup because its easier, costs less and the vegetables are fresher if frozen than if they sit on the shelf in the market for a week then in my refrigerator for another week or so.

    The day I cook soup is normally determined by the freshness of my celery. When it starts wilting I know I have to use it so I will put probably 4 or 5 stalks of celery in the soup to use it up and flavor the soup.

    Then I normally buy a 5 pound bag of carrots so I will add four or five large ones at least. Probably about one and a half times the celery.

    Two baseball sized onions are next if you have smaller ones then use more.

    Finally I will add 4 good sized potatoes.

    Chop all of your vegetables to about the same size. Think of how chunky soup is in a bowl and make the sizes about 30% bigger because they cook down in the pot. You will figure this out on your first pot of soup then know for the next time.

    Put about 1/4 cup of oil in the bottom of the large stainless steel pot and add the fresh vegetables after it gets hot. If you can add the onions and celery first so they can get coated well with the oil.

    Add the rest of the vegetables and continue to stir. You want them fried on the outside a bit because it gives them a good flavor. Not really brown and make sure everything isn’t burning on the bottom.

    Next I add two large cans of Diced Tomatoes. They normally cost under a dollar on sale and are 28 oz cans just under a quart.

    Stir the mixture for a couple minutes and then add enough water to reach the top of the vegetables and let them come to a boil on high.

    Once they do come to a boil you can add some frozen mixed vegetables. I like the mixed vegetables because you get the peas and string beans in there along with some corn that makes it a bit sweet. You can add anything you like or just use fresh but Normally I add about a half a bag of frozen once the vegetables start boiling and  a bit more water.

    By this time your beans should be ready and you can drain them then wash them in the pot. I just fill the pot with water and use the lid to drain them I don’t even own a colander but if you have one it might be ok to use. Two rinses is enough you just want to get the slimy water out and have the beans fresh.

    I sit them on the stove on the burner they were cooking on to keep them slightly warm but you can’t do that if its too hot you could burn the beans.

    Allow the vegetables in the large pot to boil on high for about an hour with the lid on.

    Normally soup will be pretty HOT and you might be tempted to turn down the heat but you need to break down the onions celery and tomatoes so leave it on high and every 10 minutes when you check it add another quart of water from the empty tomato can. This will do two things. You will need to add water eventually and it will reduce the heat. Adding the water as you go allows the water to heat up and you won’t be waiting later.

    Next its time to add the beans and finish the cooking.

    Since the beans are already cooked you won’t have to cook them long in the vegetables. Probably about a half hour on simmer. I like to add some diced cabbage or maybe some rice or pasta at this time.

    If you are adding pasta you should cook it first and then chop it to a reasonable size. While the soup sits for the next week the pasta will take on much more water than normal and will balloon up to amazing proportions.. This is why they sell special tiny pasta at the store .. yes thats what that stuff is for. You can use the special pasta if you can get it real cheap or just use regular pasta and chop it up really small.

    Well thats about it I didn’t go over what type of seasonings I use.

    Normally I will cook the vegetables with some Oregano, Salt, Black Pepper and Chili Powder. Use it sparingly. About 2 teaspoons of seasonings and 4 of salt is all you need at first. Once it is 15 minutes from being done you can season all of it together. Then later in the week you will find the flavors mix really well from the vegetables like the celery and tomatoes but you might want to add a bit more salt. I normally don’t add salt because our family is on a low salt diet.

     

    Final Note

    This soup should give you about 16 servings and the total cost should be around $10 or less. Remember you can use a lot of different vegetables from your refrigerator and as long as they are still eatable they are great for soup.

    Another thing you might want to try is a stew which is just a really thick soup.

    Total time for preparation is about 45 minutes and then total cooking time about 2 hours.

    Keep in the stainless steel pot but if you have aluminum you might want to transfer it to a very very clean large 1 gallon pickle jar or another container. Aluminum is not good for long term storage. Stainless is nonreactive so it won’t cause you any problems normally.

    Also don’t put the hot pot of soup on a glass shelf in your refrigerator. Let it cool a few hours off the burner it was heating on with the lid off. If it is still warm use a few dish towels to place under it or you will crack the glass.

    Good luck and hope yours turns out good.

     

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