Now that the holidays are over and a new year has begun, it is time for many to turn their thoughts into paying for that expensive holiday season. That means cutting back on expenses as the bills start to roll in. If you have been frugal during the holidays, January will pass on by without so much as a worry. For others, a bit of a helping hand is needed to make those payments usually in the form of cutting back on expenditures. In days long ago, our ancestors had a pot of soup on the hearth for much of the winter. It was added to as the family was lucky in getting a bit of wild game or fish but more often than not stretched from their larder using carefully stored root vegetables. Fast forward to present times and hard core frugalistas do the same thing only using a slow cooker. The slow cooker is turned on in the fall then constantly being added to with left overs and anything else that can be added, not to be turned off again until spring.
Now, I am rather hard core when it comes to frugality in the kitchen but the never ending soup pot is not something I do. First, I am not comfortable with a slow cooker going 24/7 for four or five months even on low. That is not what it was designed to do nor is it an economically good use of electricity especially if you are on TOU electricity pricing as we are. Second, we now spend about 3 months of the year in Florida with at least one period during the time the never ending pot of soup would be going and we take a lot of impromptu overnight and weekend get-aways. Instead of the never ending pot of soup, I make clean-out the freezer or refrigerator soups.
Here's a few thing I do to make quick and economical soups using left overs from the freezer or refrigerator:
- freezer packets - I freeze bits of left-over food, pieces of left-over meat, bones and anything else that can be used for soup.
- basic stock - My basic stock uses bones, unpeeled onion, unpeeled carrot, unpeeled parsnip, bayleaf, and peppercorns.
- fair game - Anything in the freezers or refrigerator is fair game for the soup pot although I do target left-overs if at all possible.
- time savers - By far my pressure cookers are the biggest time savers when it comes to soup making. I can go from frozen bones to soup on the table in less than an hour.
- thickeners - Small bits of left-over mashed potatoes (frozen, refrigerator) thicken soups nicely as does mashed up zucchini. The immersion blender thickens soup nicely without any additions depending on the ingredients.
- extenders - Pasta, rice, barley and beans can all be used as soup extenders. Even the half cup of brown beans can be tossed into the soup pot, especially in a beef based soup. If I don't have left-overs I just cook from fresh or add a jar of home canned.