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Friday, January 2, 2009

Frugal soup. . . .

I apologize for the blog silence over the past week, folks. I'm battling a cold, and so far the cold is winning! While stuck with the sniffles, I've been putting together my December zero-based budget results, and it's not pretty. Although it appears that I've managed to stay within my budget somehow, as you'll see tomorrow when I post it, I seem to have had a little too much fun last month!

In the meantime, I've been thinking of ways I can further reduce my grocery bills (another area that is a bit out of control these days). A few days ago, I decided to attempt homemade chicken soup, since I've been paying $1.48 a can for low-sodium Campbell's chicken noodle. I found that I did save a bit of money by preparing my own, added to the fact that I feel that my own soup is probably more nutritious, and definitely lacking in preservatives. . .

Here's the breakdown:

Store-bought soup:
Approximately 2 cups of Campbell's soup costs $1.48 (.74 cents a cup)

Homemade:
Approximately 14 cups of chicken noodle soup cost me a total of $7.34 (.52 cents a cup)

The ingredients I used were:

'All natural' (i.e. a bit more expensive) chicken breast: $1.50
Organic celery: .50
Onion: .10
Half a carton of organic (again, more expensive) chicken broth: $1.50
Egg noodles: $2.99
Organic carrots: .75
Herbs and seasonings: already in the cupboard
Butter: already in the refrigerator

So, was it worth .22 cents a cup to make my own chicken noodle soup? Basically, two cups of my homemeade soup would have cost me $1.04, compared to $1.48 for store-bought. Had I been at the grocery store, I definitely would have chosen the lower-priced chicken soup, especially if it had been all-natural as mine was. So in the end, I think it was worth it. There are ways I could have lowered the total cost for this soup, however.

For example, I shopped for most of my ingredients at New Seasons Market, which is definitely much more expensive than my usual Winco or Grocery Outlet. For items like the egg noodles, I know I could have found these at a lower price at my usual grocery store. Also, had I purchased a whole chicken and made the broth myself, also using the meat for the soup, I probably could have saved a bit on my chicken breasts and carton of organic broth. As for the organic vegetables, the obvious solution here is to grow my own! Next year, if I'm still living in my house (maybe the real estate gods will be kind, and I'll be able to sell), I intend to plant more vegetables to see if I can bring my grocery bill down even more.

All in all, this was a good exercise, and one I hope to duplicate a few more times if I can, preferably with other types of homemade recipes versus store-bought products. I'm also looking for recipes that can be frozen and also easily carried to work for low-cost lunches. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section!

In the meantime, here's the recipe I used for my 'quick and easy' chicken noodle soup:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 pound chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes. Pour in chicken and vegetable broths and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving.

3 comments:

marci357 said...

1. Almost anything you cook & eat can be frozen and taken to work for lunch. All my leftovers go into containers and are frozen for easy lunches. Garage sale for tupperwares if needed.

2. Agree: Homemade chicken broth would have been cheaper. Or use chicken boullion cubes. Or delete it entirely - if you simmer the chicken long enough with the vegetables, such as in a crockpot all day, you'll never notice the lack of chicken broth.

3. Easy to grow chives in your windowsill instead of onions - and they dry for preserving them in the off season.

4. Celery or celery par cel (more leaves, same flavor) grow great here and as long as you clip the tops so they don't go to seed, will grow year round. I just cut celery for soup on new years day. Grows great year round!

5. Carrots - homegrown is cheaper, but they are dirty to clean up and I have a lot of bug problems here at the coast if I leave them in the ground too long.

6. Good try! Now freeze some for later or can some for later. And even if you do not get a garden spot, try some container gardening for next year. You can start the seeds inside in pots and move the pots outside slowly as the weather improves.

Finally Frugal said...

Thanks for the tips, Marci! You're the best! I'm definitely going to try growing the celery---I had no idea we could grow year-round! Chives are a good substitute, as well. I'm definitely going to play around with this recipe to see how much I can save with cheaper/homegrown ingredients. . .

Ethelapple said...

I usually buy a whole roasting chicken, make that for dinner and then have some of the meat for lunch the next day, and THEN finally throw the carcass into a pot -- if there's enough meat left on it, I make soup...if there's not, I make broth to freeze. :)
I love whole chickens, they are so versatile and cheap too!

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