I told you that I wanted to start sharing what we eat on our $300/month budget. Instead of sharing a recipe, I decided to make more of a tutorial. I’m not going to give you exact quantities or measurements, but I will show you how to wing it and use what you have.
When I cook, I rarely use a recipe. Not being tied down to a recipe allows me to use different ingredients and to make what ever quantity suits my fancy. Being able to cook using what you have on hand is a frugal trick that will help you spend less on groceries and not need to go shopping as often.
Today we’re going to make easy potato soup. It’s never the same twice, but it’s always delicious. It’s a family favorite, especially in the fall and winter, though we eat it year round.
Not only does it taste good and warm you from the inside out, it’s a frugal dream. Potatoes are super cheap, you can use whatever other veggies you have on hand, and and it requires no meat (unless you want to add in some cubed ham or garnish with bacon crumbles).
Below are the ingredients I typically use. Like I said, pretty much everything is negotiable, except potatoes, of course! You can also add other vegetables like corn, broccoli, squash– you name it! I’m not going to stifle your creativity by giving you quantities. Except for the roux, I never measure anything. Use what you have or the proportions that you like best.
Saute the onions
In all honesty, I don’t always start by sauteing the onions. Often, I will just throw them in with the rest of the veggies. They boil long enough to get soft. Sauteing the onions in a tablespoon or two of butter does give a great flavor though, so it’s a nice touch if you have a few extra minutes. If I’m using garlic, I’ll throw it in with the onions if I get it chopped in time. If not, I just toss it in with the other veggies.
I like to use as few pans as possible, so I just saute those onions right in the bottom of the pot that I’m going to use for my soup.
Chop your veggies
This is the most time consuming part of this meal, but it’s really not that bad. I usually use potatoes, carrots, and celery, though I have been known to toss in corn, peas or broccoli if I’m in the mood. The only requirement is that you do some potatoes, or else you’ll have to change the name. I usually peel my potatoes, but you could scrub them really well instead and leave the peels on.
Chop your veggies to the size that suits your fancy. I usually have big potato chunks (but small enough to fit on your spoon) and itty bitty celery chunks. I have a couple of kids who tend to freak out if the celery is too noticeable.
As for the amount, that’s totally up to you. Potato soup makes great leftovers, so I like to make enough for two meals.
You can get pretty creative here if you like. I usually stick with salt, pepper, parsley, and maybe some Cajun seasoning. Once again, I never measure, though I often pour a spice into my hand first so I can see how much I’m actually putting in (and don’t accidentally dump too much). You can always add more of something at the end after you taste test, so if you’re nervous about not measuring, go easy on the spices and just add more at the end according to your tastes.
Again, you have some options here. You could use chicken broth from a can or carton, but that is much more expensive. A more frugal option is to use bullion. You can buy the cubes or the powder (you can easily find either at your grocery store). In fact, my Winco has bullion in the bulk section for a great price. You can also use broth that you froze from your turkey back at Thanksgiving.
Add enough liquid to just barely cover your veggies. If you’re using bullion, pay attention to how many cups of water you add so you’ll know how much bullion to add. I use my 4-cup glass measuring cup to keep track. This time around I added 7 cups of water. Your bullion container will tell you how much to use. The standard is one cube or teaspoon per cup of water.
Put a lid on your pot and allow the soup to come to a boil. Lower the heat and let it continue to softly boil until the veggies are soft. While you’re waiting, get started on the roux.
Make a roux
For a creamier soup, I make a roux, though you can do without it too. If I’m in a hurry, I don’t bother. After all, it does mean dirtying another pan. 🙂 And I do pay a little more attention to measurements at this point. My general rule is 1 Tablespoon of butter to 1 Tablespoon of flour to 1 cup of milk. For the pot of soup I’m making now, two or three cups of milk works well (so 2-3 Tbsp butter plus 2-3 Tbsp flour, respectively).
To start, melt your butter then add your flour. Whisk the butter and flour together until soft crumbles form. Whisk in your milk. Stir continually while your mixture comes to boiling. Within a minute or so of boiling, you should have a nice creamy liquid.
Put it all together
Add the creamy milk to the soup and continue to boil for a few minutes. I’m a big fan of cheese, so I usually put a handful or two of cheese into the pot to melt into the creamy soup. I often have cubed ham in the freezer that I add in at this point after thawing in the microwave. It heats up pretty fast when you get it into the soup.
Now is a good time to taste the finished product and add whatever it’s lacking.
If you prefer a chunk-less potato soup, you can run batches through your blender. If you want a not-quite-so chunky potato soup, then grab your potato masher and do a little mashing. If you want a partially smooth, partially chunky soup, then run half of it through the blender and leave the rest chunky. Honestly, I usually just serve it as is.
Serve with your favorite garnishes
This is where it gets fun. Everyone likes cheese, so I put that on right after ladling the soup into the bowl. The hot soup melts the cheese in no time. Then each person chooses their other garnishes. I like mine with sour cream, green onions, and occasionally crumbled bacon. Mmmmm!
How about you?
I’m guessing that everyone has their own version of potato soup. I would love to hear what you do that’s the same or different.
Share your best potato soup tips in the comments!