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!
This may sound awful, but when I was little, we didn’t have a ton of money, and as a treat, my mom or gramma would put milk in a metal kettle and put it in the freezer, when it got slushy, they took it out and added chocolate syrup and vanilla , and scoop it into glasses… it was awesome, a special treat for us… I still make it 😁
That actually sounds good! My Grandma would only buy vanilla ice milk instead of ice cream. It was good with Hershey’s chocolate syrup on it.
STEVEN BELL says
how can i print it out. looks great
CAROL Sands says
cold potato soup it’s called vichyssoise at fancy restaurants
Thank you! I loved this! Have been cooking this way for years, but my kids get feedback from their school classes saying you need this specific thing and this specific amount! Drives me batty and is so much more expensive than using whatever spices are on hand… 🙂
Audrey Huffman says
I make the roux without dairy. Take a small bowl (I don’t measure anything either), put your flour in it then add a couple of tablespoons of the liquid from the soup. Make sure you add the liquid slowly and whisk it quickly so as not to get lumps. You still have the creaminess, but not the dairy. Hope this helps.
When I go to the bother of making mashed potatoes, I will do 5# at a time, rough-mash them with a manual masher and freeze some in quart freezer containers. Then when I want more mashed potatoes, I thaw and reheat in microwave and mash them up a bit more if needed, or I use them in mashed potato casseroles, or if I am using for potato soup I will simmer other the vegetables in broth until cooked, add thawed potatoes and simmer 15-30 minutes more. If thicker consistency is desired, I throw in some instant potato flakes. I make many versions of potato soup/chowder this way..some with ham, some with chicken adding a can of creamed corn and cheese, cheeseburger potato soup, whatever soup variety is on my menu rotation. I also cook the potatoes initially with chicken broth which gives them a richer flavor and find I use less butter doing this.
Those are some great tips Silki! I haven’t frozen mashed potatoes yet. I’ll have to give that a try!
What a great post for a cold, snowy day! 🙂
I was also going to comment about using an immersion (blender) if you want to puree some of the soup. So much easier and safer than trying to use a blender with hot soup. You can put the stick right in the pot of soup.
This would also be delicious pureed and served cold in the summer topped with sour cream and fresh chives — think vichysoisse.
I really enjoy chowder-y soups like this and sometimes will add broccoli and corn, as well as instant mashed potato flakes to thicken a bit rather than a roux. With all the good flavors in the soup, you could probably get away with powdered milk with no one being the wiser.
My final thought is check the international aisle of your grocery store. They will often have Knorr bouillon cubes there with the package in Spanish for about half the price as the ones in English. Same exact product.
Great tips! I have totally bought the bullion packages in Spanish for cheap at our discount food store! And instant mashed potatoes are a great idea. The immersion blender would be really convenient. And I hadn’t thought of serving it cold. So many great ideas CS! 🙂
I use veggie broth, potatoes, carrots, red lentils, salt & pepper. Blend it with the stick blender in the pot after the potatoes are done to make a vegancreamy type soup. I rarely measure while cooking.
Nice! I don’t use lentils very often. Does the flavor blend in well? Thanks for the tip!
The only potatoes soups I have made were baked potato style ones with bacon and they never turned out well. I will have to give this one a try!
I’ve never tried a “baked” potato soup!
Kara M says
This looks great! We can’t have dairy at our house, so you are saying you do it all without the roux sometimes? Obviously it’s not a creamy soup then….but we have forgotten what a creamy soup is!
We don’t have dairy at our house either. We just do a broth, potato, and vegetable soup like this that the kids all enjoy.
Great! I leave out the milk/roux sometimes too and no one around here seems to mind– it’s still yummy!
You can totally just skip the roux and it will still be delicious! I do this sometimes when I’m in a hurry!
We can’t have dairy either (or nuts), so I use WestSoy unsweetened soy milk. Works great. And it’s non-GMO too. 🙂
I do mine similar to yours which looks so good right now! It’s a winter storm where I live so I am making soup today. The only thing I do different is make a cornstarch slurry in a cup and dump it in because I am lazy and don’t want to wash another pan, lol. I am sure the roux is much more flavorful than mine though. I am making veggie soup today. I don’t use any measurements either. I just look around the kitchen and dump things in that I think will taste good or need to be used. I am sending my daughter to your post because she has never made homemade soup and this is perfect for her to learn without being overwhelming. A beautiful soup and as always I enjoyed your post, thanks!
Thanks Jennifer! Stay warm and enjoy your soup during the storm! 🙂