Cheap, Tasty, Hot Soup from Your Refrigerator

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Soup is great food: it’s inexpensive, easy to make, and far more delicious than anything that comes out of a can. If you’ve got a refrigerator in your kitchen, you’ve probably got the means to make soup.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven (that’s a big pot with a lid and handles on each side), add 3 tablespoons of oil; olive oil’s tasty, but any vegetable oil will do.

When it’s warm, add

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • A grated carrot
  • A chopped garlic clove or so if you’ve got it

Stir this around for 10 minutes or so at medium heat, until the onion is soft and not crunchy.

Now start adding stuff:

4-8 cups water, depending upon whether you like your soup brothy or chunky. Flavor the liquid with a teaspoon salt, if that’s all you’ve got, or chicken or beef bouillon cubes if you’ve got that. Get it simmering. While you’re adding ingredients, keep the lid off. Once you’re done, turn the heat to medium or medium low, enough to keep the simmer, and put the lid on.

If you want vegetable soup, add a can of tomatoes, a diced potato or two (leftover hashbrowns work), and some hamburger. If the hamburger’s already cooked, then make sure the potato simmers until it’s soft and then add the meat. If the hamburger’s raw, crumble it into the hot simmering (not boiling) liquid and cook until it’s done along with the potato.

Poke through the vegetable or freezer compartment to see if you’ve got spinach, peas, corn, green beans, or broccoli to add. If they’re already cooked, you’ll just be warming them up; if they’re not cooked, chop them fine (so they’ll cook faster) and simmer them until they’re done.

Chicken soup? Toss in leftover cooked rice or noodles, then cooked, chopped chicken, especially if you bought a rotisserie chicken at the deli last night and there’s not enough for the whole family to make a second meal of it.

If the chicken’s uncooked, as in a bag of tenders or boneless skinless breasts or thighs, cut a couple pieces into small chunks and simmer it until done the way you would have done the hamburger. The same roster of vegetable personalities above will work; probably not all of them, but choose one or two that sound good.

If you’ve got leftover lunchmeat, especially ham and probably not bologna, it can be the featured meat, or it could stretch out the chicken. Pre-cooked Polish Kielbasa is delicious. Poke around. If it sounds good, toss it in. Let the whole concoction simmer, at that medium or medium low heat, for 20 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

That’s it. Call the family to the table, slice some bread, ladel spoonfuls of your concoction into bowls, and congratulate yourself for simultaneously creating a great, cheap meal from scratch and cleaning out your refrigerator.

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