There are a lot of ways a family can stretch its budget. That’s important these days when salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of living increases, and benefits to lower income families are being tightened at every turn.
For example, one can clip coupons or grab them online for deals at the grocery store. Coupons are like free money to be used on everyday items such as toothpaste, toilet paper and paper towels, freeing up several dollars a week.
Then, there is buying in bulk. Items such as meat (ground beef) and dried beans that come in large packages can be divided into single-meal portions when you get home. In the case of meat, it can be frozen and kept for up to six months.
Another is growing your own vegetables. Even if you don’t have a large yard where a garden is possible, vegetables and herbs can be grown in pots on balconies or patios, and the excess can be preserved by canning and freezing for later use.
Those are three ways Therese and I save money. But there are a few others that I’ve come to use over the years that are fairly simple.
- Saving water used to cook vegetables. Whenever I steam veggies, I place the leftover water in containers and freeze it. Ditto for potato water as in the case of mashed or boiled spuds. As a bonus, this water contains a lot of the vitamins and nutrients that are found in vegetables.
- Making homemade chicken broth. If I cut up a chicken, the neck, backbone and other scraps are cooked in a pot of water. Once the water has cooled, it is placed in a container(s) and frozen. (I also save and freeze the water that my pheasant scraps — necks and backbones — have been cooked in .)
- Never letting leftovers go to waste. My favorite use for meat is in casseroles or sandwiches, while vegetables make perfect fodder for homemade soup.
That brings me to the following recipe, which makes use of frozen vegetable stock and chicken broth as well as leftover vegetables. I call it my Once-Around-The-Kitchen Soup because it contains items that are found in my refrigerator, freezer and pantry.
The soup is especially tasty because of the seasoning, Herbes de Provence, a classic French blend that lends itself to tomato and vegetable dishes.
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or combination of each
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup green beans
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 cup whole-kernel corn
½ cup pearled barley
1 pint whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
Place all ingredients in a 3- to 4-quart stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Serve with crusty bread.