Last night I found an excellent list of food budgeting tips at http://homesteadingdream.blogspot.com/ . As I was reading it, I realized that I pretty much follow her same plan, though I still have to work on more bean-based meals during the week to make up for better quality, higher cost meat meals.
Speaking of quality meat, I drove out to the Skull Valley General Store yesterday in search of meat. They sell beef, pork and lamb raised by local ranchers. The animals are not completely grass-fed, but are supplimented with grains. In this area of the country, I think this is the best I’m probably going to find. There is just not that much grass around here!!! They don’t use hormones or antibiotics either, so I felt really good about my purchases. Here’s what I got:
- Pork Shoulder Steak, 2.78 lb., $8.31
- Beef Liver, 1.2 lb., $3.00
- Beef Short Ribs, 1.83 lb., $6.41
- Beef Oxtail, 1.89 lb., 4.73
- Lamb Kidney, .78 lb., $2.34
The grand total was a little over $25.00 with tax. I figure I can get maybe 7 meals for the 3 of us out of it, plus have enough bones for broth (oxtail soup, anyone?) Not sure about the lamb kidney, but it was cheap and I’ll figure something out for it!
Broth Based Soup Deconstruction
This is for anyone who is too scared to create a soup without a recipe. I’ll be gentle, but you’ve got to work with me here. Soup is good food! Just the act of making it makes me feel good, and that’s before I put the love in my tummy.
You want to think of several different aspects of soup. Just read this section first. We’ll cook later. Once you understand just what it is that makes a soup, you’ll be free to change or adjust things here and there and be able to create wonderful, nourishing soups for your family without a recipe.
- Base (broth vs. cream based; what kind of broth)–I’m covering broth based soup here. And let’s say you just made the chicken bone broth I talked about on a recent post. Or maybe you have some store-bought broth sitting in the cupboard. No worries.
- Basic flavor veggies–I generally start with equal parts of chopped onion, celery & carrot. Together, these make up what chefs often call “mirepoix” (say “meer-pwah”), and are used to heavily flavor your already yummy broth. Who needs MSG as a flavor enhancer when you can use real food?
- Meat/protein–Do you have chicken left over from the previous night? Maybe you’d rather use some canned white beans. You don’t necessarily need a lot of meat (or beans). Think of good chicken noodle soup–it’s more about the over all flavor, right? Even for a large pot, a couple handfuls would be enough, though you could use more if you have it.
- Starch–Whether it’s noodles (store-bought or homemade), dumplings (basically biscuit dough dropped in simmering broth), rice or some other carb-laden substance, they do add a lot to the final dish. (I know some people don’t “do” carbs or whatever. If you are one of those, just skip this section.) I just can’t imagine chicken noodle soup without the noodle, but that’s me.
- Extra/signature vegetables–You have to picture the final soup for this. For chicken noodle, I want to see some carrot rounds in my bowl. Perhaps you’d like some kale or spinach (a la Italian Wedding Soup). Don’t sweat this part. If you left the extras out, but had everything else, no one would notice. On this recipe, I’m not going to list any because it would get too complicated for what this is. (Carrot rounds might be added with the chopped veggies, whereas spinach would go in at the very end, after the pasta is nearly done.) If you have any questions or need suggestions for these, please comment me.
So let’s cook! I’ve never measured anything when cooking something like this, and you don’t need to either. I am going to picture a certain 2 quart pot; perhaps that will help me give you a better idea of quantities.
Broth Based Soup
- Finely chop maybe half an onion, a stalk of celery, and a small carrot. You want about equal portions. Pour some olive oil in your pot (perhaps 2 Tbls.) and add your chopped veggies. Let them cook over medium heat until tender and translucent (well, the carrot won’t get translucent). Don’t let them burn.
- Add your broth. Don’t fill the pot completely full because there is still meat and starch to come. But pretty full, maybe 3/4 full. When it starts to get hot, give it a taste. I figure every time you put broth (especially homemade bone broth) in your mouth, you are enhancing your immune system. It may be sort of bland at this point, but don’t worry.
- Now add your bite-sized meat or maybe a can (or 2) of beans (drain them first). You’re going to want this to be good and hot before adding the starch, so taste again before scalding your tongue. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. I think thyme is nice at this point, but not altogether necessary. Don’t worry too much about herbs/spices on this soup. You can always add them later, or on your next batch. Let the great ingredients speak for themselves.
- I’m just going to walk you through store-bought noodles here. Once the broth is boiling, add your noodles. Not too many!!! Let’s say maybe 1/4 of a box at the most. They swell, to say the least. And then the next day when you pull the leftovers from the fridge, your “soup” will no longer be that (it will resemble a thick casserole instead). Cook till tender. Taste again, adjust seasoning. Say “voila!” and kiss your fingers.