Making the decision to buy organic, local and fair trade when possible, unfortunately, often means paying more. Not that it isn’t worth it, of course– it just means that sometimes, I need to be a little creative to stay within my food budget. One of the changes I’ve made recently, both for this reason and for sustainability-related ones, is to only eat meat every second day so that when I do eat meat, I can afford to buy the good (read: free-range, organic, grass-fed) stuff.
When it comes to my favorite money-saving recipe, there’s simply no contest. Not only does this rich and flavorful broth require less than 10 minutes of hands-on time, it costs only 50₵ to make. Now tell me, does it get any better than that?
Now, there is a catch (isn’t there always?): depending on how many veggies your household goes through, you’ll have to start saving the ingredients for this recipe anywhere from 1-3 months in advance. Why? Because in a burst of frugal genius, I designed this recipe to use up the parts of my vegetables that I was already throwing away! That’s why I lovingly (if somewhat unappetizingly) refer to it as my Garbage Soup– but I can assure you, it tastes nothing like garbage 🙂
So, here’s what you have to do. Every time you core or de-seed a tomato, cut off the top of a carrot or beet, peel a potato or carrot (though I’d encourage you not to! That’s where most of the nutrients are– though admittedly, some recipes just wouldn’t be right with the skin left on), scoop out the seeds and pulp from a squash or pepper, remove the leafy end of a celery stalk (the leaves have lots of flavour!), well… you get the picture… don’t throw out that vegggie scrap gold! Simply throw it in the freezer in a plastic grocery bag or large container. You can do the same thing with greens (lettuce, kale, chard) that haven’t really gone “bad” but are too wilted to eat, carrots or potatoes that have started to go soft but exhibit no signs of rotting, and many other things. One of my favorite things to add is herbs… you know when you buy a bunch of cilantro or basil and the recipe calls for, like, 3 tablespoons and the rest ends up rotting in the fridge? Throw it in your soup bag instead! Herbs are there to add flavor, after all!
Once your bag is full, you’re ready to make your broth. Now, keep in mind, this recipe is SUPER flexible. If you don’t have some of the spices mentioned, no big deal. Just throw in what you have– it’ll taste great! You can taste it as it cooks down to see if you’d like to adjust the spices. You may prefer to add more salt than I do– I’ve trained my palate to prefer considerably less salt than I used to (did you know that you can give the average person a glass of water with a teaspoon of salt stirred into it, and they won’t even notice?).
- 1 grocery bag full of vegetable scraps
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 6 regular or 3 elephant cloves of garlic, smashed
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp marjoram
- About 1/2 cup each coarsely chopped fresh oregano and sage (I’m perplexed by this, but despite it being December and me being in Toronto, my oregano and sage are still going strong. No complaints here! You can use 1 tbsp each of the dry versions if you’re not as lucky.)
Combine all ingredients in an extra-large (canning size) pot and fill to 2 inches below the rim with water. You can use a smaller pot if you need to, just boil some water in the kettle and top it up once in awhile for the first hour and a half or so.
Bring to a boil, covered, over high heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 3 hours, or until reduced by 1/3. Strain and use immediately, refrigerate for 3 days, or freeze for several months. I like to freeze in 1-cup portions in small round plastic containers like sour cream tubs, then pop out the frozen broth cubes and stack them in a bag– this comes in really handy when I only need a small amount of broth, say, for a gravy.
This broth is very versatile– works great as a base for both vegan and meat soups and gravies, makes an AMAZING French Onion Soup (recipe coming soon!), and is a great way to add more flavour (and nutrients!) to your rice, quinoa, risotto and other grain dishes– just boil your grains in your Garbage Broth instead of water!
Now just look at that beautiful rich, golden broth. Because it gives a second life to your veggie scraps, it’s eco-friendly; the only expense you incur is the cost of an onion, a few cloves of garlic and some spices, so it’s cheap. And most important of all, it’s easy, healthy and delicious, so what excuse could you possibly have for not starting your own Garbage Soup bag today?
I’d love to hear your ideas for a future entry in the Frugal Foodie series. How do you save money in the kitchen? Comment below, or Tweet it to me @foodiefawn, and I’ll pick my favorite trick to blog about for my next Frugal Foodie installment!