That means it’s the perfect kind of weather to cook up a big pot of soup or stew. Few things warm the body and soul more than a steaming bowl of delicious, homemade soup.
Of course I’m not talking about a thin gruel of mostly broth with just a few veggies or morsels of meat thrown in. I’m talking about a lip-smacking blend of ingredients that’s so thick you can practically stand your spoon up in it – a true meal in a pot.
That's the kind Mom always made.
I have loved soup ever since childhood when she would make up huge pots of steaming goodness using the leftovers and bones from a roast to create a meat-based broth or vegetables a bit past their prime to make her minestrone.
And I love soup now just as much as a cook and household manager. After all, there are few meals that are more economical than a big pot of soup.
And there are few meals that are easier for a cook to put together.
They also lend themselves beautifully to adaptation and ingredient substitution, so that just about anything you happen to have on hand can be made to work.
In addition, soup can be a quick meal – even super fast if you have an instant pot or pressure cooker - or It can be a slowly simmered in a slow cooker.
For all those versatile reasons – and its prime place as a major comfort food - soup is a common meal in our house. And never more so than when we are facing weeks of cold weather. Nothing quite matches the comfort of a hot bowl of soup after a day spent working or playing outside when the thermometer drops.
Here I’ve compiled my family’s favorite soups. Some of them are my frequent standbys for weeknight meals, which means they are a breeze to get on the table.
Others are a bit more labor intensive but more than make up for that with the nutritional value of each serving and how many servings you get out of each pot.
I hope you find them as satisfying and delicious as my family always has.
This is one of my very original recipes from a cookbook I made as Christmas gifts for my family way back when my husband was in school and we could not afford to buy presents for everyone.
That original recipe, though, was for fewer servings, so I’ve adapted it over the years to accommodate numbers and appetites in my household. As I’ve mentioned before, my boys are chowhounds who can go through food like there’s no tomorrow.
This meal was a big favorite with them. I like it, too, because it’s quite quick and easy to make. It only takes about 15 minutes or so of prep time, and can be on the table in about 30-40 minutes.
And, of course, it’s very cheap. It makes about 8 hearty servings at a total cost of about $7 for the recipe. That’s well under $1 per serving. Served with a tossed green salad and some garlic bread, or a nice loaf of fresh bread, it still comes in at only around $1.50 per person.
It is also excellent as leftovers and freezes very well.
A version of this soup was one of my very first vegetarian meals. I grew up in an era when no meal was considered complete without meat, so it was not until I spent a gap year after high school doing farm labor that I was introduced to vegetarian fare.
Thanks to that experience, I learned just how economical and delicious meatless meals could be.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the discovery was life changing for me, both in terms of diet and in terms of budget. Where before I would never have even thought of vegetarian meals, they soon became a major part of our menus, and we soon came to adopt a primarily vegetarian diet in our household.
I reckon it has saved us thousands of dollars over the intervening decades, and it’s also helped keep us in excellent health.
This recipe is a much-loved one from my childhood. It is comfort food at its absolute best.
Mom was very typical of cooks of her generation and others before her. The idea was to get as much mileage they could out of the food they purchased, which of course includes any meat they used.
There was precious little waste in the kitchens of old, and cooks would make use of many things that we tend to throw away today.
In the case of soup, in particular, it was never meant to be made with prime cuts of meat, such as boneless chicken breast. Quite the contrary. It was meant to stretch the food budget and avoid waste.
Cheap as it may be, it’s delicious and guaranteed to be a huge family hit.
The first instance when I tasted Avgolemono, it was a bit of revelation to me. It was so different from anything I had ever experienced growing up, and I immediately loved the combination of the thick, creamy rice and egg soup and the tart, lemony flavoring.
My Greek-Cypriot husband made it for me that first time during our university days in Vienna as international students.
He used the recipe he found in an old Cypriot cookbook and struggled a bit with the decidedly vague instructions, but managed to make a success of it as far as I was concerned. I gobbled it up.
Since that first time enjoying it, this soup has been a mainstay of our family menu planning.
I’ve adapted it a bit to make it a somewhat healthier and a more balanced meal in a pot, but the flavor is all there.
And it’s a breeze to put together.
This is another very old recipe that I’ve had for decades. Hard as it is to imagine now, in the days right after I graduated from high school, foods such as curry were quite alien to those of us who lived outside major metropolitan areas.
Now, with globalization, most Americans have had exposure to much more diverse foods from all over the world. But in the “old” days, you would have been hard pressed to find even curry seasonings in your grocery store, let alone such things as Naan bread, or even pita.
Times have changed substantially since then, so that it’s possible to purchase a much wider range of ethnic and international products. That’s a good thing, in my humble opinion.
This zesty stew takes very little time to prepare, costs very little and packs a lot of flavor besides.
This is one of the very first meals that my husband ever cooked for me way back in the days when we first met as poor grad students living in an international dorm in Vienna, Austria.
From my recollection, he used dry beans and let them soak overnight before cooking them. Canned beans were not very common back in those days, and probably would have been more than his budget could handle anyway in one of the most expensive cities in the world as a poor college student trying to make ends meet.
The meal was delicious and satisfying. I promptly added it to my repertoire of budget friendly, nutritious entrees.
It’s the kind of meal that gives Mediterranean cooking its stellar reputation for healthy eating.
Oddly enough, I learned to love black bean soup first by eating the canned version – which Mom would have for lunch sometimes - before I ever discovered how to make it myself.
This recipe came about because I so wanted to experience the flavor that I remembered from my childhood. Despite a kitchen catastrophe along the way, it’s still one of my favorites, for its simplicity, its flavor, and its budget friendly ingredients.
This thick, hearty soup is really more like a stew. It was a standard in my childhood home whenever we had ham for dinner. You can find my recipe for Baked Ham Dinner here.
My frugal Mom would cut every bit of usable meat off the bone and then use the bone to make the broth for the soup. Sometimes, she’d freeze the bone if there was a reason she could not use it right away. But she never threw it out without getting another meal out of it.
I’ve continued that tradition. We don’t eat ham a lot in our family, or much of any meat at all for that matter, but whenever I do buy one, I make sure to put split pea soup on the menu.
Other options for using leftover ham or a ham bone are things like Dirty Rice or Lentil Soup.
But this soup is also excellent as a vegetarian option, which is actually the way we eat it most of the time now. We may have started eating vegetarian meals for budget reasons as a struggling young couple years ago, but we now try to minimize our meat intake primarily for health and ethical reasons.
This is a brand new recipe for me – but one that’s a keeper for my family. It started as a recipe I found on Pinterest that included some pricier ingredients I changed out for more budget friendly ones.
This recipe is amazingly easy and fast to put together and can be on the table in about 20 minutes or so.
It doesn’t get much better than that for hectic family lives these days.
This soup that I remember so fondly from my childhood is about as thick and hearty as can be – so much so that a spoon will practically stand up in it. It’s also - hands down – one of my boys’ absolute favorite meals.
This recipe has a long list of mostly vegetable ingredients, but any chopping and prep is well worth it because it makes a big pot of delicious, nutrition-loaded soup that will have your family practically licking their bowls.
I happened upon this recipe because a young colleague mentioned in passing this wonderful Haitian stew a friend had made for her. She raved about it. So I promptly looked it up and was immediately intrigued.
I found several recipes on-line and tried various combinations before hitting on this one that was a big hit with my family.
We love the blend of lime, pumpkin, and the tang of pepper. It makes for a delicious flavor and unique sensation.
I particularly love that it includes pumpkin, which is loaded with all kinds of good nutrition.
In fact, you couldn’t ask for a healthier meal in terms of the power vegetables it includes. Really, a combination that is great for whatever ails you, and for those cold winter days when soup or stew is just the thing.
And finally, here’s a super simple and economical way to make a delicious vegetable-based broth you can make any time you use vegetables and store or freeze it for when you need it.
It’s so simple and economical, but the results are excellent and far superior to any store-bought broth or bouillon.