Saving money on our grocery budget is a huge priority for me trying to feed my husband and I and our seven kids. Stretching leftovers by turning them into soups is one of the ways that I accomplish that.
Whenever I make a chicken meal, I add one extra chicken breast. When dinner is done, I cut up the leftover chicken and scoop that, along with all the leftover sauce into a bag. So if we had teriyaki chicken for supper, then the leftover chicken once cubed gets added, along with all the teriyaki sauce or marinade. Next, I add whatever side dishes are leftover into the bag. This usually means vegetables and rice or potatoes. Even if there is just a handful of peas leftover or two pieces of cooked carrot, they go into the bag. Nothing goes to waste. This bag then gets sealed and put into the freezer. If I have time to make the soup that night or the next morning, then I put these into a pot instead, but usually, they go into a freezer bag. The freezer bag gets labelled with the type of meat and the name of the sauce it was in.
I have a few variations that I make on the recipe, but the soup will taste different every time because the sauce on the chicken will add to the flavour, as will the seasonings that were on the rice and vegetables.
Here are two basic recipes. At the bottom, I will also add a few tips.
1 chopped onion
8 carrots, cut
6 chopped and peeled potatoes
1/2 cup of barley
2 cups of mixed beans
2 cans of tomato soup
3-5 cups of water
bag of leftovers
seasonings: pepper, parsley, basil, oregano, etc. depending on the soup (see below)
Saute onion. Add other vegetables. Add everything else and simmer for about one hour.
1 chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
whatever vegetables you have in the pantry or freezer (carrots, peas, zucchini, green beans, celery, corn, etc.)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
5 cups vegetable stock (you can make your own by saving the water you have been cooking your potatoes and other veggies in)
bag of leftovers
seasonings: pepper, basil, oregano, chilis, chipotle, bay leaves, etc. depending on the soup
Saute onions and garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer.
Use the bag of leftovers as your base for determining what flavourings to add to your soup. If you are using a leftover tex mex chicken, then corn and black beans are good additions and chipotle spice works well. If you are using leftover meatballs, then a tomato based soup with Italian seasonings usually works well. For leftover curried chicken, adding more curry, along with peas and rice goes well. For teriyaki or honey mustard chicken leftovers, an Asian inspired soup is delicious. You can even add noodles in the last few minutes of cooking. A minestrone type of soup with zucchini, green beans, kidney and/ or white beans, small pasta shells, tomatoes, and Italian seasonings work well with a blander leftover chicken or beef. Leftover roast can be transformed into a beef barley soup.
Making soups from your leftovers is so cost effective. It can stretch that one extra chicken breast to feed an entire family for another two meals. It also uses the sauce and small portions of leftover vegetables that would probably otherwise have been thrown away. Using this method can prove to cut back on your grocery budget significantly, especially if you make your own stock and buy some of the other ingredients in bulk.