Hearty, homemade, money saver: Soups and other one-pot meals – Part 2

The first way to save money on food is to limit or eliminate unnecessary food spending. One dish meals like soups, casseroles and stews can be a healthy option for meals.

Homemade soups and one-pot casseroles and stews can be a healthy option for meals. Including vegetables, whole grains and lean protein into one dish is an easy way to get a balanced meal. By making and freezing batches of soups you can save time and have a healthy dish at your convenience. Soups can be money savers because they don’t require pricey ingredients. Plus, you can load soups with vegetables, giving your family the nutritious meal they need.

Chop up your favorite veggies, add some broth and turn on your crock-pot for a slow-simmering soup dinner. Another great way to save money is to cook once and eat twice. When cooking soup or any one pot meal, double the recipe so that you have extra to use later in the week for quick lunches or dinners when you don’t feel like cooking, or you have a busy schedule. You can also freeze your soup half for another day. Add a green salad or other side dish and you have a delicious, easy meal. One-pot dishes, such as soups, stews or casseroles, are especially good because they generally save preparation time, money and dishwashing. Plus they make great leftovers.

You can use large zip bags to freeze a family size portion of soup, or you can use small bags to make handy individual servings. You can also freeze your food in plastic food grade containers.

Michigan State University Extension recommends these tips for the budget conscious cook:

Let the food cool as close to room temperature as you can, within two hours of cooking. Putting the soup into the freezer hot can actually put other frozen items at risk and can make your freezer work much harder.

Freeze food in portions that will be easy to unfreeze. If you plan to use two cups for a meal, measure and freeze that amount. This way you have a manageable amount and won’t need to defrost the entire portion.

Choose a container that will freeze well and protect its contents. Remember to allow for headspace, so that when the food freezes the container will remain closed, leave about a half-inch of space at the top. Rigid containers and freezer bags are a good choice, as long as they are sturdy enough and seal tightly. Then date and label all contents.

With these tips you and your family are ready for some great home cooked, money saving meals.