For many of us, being a first time apartment renter also means cooking on our own for the first time. Before I moved out on my own, I had never done my own grocery shopping or had to plan for all of my meals and snacks. It’s been a month since I moved out, and while my roommate and I are mostly moved in, we’re still living on tighter budgets than we would be, with moving expenses such as parking stickers and the odd pieces of furniture that we didn’t have before. While I adjust to feeding myself, I’m going to be sharing a few tips to eat healthily while living on a budget. Since fall is just a few days away, I’m going to share some ideas related to cooking soups.
Soup is one of the easiest meals that you can cook for yourself, and also happens to be extraordinarily cheap. All you need in terms of cooking supplies is a large stock pot, a cutting board, and a good knife.
To cook a basic soup, throw your harder vegetables in the stock pot and cook them until the smaller pieces start to soften. Add in smaller vegetables, beans, broth, and spices, and bring to a boil, then simmer until everything is soft.
Tip #1: Buy in season vegetables
Vegetables that are in season will be cheaper, because they can be grown more locally, and thus cost less to the stores to transport and preserve. A list of in season produce can be found here.
Tip #2: Not all vegetables need to be fresh
I like using canned yams and beets for soups, and frozen corn and peas. Veggies out of a can are softer and require less cooking, and are no less healthy if you wash the preservatives off. Similarly, frozen vegetables can last longer than fresh or canned ones, especially for items like corn or peas where I normally want to use only a handful at a time. It’s easier to package leftovers back up in to the freezer than to waste good produce.
Tip #3: Use canned soups as a base
One of my favorite hacks in college was to buy canned soup (generally costing less than $1.50) and add in carrots, celery, and water. Carrots and celery are both cheap vegetables that can be stored for a long period of time and add a lot of good nutrients to canned soup without losing any of the flavoring that comes from the pre-made soup. Adding more water plus another can of similar ingredients, such as extra potatoes or extra beans, can make that can of soup last longer and be more filling.
I bought the following and made Vegetable Lentil Soup:
6 oz. Tomato Paste: $1.29
Minced Garlic: $1.89
32 oz. Veggie Broth:$2.79
Fresh celery: $1.49
Bag of carrots: $0.49
2 onions: $0.56
1/2 bag of lentils- from my pantry
Spices from my roommate’s collection: turmeric, cumin, and ginger
Total cost: $8.51
Total time: 2 hours, including prep and cooking
Total yield: 8 portions
Add 1 cup lentils, 1/2 cup carrots and 1/2 cup celery, chopped into half inch pieces, to 4 cups broth, 4 cups water, and the can of tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, turn heat down to bring soup to a simmer and add 6 teaspoons of garlic, 2 chopped onions, and 1 teaspoon of each of the spices and salt to taste. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally and taste testing. When lentils and all vegetables are soft, serve or cool for storage.
Comment below with some of your own tricks and with other types of food that you’d like me to try to hack!