Get Creative with Your Food Scraps Free Soup for Fall and Winter

“Stock” Up for Free

free-soupWhat? Is she crazy? It’s still springtime, and the summer heat is already upon us. Who wants to think about soup? I do. And, after reading this easy stock-up method, I hope you will, too.

Free Soup can be the everyday cook’s way of having free meals a few times a month. And, if you have a houseful of eaters that show up hungry 3 times a day, free is good. Free is really, really good.

So, before I tell you this incredibly easy way to get a few meals for free… all quite legally and involving nothing politically or spiritually dividing… grab a glass of water or coffee or tea or wine… and indulge me as I sweep you off your tired feet and wow you with my wisdom.

Read more: Growing Chicken Feed the Easy Way

Don’t Let Your Leftovers Go to Waste

Got that beverage? Are your feet up? Here it is:

Whenever you have anything leftover, freeze it in a quart-size canning jar. After dinner when you discover that the eaters left a tablespoon of rice and a similar amount of peas in the serving bowls. Walk those morsels right over to a canning jar you cleverly have waiting in the freezer and scoop them right in. Close the jar and return it to its spot in the freezer door. There! Now you have the beginning of free soup.

Some basic leftover ideas to put in your soup starter jars are cooked: cabbage, tomatoes, beans, peas, corn, potatoes (fried, baked, boiled), broth (include the fat), pasta, meat, and chicken. Almost nothing is taboo.

Do this every day, at every (appropriate) meal, until you have a few jars. By the way, if you made sand art in jars when you were a kid, you will love the way these free soup jars end up! They’re almost pieces of art. Your art. I say, “You go! You just go, you artist, you!”

Read more: 12 Uses for Rose Petals – From the Kitchen to the Boudoir

Cooking Up Your Free Soup

soup-ingredientsNow it’s time to make your Free Soup.

The day before making your soup, set your full, frozen free soup jars in the fridge. When you’re ready to rock and roll through all your free food, start by using up fresh veggies that you have on hand. My favorite is a diced celery, onion, and carrot combo. A bonus, and very delectable addition, is cabbage. Saute these in your favorite oil (olive and coconut oils are my favorites) for 10-12 minutes.

Now add a few peeled, diced potatoes to the party and begin to dump in your free soup jars. Use your liberty to add canned tomatoes (whole, diced, sauce, paste, whatever you desire), beans, pasta, etc.

Add herbs, salt, pepper, and spices to your own liking as well. I use this opportunity to use near-empty bottles of ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable juice, etc. Add some water to each bottle, shake and pour. More free flavor!

Read more: Would You Eat Chicken-less Eggs?

It’s Not Just Free… It’s Good!

Truthfully, this is the most amazing soup I’ve ever eaten. Though I’ve written this as though it was all my (very genius) invention, I learned this simple, frugal method from my mother… my amazing mother… who probably learned it from her depression-era mother. My now-grown-up eaters know how to do this, too… and they’ll tell their eaters about free soup as well.

So, what are you waiting for? Get those jars ready! Fall and winter will be here before you know it! “Free soup! Come and get it!”

Robin W. Stephens

Sam Coffman Top 25 Herbs Chart


Thanks to Robin Stephens for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest. We have over $1,500 in prizes lined up for the current writing contest, with more to come. Here is a list of the current pot of prizes:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $380 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $279 value
– 1 year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $240 value
– A copy of The Summer of Survival Complete Collection from Life Changes Be Ready, a $127 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $60 each
– The complete 2014 Grow Your Own Food Summit interview series, a $47 value
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $42 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $40 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $32 each

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35 Comments
  • Mike63Denver

    I just loved your article.

  • Tom

    Wonderful article. One of the best soups I ever tasted was a two week pot at my dad’s work that everyone just kept adding to over time. This article paraphrases the old song, “…Some like it in the pot nine meals old!”

    • Robin Stephens

      Oldies but goodies really are the best! Thanks so much!

    • JJM

      Just don’t keep it in the crock pot for 9 days. I was told, my bro-in-law’s young wife made a great tasting stew/soup that kept going for over a week. Problem is they both got food poisoning because the batch never saw the fridge!!!

  • Thank you for this awesome tip! I love soup anyway and this is just the best idea I have heard in a long time!

    • Robin Stephens

      Thank you, Sharon, for saying so. Honestly, it’s the easiest method to institute! Get going and enjoy!! =)

  • Hi Robin,
    Those are just wonderful ideas about free soup! I met a man on Vancouver Island who threw everything into the soup pot. Usually it was the very best soup ever. Occasionally, there was a clash of flavors. I like the idea about the jars and freezer. It is a great way to save all kinds of food instead of letting it spoil… or worse, just throwing it out. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Very practical!

    • Robin Stephens

      So appreiative of your kind comment and very pleased you find it valuable! Have fun with it!

  • Fayette

    My kids called it “dump soup” and it was always better than any soup I made fresh. Probably because it was from food that had already had time to “season”. Free and easy! I didn’t learn this trick from my mother but hubby and I had seven mouths to feed and I hate waste. Even if it was a tablespoon I couldn’t throw it away. I had a dear friend who used to say I could make a meal out of nothing. This article presents a great principle to share. It goes along with “waste not want not”.

    • Robin Stephens

      Call it free or or call it dump…just call me when it’s done! hehe… Thanks for sharing your story. Lots of hungry mouths make for lots of creativity! I hear ya!

  • Jean

    I have done this for a long time, too, but with one difference–I use old cottage cheese containers (or something similar). There are several benefits to my way: 1) You’re not tying up a canning jar but rather reusing something that would have been thrown away which also makes it free, and 2) if you forget to take it out of the freezer to thaw, the whole thing will just slide right out of the container into your pot. Just run it under warm running water first like you would ice cubes. Does make some great soups!

  • Tava

    Great idea, and this reminded me that my own depression era mom did this, too. Since my husband’s fav is soup – any kind of soup – I will start doing this. Thanks for sharing!

  • My best friend’s mother kept a can in her fridge for this purpose and made a soup from it every Saturday. The weirdest thing I ever saw in her soup was a fried egg! I keep all my little bits of leftovers in small containers but since I usually end up plopping it into soup or stew I really should start putting it all into one container like this! I like the cottage cheese container idea because I usually decide “last minute” what to make for dinner and it really is easy to get stuff out of those even if they are frozen.

    • Robin Stephens

      Glad it motivated you, Connie. It’s very rewarding and so darn easy! Thanks for your input.

    • K.Njaa

      I stopped using plastic, at least for anything hot, after my kid got cancer. The wide mouth canning jars work the best… because you can wash off the outside of the frozen jar and place it directly into your soup pot long enough to thaw and remove the contents, when you’re in a hurry. Or you can microwave the jar (without the metal lid or ring of course) on a very low setting. It won’t take long to thaw in your soup. My kid is in college now – I just freeze the soup in jars and she uses the steamer to thaw them. I’m still learning about canning… But without new seals freezing works.

  • BJ Dale

    This is amazing… this proves anyone can be prepared… you can freeze but also you can dehydrate the veggies left over and store them for making soup later… you can be prepared!

  • Phebe

    My mother did this too. I will tell you why your depression era grandmother probably did not – mine didn’t either… There was almost never any food left in those days. My mother said it was not original with her. She had two containers, one for meats and meat juices and another for vegetables. She mixed them when she made soup. She used the larger margarine containers because she did not like glass in the freezer. She also froze garden produce at harvest time in large bags so she could make vegetable soup and can it later.

  • Lisa from Iroquois

    Love this idea! I already tend to set aside the ends of vegetable like carrot, cabbage, onion, celery to go into the stock pot but this would encompass other elements that could go into the finished stock and turn it into soup.

    • Robin Stephens

      Right! Once you start thinking about what could go in it, your imagination (and food stuffs) will be all that limits you!

  • V L Benda

    Very smart way to save money, thank you.

  • Bonnie

    Do you use glass canning jars in the freezer? I have had them break if there is liquid in them.

    • Robin Stephens

      I’ve done this for decades w/out issue, but I suppose it could be. I think the best/safest way is to make sure the food is not hot when you put it in the jar. Usually our leftovers aren’t hot anyway….so it’s never been a real issue.

  • Barbara

    I’ve been doing this for years only I use a ziplock bag. You can lay it flat for easy storage and no broken glass!

    • Robin Stephens

      Sounds like a great idea….and anything to save space is a huge plus!

  • J.L. Eieio

    You left out an obvious one… food prep ‘scraps’ like raw veggie peels, leaves and trimmings, the raw trimmed off fat and bones from meats, the heels and trimmed off crusts of bread, the hard rinds of cheeses, the water from boiled pasta, veggies and meats, flat beer and leftover wine… Any or all of these items can contribute to an awesome soup or stew.

  • The most important thing I saw missing from this wonderful article, is saving meat bones for bone broth. Instant free soup base! Not just ‘food’ like rice and peas, but the bones from chicken breasts or thighs, the bones from pork chops or a bone-in roast. Simmer these for hours until the bones crumble to get the maximum nutrition. Add a couple tablespoons vinegar to the crock pot and let them simmer all day with whatever herbs you like. Mmm mmm… such healthy nutrition!

    • Robin Stephens

      I love bone broth, too. It certainly is a great stand-alone food source, but would definitely add a great nutritional umph to this soup. Thanks for the healthful suggestion!

  • Trudi deVriend

    This is how my mom made soup. She added leftover gravy and also the cooking juices of the veggies too. On soup day she would make a bone broth, add the frozen leftovers, and a jar of her home canned tomatoes. It was the best soup ever. I do the same.

  • Tina

    I like the ideas at the end of saving the bones and meat fat cuttings. I have a hard time saving left overs as I have cats, dogs and chickens that love the scraps from the plate! Plus, I usually end up using as my lunch the next couple days. Guess I will have to start saving some for us who actually cook the food! I remember my mom saving the left over green beans, corn, potatoes, roast for stew quite often.

  • Isobelle

    Thank you. The idea you have about ‘free sou’ is a very good idea and I intend to try it.
    Isobelle

  • Debbie

    The tablespoon of food left in the serving dish brought back a childhood memory. We had a rule in our house that the person who took the last serving from a dish, usually leftovers from a previous meal, had to wash the dish. As kids, we used to eat everything except the tiniest bit, just to get out of dishwashing.

    Another idea for soup is to use clean vegetable peelings and trimmings, as well as any edible parts of garden produce that you normally do not eat, in addition to those which are too tough because they were not picked early enough. I wouldn’t overlook edible weeds or fruit scraps either, for a different and unique flavor. The resulting texture and appearance can be a little rough and unappealing, but I find if I simmer all of those things separately from the main soup and then strain the chunks out, I end up with a great broth to use as a base for the soup.

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