I have a few tricks I fall back on to stretch our grocery dollar and get us through from payday to payday during lean times, and my favorite is making my homemade chicken soup.
But first, I start a ‘freezer cleaning’ session, go through everything in the freezer, and starting with the oldest items, plan meals around them. I don’t have to do this very often, but when I do, I manage to clean out the freezer pretty well and make the meals necessary to get us through.
The second is , instead of cooking on nights when we are too tired, my husband will pick up the pre-cooked BBQ chickens in the deli department of our local grocery store. This is a lot cheaper than ordering in.
After we’ve had our meal, I wrap and freeze the carcass.
Once I have saved up two or three carcasses in the freezer, I boil them to make homemade chicken soup. Any recipe will do. I don’t actually follow a recipe. I’ve been making soup for years and just wing it, tossing in whatever is available.
My one ingredient that I always use may surprise you and it was an amazing find. Instead of other pastas that soften too quickly and turn to ‘mush’, I break up lasagna noodles into quite small pieces in a ziploc bag and add them to the boiling broth. Once the noodles are fully cooked, the heat can be reduced to a simmer. For a two gallon pot of soup, I will use about 1/2 box.
The wonderful thing about the lasagna noodles is that the soup can be reheated numerous times and the noodles still maintain their firmness.
One warning though… Make sure the pieces are quite small (no larger than about 1″) as they swell considerably. Otherwise, they will be too large to handle with a spoon.
Here is my homemade chicken soup recipe and procedure:
- Remove the carcasses from the freezer to make chicken broth.
- Grab a soup pot, run a bit of hot water into the plastic container bottoms to loosen the carcasses. Place the carcasses in the soup pot. Add a bit of hot water into the bottoms of the containers at a time, swirling to dissolve any remaining chicken juice, etc. after each addition of water. Pour over the chicken bones in the pot. Repeat until nothing remains in the containers. Once the chicken bones are in the pot, top up the water so the bones are just covered.
- Simmer over medium heat until bubbling, then reduce to level 2-3 to lightly simmer for an hour or two. The longer it simmers, the more intense the flavor will be.
- Once done, turn off the burner and let sit a bit until cool enough to handle comfortably. Using a small collander with a handle that will fit, or a large collander ladle/spoon, remove all particles, bones etc. and set aside in a separate bowl – leaving just the broth.
- If you prefer to remove the fat before using the broth, place in the fridge until the fat is congealed on the surface and skim off.
- Divide the chicken broth in two. Place one in the fridge to cool.
- In the meantime, as soon as the bones are cool enough to handle, remove as much chicken meat as possible (not skin or bone) and place the meat with the broth from the second container in a soup pot.
- Simmer on low to medium heat, adding freshly chopped or high quality frozen vegetables, and spices to taste.
- Freeze any leftover soup for lunches or fast individual meals.