As I discussed in my last post, our family is embracing a reduced grocery budget! This is completely voluntary… we just realized our food spending had gotten a little high and the time had come for an exercise in self-discipline while strolling the aisles of our good old Kroger. There were other things we wanted to be spending that extra money on.
It turns out that this new “adventure” I’ve delved into (that of preparing cheap and healthy meals for my family) has struck a chord with quite a few people. And no wonder! It is no small task. I find myself in conversations about budgets, shopping tips, cooking tips, etc. multiple times a week these days! And while the task of sticking to a small food budget AND preparing healthy foods for your family is certainly a tough one… it’s also one of the most rewarding! It is truly thrilling to find the best deals you can at the grocery store. It is gratifying to sit down to a meal when you’ve taken the extra time to make your bread from scratch or boil a whole chicken instead of buying pricier cuts. And if you want to talk real “rewards,” how about the way it feels to have a few hundred extra bucks each month that you can put aside to save for a vacation or special date night? (I wholeheartedly believe that the sacrifices you make when cutting your grocery budget are worth the character-building alone! But it certainly doesn’t hurt when you get other fun splurges out of the deal too.)
I recently posted an in-depth tutorial on how (and why) to boil a whole chicken, so now I thought it would be helpful to start showing you the endless, budget-friendly meals you can make, now that you have that skill under your belt. Today I bring you… Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup! It is yummy, healthy, and oh yeah… CHEAP!
Start with some nice bone-in, skin-on chicken parts. You don’t need a whole chicken necessarily… for this meal I bought a $5-dollar tray of chicken thighs. I like buying thighs because they have a lot of meat and they are easy to de-bone.
Anyway, follow the procedure for boiling chicken and making broth.
When the chicken pieces have boiled for 30-40 minutes, fish them out of the liquid and allow them to cool. Then pull off and discard the skin. Then separate the meat from the bones. Place the bones back into the broth to continue simmering. The meat can then be divided into what you need now and what you are saving for later.
I made a small bowl of the lighter meat pieces to use for our soup. The larger bowl of darker meat is going into the fridge to be used in other dishes and to feed our baby girl. She prefers the dark meat because it doesn’t get as dry.
Return the broth, with all the veggies and herbs still in it, plus the chicken bones, to the stove and allow it to simmer on low (with the lid on) for about an hour.
Grab 3 or so whole carrots (another cheap item at the grocery store), wash and peel em’, and dice into bite-size pieces. Set these aside.
Do the same with 3 or so stalks of celery. (And don’t you dare throw those tasty leaves away! Rule #1 of budgeting is you take advantage of every usable morsel.) Set these aside with the carrots.
Measure out 1-2 Cups of egg noodles (depending on how noodle-y you like your soup. This recipe is not exact.) Set aside.
Now, after your bones have simmered for an hour in the broth, you will need to strain the liquid and discard all the remnant veggies and chicken parts. They’ve given you all they’ve got!
*Special Note: If you don’t need to serve this broth right away, you can refrigerate it for a few hours (or overnight.) This causes all the chicken fat to float to the top and harden, and then you can just lift it off with a slotted spoon! If you don’t have the time to refrigerate the broth, then I would highly recommend getting your hands on one of these handy fat separators. And if you don’t have one of those… just move on. Keeping the fat won’t be the end of the world.
Next, go ahead and pour the broth back into your soup pot and add the celery and carrots in. (Oops! I am an airhead and did not photograph this step… but I know you can handle it without pictorial instructions.)
*Also note, although it is not pictured, I would recommend also adding in some chopped onion and minced fresh garlic at this time for extra texture and flavor.
Boil the carrots and celery in the broth (with the lid on) for 15 minutes until the veggies are mostly tender.
Then pour in your egg noodles and allow these to boil until softened, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Now we need to season! First grab this awesomely magical stuff!
Turmeric adds a wonderfully rich, yellow-y color to your soup. To be honest, that’s the only reason I add it. I don’t taste much difference with or without it.
Next I added garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp).. but only because I didn’t add minced garlic with the celery and carrots. I should have. Don’t be like me.
And of course you need the humble (but vital) old stand-bys: salt and pepper. The amount you need will vary drastically depending on how much you salted your broth earlier… so taste, salt, taste, salt, and taste again until you have it right!
DO NOT FORGET TO SALT. If you do, this broth will taste like dirty water. The salt brings out all the delicious vegetables and herbs in here… without it you will have nothing but a bowl of Blegh!
Finally, chop up your reserved chicken into whatever size pieces you like. (Remember, no need to use all the meat you cooked. I use half, or less sometimes!)
And add that in there too!
I like my chicken noodle soup on the thinner side, but if you decide you want to thicken it a bit, I’ll share with you a super-easy secret…
Instant Mashed Potato Flakes!
These thicken up soups in a snap and have a much better flavor than adding flour or cornstarch (in my opinion.)
So embrace the potato flake.
And then dig in! I like to tear up hunks of crusty bread in my soup. And a simple green salad rounds the meal out perfectly. (OR you can steam up some frozen veggies… another of my budget staples.)
This will make a LOT of soup, so you should be able to get a few meals worth of leftovers out of it too.
Enjoy this hearty soup! It’s especially satisfying during the colder months. But of course the savings are satisfying year-round
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