Money woes are everywhere. Healthcare costs are rising. Food costs are increasing. Electricity is higher now than it used to be. Between lost jobs, shortened working hours, missed bonuses and the ever-increasing costs of living, it seems everyone is looking for ways cut back. Of course, we’re no exception. Money’s tight for a one income family like ours. Couple a single income with a driving need to eliminate a considerable amount of medical debt, and we’re pinching pennies and trying to stretch nickels into dimes and dimes into quarters. Still, rather than bemoan these woeful economic times, we celebrate them in our home. Frugality and resourcefulness are lost arts, but are the self-same virtues that helped our forebears survive tough times with finesse and grace. These timeworn virtues are happily being rekindled. Woeful balances in checking accounts and dwindling savings don’t mean surrendering ourselves to 33-cent boxes of mac-and-cheese or giving up friendly get-togethers. On the contrary, these are times to celebrate our innate wealth – simple as it is.
Our Saturday Night Soup Party
On Saturday, our family and close friends celebrated frugality and penny pinching with style: we hosted a good, old-fashioned, frugal soup party. It’s a simple and frugal idea: the host provides a good homemade bread and a flavorful soup stock while each of the guests brings something for the pot. A stray carrot, leftover diced chicken, a bag of wilted spinach–whatever odds and ends they have lurking in crisper drawers, the freezer or on the leftover shelf each make perfect additions for the communal soup pot. There’s only one rule: no one – not the host and certainly not the guests – can spend a dime on the party. So Saturday afternoon, after a few days at the hot springs, we returned home and I heated some chicken stock and waited for the guests to arrive – wondering just how this pot of soup would turn out. One evening, we enjoyed a soup of sweet potato, peanuts and red pepper while at another party we slurped bowls full of miso-flavored broth dotted with broccoli, rice and bits of tempeh and chicken fried in coconut oil.
Saturday’s guests brought an odd assortment:
- ½ a Yellow Onion
- 1 Single Shallot from October’s final Farmers Market
- ½ a Bulb of Garlic on its Way to Sprouting
- 4 Bright Orange Carrots
- A Few Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
- ½ of a Celery Root (That had been sitting in someone’s crisper for several weeks)
- A Celery Heart – Flaccid and Limp
- 4 Strips Wakame
- Frozen Kale (That had been frozen sometime in the summer of 2007)
- 5 Small, Sprouting Potatoes
- The Rind of a Wedge of Parmesan Cheese
While the kale (garden-fresh in August 0f 2007 and frozen) undoubtedly wins the prize for the oldest addition to the soup pot, the limp celery heart wins the prize for the ugliest addition to the soup pot. It was a close call between that and the gnarled half of a celery root, but the celery heart’s sheer rubbery-ness won out. While a loaf of sprouted spelt bread finished baking in the oven, I heated a tablespoon or two of butter and got to work making the soup. Our guests enjoyed glasses from half-filled bottles of wine and the kids played Candyland while the soup simmered away. Fresh bread soaked up the rich broth faintly scented with those sprigs of rosemary while we enjoyed bites of sweet carrot, potato and celery root peppered by the odd edition of those strips of the Asian seaweed wakame. You just never know how it’ll turn out, but hear me out: among all the soup parties I’ve hosted, there’s just never been a bad pot. After soup, I dug out a few jars of the nectarines we preserved in a light honey syrup this last summer and warmed them in a skillet, serving them with homemade yogurt for dessert. The meal was natural, nourishing and cheap. Plus, it was a celebration of friendship – no need for expensive foods or elaborate menus to host a successful supper party.
Host Your Own Soup Party
Want to get on board? Host your own soup party. It’s simple, fun and easy.
- Invite a group of friends, reminding them that the only things they can bring are those they already have: opened bottles of wine, leftovers, lonesome carrots, limp greens and other odds and ends.
- Get your soup stock ready! Make your soup stock from leftovers – a chicken carcass and vegetable stocks can make incredible, nutrient-dense soup stocks. Try my recipe for roasted chicken soup stock. Not convinced? Check out the benefits of bone broth.
- Get your bread ready: soda bread, sprouted grain, sourdough, gluten-free or anything homemade.
- Season your broth with the herbs brought by your guests.
- Prepare and sautÃ©e the vegetables and other soup additions brought by your guests and then add them to the pot.
- Play cards, talk and celebrate as the soup simmers.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Celebrate your budget and don’t spend a single dime.
Check out the Pictures
Check out the videos:
This post is part of Foodbuzz’a 24 24 24. Foodbuzz 24 24 24 showcases 24 meals prepared by 24 food bloggers all across the globe within 24 hours. You might remember my participation last September’s Criminal Supper or last month’s Farmers Market Harvest Benefit. Don’t forget to add me as a friend on Foodbuzz.