20 unusual ways to save money: Eat soup

I'm eating leftover take-out wonton soup as I write this blog post about saving money by eating soup. Typical amount an office worker spends on lunch: $6.60. Cost of my soup: $1.50.

When I make soup from scratch, the cost per-portion is even less than that. I can dole out huge portions filled with vegetables, proteins and other amazing nutrients for virtually pennies a serving. I can go gourmet, ethnic or homey, all using the same basic ingredients twisted up different ways. I can do a fast soup in 15 minutes or a slow soup that takes a whole day. I can make soup so many ways that I could serve it every day for every meal and not run out of ideas for a long while. Even buying soup from a store or a restaurant is cheaper than buying other foods.

Oh, how many ways can I tout the cost-saving benefits of soup? Here are just 10.

1. Broth soups are filling and low in calorie, so much so they they are often touted as a dieting solution. See: the Good Housekeeping amazing soup diet, for just one. If you weigh less, you'll be healthier, spend less on doctor visits and medicines and you'll work more efficiently.

2. Soups freeze and thaw extremely well. You can make a huge batch (saving by buying ingredients in bulk and using less electricity to cook) and stock up your freezer, pulling out a few portions on a busy night and saving on that take-out bill.

3. Soups take care of leftovers, so you won't waste any food. Just throw whatever you have in the pot, and it will just incorporate into the mix, like leftover rice, a few stray vegetables or half a chicken breast.

4. Soups make cheap vegetables and meats taste great. Turnips? Beets? Whole Carrots? Stew beef? These are all things your family might sniff at on a plate, but in a bowl of soupy goodness? They're flavorful and fun.

5. Beans. Beans. Beans. Beans are good and cheap on a plate as well, but in soups they are even better. You can throw various kinds of beans into any soup, and beans make a good soup all on their own.

6. You can even eat soup for breakfast! Try this bacon and egg soup.

7. You can even eat soup for dessert! Chilled fruit soups make a wonderful sweet snack. Try some of these recipes.

8. Soup provides a thousand more uses for roast chicken. Take one roaster chicken, cook it, use the bones to make stock, then use the leftover meat to make various kinds of soup. You'll have a week full of complete, nutritious meals for pennies.

9 Try some unusual grains -- barley, quinoa, brown rice and couscous are all relatively inexpensive, but some of these are hard to season on their own and are a little nutty for the palates of most kids. But cook them in broth and you've got a winner almost all the time.

10. Soup is a great office lunch. Just grab a container and go. There's nothing to prepare in the morning, so you can just tuck a bowl of soup into your bag and head out for the day. You can even take a frozen container with you, and it will mostly thaw by lunch so all you have to do is stick it in the microwave for a few minutes. No more excuses about not having enough time to make lunch so you have to buy!

Got a favorite soup recipe? Share it with us below.

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