Eating soup stretches your food dollars and is healthy to boot. Mixing in a pot of water whatever ingredients you have on hand is cheap and filling. It is possible soup has been around since the first pots could be placed over a fire. The word “soup” most likely derived from the bread one poured it over called “sop” or “sup”. Before that, soup was known variously as broth or pottage or even gruel (although now we think of gruel as being strictly a mashed cereal grain boiled in water).

Cultures came up with different approaches to soup depending on what was available locally. Borscht made from beets is from Russia. Bouillabaisse is a fish soup, from the port city of Marseille, France. Minestrone, made of fresh vegetables and beans, is from Italy. Scotch broth, made of mutton or lamb, root vegetables, and barley, is from Scotland. You will find there are soups specific to most locales.

There are two main classifications of soup: clear soups and thick soups. The French classifications of clear soups include bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are classified by their thickening agents. Purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch. Bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream. Cream soups use a béchamel sauce for thickening. Veloutés are thickened with butter, cream, and eggs. Soups can also be thickened with rice, flour, grains, lentils, mashed potatoes or puréed carrots.

In addition to being delicious, soups are also generally quite healthy. You do have to be careful about the sodium level in processed soups. Many manufacturers’ now offer lower salt level options. Salt caution aside, soups offer a filling meal often rich in vegetables (increasing fiber intake) and a high liquid level (perfect for keeping hydrated).

Augment canned or ready-to-eat soups by adding extra vegetables. Add a fried egg, slender slices of lunch meat, a sprinkle of green beans and green onions to Ramen to increase its nutritional value.

Often the most budget friendly option is to make your own soup. Soups are simple to make and are a good way to use any bits and pieces you have leftover from other meals. Freeze leftovers in freezer bags or containers marked with the date and the contents. When you are ready to make the soup, pull out these valuable leftovers for additions to your soup.

To make a pot of soup, pull out an 8-quart pot. Brown any uncooked meat and onions you will be using. Then add your leftovers, up to 4 cups of vegetables in any combination, a handful of noodles of any type, pour in up to 16 ounces of tomato in whatever form you have (puree, sauce, soup, diced, fresh), and add enough water to bring the mixture to within an inch of the pot’s brim. Sprinkle in spices. Try a tablespoon of an Italian mix, or teaspoon each of basil and oregano, and a quarter teaspoon of pepper (hot red or black as you prefer). Add a teaspoon of “Kitchen Bouquet” if you wish for extra flavor and a rich color. Stir in a teaspoon of “Better Than Bouillon” or salt. Bring to a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the noodles do not stick to the bottom. The flavors will meld beautifully.

Serve soup with a carbohydrate. I like to switch between corn bread, fresh bread, toast, and crackers. Add a serving of cheese, peanut butter, or tuna fish. Finish your meal with a piece of fresh fruit or a serving of canned fruit.

Eat a soup meal every day. You will find your food dollar goes further and you will also notice improvements in your overall health. “Like what?” you ask. Hydration. Hydration levels are improved because of the high amount of water in soup. Hydration affects how your body functions. Digestion works more smoothly, bowel movements become regular and easier. Proper hydration is also important to the functioning of the brain. Dehydration can lead to confusion, poor mental processing, forgetfulness, and other dementia-type symptoms. Generally, the lower calorie level of soup helps maintain ideal weight (cream-based soups should form only a small part of your soup regime). Soup also retains the vitamins and minerals which leach out during cooking, because the liquid the vegetables and meats are cooked in is eaten instead of being poured down the drain.

So, eat your healthful soup and be happy!

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