Making soup from leftovers is one of the best ways to save money on food. You can get an entire meal out of the bits and pieces you have in the fridge! And it’s SO EASY, and you can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Just add some bread or toast or crackers or chips or a salad — or nothing! Soup made with leftovers is always a good meal in and of itself, because it usually has all the food groups altogether in one bowl! LOL!
Here’s how to do it. First we’ll go over the simple instructions; then I’ll explain about some variations or options you can incorporate. (BTW, this recipe is mentioned in briefer form in my ebook called 30+ Ridiculously Easy Dinners for Busy Families on a Budget. In there I give you simple instructions for making all sorts of meals, from kid faves to nicer ones you could serve to guests. You can get it for yourself by clicking here: Yes, I want new ideas for easy dinners!)
How to Make Soup from Leftovers
1) Find all the leftovers you have in the fridge. A little bit of veggies, a little bit of meat, maybe some beans, rice, chili, casserole, or spaghetti — whatever is in there, bring it all out.
2) Throw them all in a soup pot. Totally serious! If you’re worried that some of them might not go well together, you can pick and choose to make a more personally pleasing combination. But I usually just use them all!
Beans and pasta can really exist in the same spoonful, y’all. As can beef and chicken. That casserole that has multiple ingredients all mashed together — they will separate in the soup and provide lotsa yummy flavor. It’s all good!
3) Use a measuring cup to add enough water to the pot to cover the leftovers and then some. Count how many cups it takse to do this. How much you use beyond covering the food is up to whether you want a more broth-y soup or a more stew-y soup. Or whether you want to make a lot or a little. This is NOT an exact science; add as much as you want. Just be sure to count. :-)
4) Add bouillon. If your protein is mostly chicken or fish or light-colored beans, use chicken bouillon. If it’s mostly beef or darker beans, use beef bouillon. (Vegetable bouillon is also an option, but I don’t keep that on hand and don’t really know what it tastes like.)
Add enough bouillon to account for how many cups of water you used. Look on the bouillon label — it will tell you how much to use per cup of water. Usually one cube or one teaspoon, if it’s powdered.
Here’s my personal favorite bouillon, because it’s made with real stuff and isn’t as processed as the cubes or powder. And it’s gluten free, which is always something I look for (referral link):
5) Heat it to boiling, then turn it down to simmer for awhile — doesn’t have to be any longer than 15 minutes or so, if you are using all leftovers. They have been cooked already, so all that needs to happen is to get everything heated through and the bouillon dispersed throughout.
The longer you let it simmer, though, the longer the flavors will have to meld, and that’s when you get some really good soup. Just sayin’. :-)
Keep an eye on it as it simmers, and if it looks like the liquid is going down too far, just add some more water. No need to add more bouillon.
6) Add spices for more flavor, if you want. Salt and pepper are always a good idea — although bouillion does have a lot of salt already, so be careful with that one. Basil, oregano, garlic, onion powder, curry, etc. are all possibilities. Maybe even a dash of paprika or cayenne. Live a little!
OK, so that’s the basic process for making soup from leftovers. Here are some questions you may be having:
1) What if I don’t have enough leftovers?
Here you have two options.
a) Just make a very simple soup and use a lot of water, to make it more of a broth-y soup.
b) add something else that you cook right now. For instance, you could boil some pasta or rice to add some bulk.
Don’t cook these IN the soup, because they will soak up lots of broth as they get soft. So just grab a separate pot, make your pasta or rice as you usually do, to do it, and when it’s cooked and drained, then just add it to the soup.
More veggies is also another option — these you CAN cook right in the soup itself.
Or a can of beans or diced tomatoes or whatever else might be in the pantry.
2) What if I have turkey broth in the freezer that I made from my Thanksgiving carcass?
(Or any other type of broth, for that matter — even in cans you buy from the store.)
This is totally fine; use this instead of the water. But still count how much you put in there; and still add bouillon, because broth isn’t very flavorful. But in this case, only add about half the amount of bouillon that you would if it were plain water. You can adjust to taste.
3) How do I make a creamy soup?
Just add some milk or cream during the simmering portion. Easy!
4) How do I make a thicker soup?
Part of doing this is adding less water; the other part is thickening the liquid that is there.
To do this, you can use cornstarch or flour (rice flour works, too, for you gluten-free types such as myself). Take a couple tablespoons of the cornstarch/flour and mix it with cold water in a small glass, so that it forms a white liquid with no lumps. Then stir this into your boiling pot of soup.
If it doesn’t thicken enough, do the same thing again. Sometimes I have to do this 3-4 times, depending on how much liquid I’m trying to thicken, but it shouldn’t take more than that. Usually once or twice is enough.
5) Does it really taste good?
Yep, it really does. The bouillon provides much of the flavor, and the other ingredients all pitch in for what is often a surprisingly pleasing combination. You’ll have to try it to believe me — and if you end up hating it when you’re done, at least it’s only leftovers, that may very well have gotten thrown away, anyway.
One really helpful thing to do is save all the bits and pieces from previous meals in the freezer. Have one ziploc for veggies and another for meats. Then you can truly make soup any time! No need to defrost them first; just dump ’em in the pot and cover with water as described above — they will thaw as the water heats up.
No bouillon? In a pinch I have been known to use Ramen noodle seasoning packets… :-)
I always feel sorry for people who don’t eat leftovers. They are wasting a wonderful resource that can save money and provide a yummy, comforting meal! Try it tonight!
This has been an AnnieThing. An AnnieThing is a simple tip that helps life run more smoothly. Because we can all use a little “more smoothly” going on!
- Episode 81: Communicating with Teenagers - July 1, 2022
- Episode 80: Gena Mayo Shares Her Best Advice for Homeschooling High School - June 17, 2022
- Episode 79: Granting Autonomy to Your Homeschooled Teen - June 3, 2022