We are deep into zucchini season now, and my monster is still pumping out 3-5 lbs of fruit a week. At last count we had 24 pounds stashed in the freezer. As nice as it is to have an enormous supply of garden fresh vegetables ready to cook into something delicious, I find it even more helpful to have my freezer stocked with meals I have already prepared.
Which would you rather have in your freezer?
[An aside: To get those nice, neat bags of soup I use a vacuum sealer. I find they do a great job removing all the air from the bag, preserving the quality of the food while frozen. I freeze them flat on a cookie sheet and then stand them up for space-efficient and organized storage. I also love the convenience of being able to quickly defrost one of these in a sink of cold water. It’s much faster than rigid containers. Vacuum sealers are definitely a useful kitchen tool if you do a lot of freezer cooking, as I do.]
Last fall I made a number of different soups using seasonal vegetables (e.g., broccoli, sweet potato, split pea, corn chowder) and I found they froze and reheated very well. [In fact, I may or may not have just served my family, including in-laws, some from Christmas. I know, I know. That’s why I’m doing the $200 grocery challenge (see a future post on this). It was urgently needed for numerous reasons.] Anyhow, now that last year’s soups are mostly cleared out, I thought it would be nice to restock the freezer, this time with zucchini soup.
I tried two different recipes and really enjoyed both (and will again in the months to come as we eat them out of the freezer in a timely manner). I followed recipes I found on the internet (links to follow below), and the only alteration I made was to triple the recipes. This resulted in longer cooking times, but it was otherwise seamless.
To put my own spin on it, I calculated the cost per serving of each recipe in an effort to begin to estimate the value of my harvest (see a future post on this, too). Not surprisingly, making soup from homegrown vegetables and homemade broth is extremely economical. Interestingly though, one recipe cost nearly twice the other due to the copious amounts of garlic required. I think you’ll find that neither will break the bank even if you had to purchase the zucchini. At our local farmer’s market, organic zucchini is $1/lb this time of year, making each soup well under a dollar per serving.
The broth is another story. Having to purchase that alone would more than double the cost of making these soups, which helps explain the desperate measures I took to avoid buying stock-in-a-box. Below I’ll show you the breakdown. Come geek out with me for a moment, and then check out the links to the recipes and my confessional about how I made the broth at the bottom. Or jump there now if you can’t wait. But be warned, we economists have a special term for impatience and we study how it’s costing you money. You might wanna get that checked out. Just sayin’.
One last note about the broth. I used chicken and vegetable broth for both recipes, but these could easily be made vegan by using vegetable broth instead.
Garlic Zucchini Soup
My cooking notes: I made a triple batch. Cooking time was higher due to volume. Soup thickens nicely as it cools so don’t worry if it looks too thin initially.
Yield: 17 cups
Cost per serving (1c): $0.40 ($1.31 with purchased zucchini and broth)
*Cost estimates are based on what I paid for my mostly organic ingredients, the price of zucchini at my local farmer’s market right now, and a quarter of a case of Pacific brand organic chicken broth from Amazon (available here, if you’re interested), which had the best price I found.
Curried Zucchini Soup
My cooking notes: I made a triple batch. Cooking time was higher due to volume. Soup thickens nicely as it cools so don’t worry if it looks too thin initially. Next time try adding curry powder along with the onions, as most recipes instruct. Also, try replacing some broth with coconut or almond milk for a richer flavor.
Yield: 19 cups
Cost per serving (1c): $0.22 ($1.04 with purchased zucchini and broth)
*Cost estimates are based on what I paid for my ingredients, the price of zucchini at my local farmer’s market right now, and a quarter of a case of Pacific brand organic chicken broth from Amazon (available here, if you’re interested), which had the best price I could find.
Partway into making the first soup I realized I had botched the math (apparently when you do differential equations too long your basic arithmetic can get rusty!) and had on hand only a fraction of the broth I needed to make both recipes. In an über frugal move, I recycled the broth from a cabbage soup I had made in March (?) when my husband and I decided to do a 3-day cleanse designed by Dr. Oz, which I had read about in Oprah’s magazine months earlier. I’m not sure why, but we had an extra quart of the soup leftover, which I froze and promptly forgot about. Well, sort of. I knew it was there, but while quite delicious, it had the pall of diet food cast over it. Not so appealing when there’s clam chowder to be had! Never mind that it’s 8 months old.
Anyhow, I dumped those four sad blocks of diet soup into a stock pot, added water, dried herbs, and the year-old odds and ends I had saved for making broth (e.g., mushroom stems, corn cobs, celery hearts – all frozen of course) and simmered the heck out of it. With the aid of a fine mesh strainer, I eventually had the other 5 quarts of broth I needed for the two triple-batch recipes.
Please note that my time estimate on these soups does not include this particular side project as I’m sure you will acquire broth through more sensible means. However, the cost estimate does reflect the fact that the broth was essentially free. I urge you to make your own broth to have on hand at times like these, and would be happy to provide instructions on how normal people do that in a future post. Stay tuned.