Bits and Pieces: Save Money with Soup and Broth Bags

I'm going to update this article as the first in a new category: Bits and Pieces. In these articles we'll explore ways to use leftover bits and pieces of this and that to save money. Winter is coming and we're all looking forward to healthy and hearty soups, so that's where we'll start.

What Is a Soup Bag?

When I was little, my mother had a bowl in the freezer. Plastics weren't big back then, but as soon as freezer-safe plastics came out, she used one of those, and then zipper freezer bags. Anyway, into this bag went every scrap of vegetables that were left over on our plates, along with leftovers that were not enough to feed all six family members. When it was full, it went into a pot with meat (we never had leftover meat), a ham hock or a couple of soup bones and became a meal.

Benefits of a Soup Bag

I started keeping a soup bowl/container/bag a long time ago. I go one step further and keep broth from boiled veggies and chicken as stock for the soup. It cuts down on waste and makes from some interesting vegetable soups, with a wide variety of veggies I wouldn't normally include in one made from scratch.

I like to add barley or brown rice to the soup too, but sometimes I just make it plain and make a pot of rice to add to individual servings. After all, you don't always want grains in your soup. You can add pasta if that is your preference, and it also stretches it quite a bit. Since there are so many different veggies in the soup -- even salad veggies sometimes (yes, you can cook lettuce -- it won't hurt you), it makes it extremely nutritional. The veggies stock water contains all the nutrients cooked out of the veggies it was used for, so you aren't tossing away vitamins and minerals. 

The Best Way to Start a Soup Bag

I like to start my soup bag by cooking a large pot of beans. I usually eat on them for a few days, but you get tired of beans, so I plop the rest of them into the new soup bag. If you have a family that never leaves anything on their plate, and you never have leftover, you can simply scoop out a soup ladle full of whatever you are cooking, cool it and add it to the bag before it hits the table. They won't starve for the lack of that little bit of whatever the dish is, and you'll have what you need for your soup.

Some people like to add the broth to the soup bag, and that works if you use a very large plastic container and don't put in more broth than veggies. Just remember that liquid expands when it freezes, so leave space at the top enough to accomodate that. This method is helpful in that you can just plop the whole thing into a pot, put it on low heat, and when it defrosts, it's done.

Living alone, I find it takes about a month to build a soup bag, but if you have a large family, it could definitely take less time. Cook up a nice cornbread to go with it, and you have a great meal that is already paid for!

The Broth or Stock Bag

Broth differs from stock only in that broth is seasoned and stock is not, so this can be used for both. If you want broth, simply season your stock to taste while cooking.

Bone broth has become popular now, and that's a great thing for your health and for saving money. You can either save your bones separately or you can put them in with the veggies in the broth bag. What goes into the broth bag? All those things you normally toss away or put into your compost pile:

  • tops and bottoms of carrots, celery and squash
  • potato peels and eyes
  • any kind of veggie peel
  • carrot greens (if you buy them with the tops)\
  • mushroom stems
  • onion and shallot skins
  • herb stems and leaves
  • and whatever else you cut off of your veggies and herbs while you're cooking. Don't included yellow or diseased bits for obvious health reasons.
You can also add bits and pieces of cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, kale, collards, mustard, cabbage, etc., but they can make a broth bitter, so it's best to keep them in their own bag and add in small amounts.

When you have enough in your broth bag, you simply put it into a pot of water enough to cover the bits and bring to a boil, turn it down to low and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.

Storing Your Broth or Stock

I have a sort of labor-intensive way of storing broth that you may not want to bother with, but it does save space. I pour my broth into ice cube trays and let them get just frozen to the slush stage. I then put the slush into freezer bags, flatten them out and stack them in the freezer. If you only have your refrigerator freezer, this saves a lot of space.

Don't forget to mark your containers with the name and date so you'll know what you have and when to use it. I like to use freezer tape for plastic containers and since I reuse zipper bags, I also use it to cover the former names on those.

How do you use bits and pieces of food to save money in the kitchen? Share your frugal tips in the comments.


  1. What an excellent idea!!! I don't think mom ever did that. She was more of the store the leftovers in the fridge until they morph into something unrecognizable and then discard. :) Thank you for sharing that!!

  2. This is a great idea. I'm going to start today.

  3. Great idea! I have actually been doing this for about 20 years. Read it in a cooking article in the weekend paper. More people should do this. It nakes excellent soup or stock & very cheaply.


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