February 22

Soup Soup Soup

I’ve been determined to make up copious amounts of freezer meals for us so I’m 100% less likely to want to dine out when I’ve had a long day at work, or I just lack all inspiration to cook. I start to make a list of freezable meals – not just the same crappy crock pot meals you see over and over throughout all the blogs out there – and when I get to a nice set, I bail on the idea because 1. omg so much money at once, and 2. omg all that work. I realize that you have to expend a little time, energy, and effort to make life easier down the road, but the very idea of doing so at that moment was overwhelming and it never happened. However, I decided over the weekend that I was going to do it. I was going to pull up my big girl pants and forge ahead. But my focus would be on soups. As everyone knows, soup is easy, hearty, filling, and sometimes really good for you. At the very least, it soothes the soul and makes life infinitely better. At least that’s how we feel in this house. I’ve claimed in the past that I have to be in the mood for soup. Thing is, if I have a freezer full of it, and I’ve come home late from work, I don’t care what I’m eating. If it just needs to be thrown into a pot, I’m gonna eat it. I know The Fellow™ would gladly oblige, too. Especially since I make excellent soups. ;)

I started thinking about the types of soup we like to eat. Very obviously we needed more Portuguese bean soup. We could use another chili, as there’s only one bag left in the basement freezer. Recently, I made a corn and potato chowder (using minimal amount of heavy cream, no less!), and a potato leek soup that were both so good and reheated incredibly easy and well. On to the list those went. But those weren’t enough! We need more! I decided on a minestrone, or just a heavy vegetable soup. And then there was the elusive hamburger vegetable soup my mom made in bulk throughout my entire childhood and I could never get my hands on the recipe. Mainly because any time I asked for it, I was driving or in a place where I couldn’t write everything down, and my mom would forget to e-mail it to me. I finally secured the damn thing earlier this week, however, and I was quite the happy camper. Lastly, I wanted a ham and bean soup. Plain, simple, and filling. Those seven were my go-to easy peasy choices.

grocery haul

It begins!

The next step was writing out all the ingredients (not including things like seasonings, water, and other basics I didn’t need to buy). The list was long. Extremely long. 4 cans of this. 18 cups of chicken stock. 12-15 potatoes. A dozen carrots. I won’t bore you with the rest, but you get the point. I even went so far as to divvy up my shopping list into PRODUCE, DAIRY, MEAT, CANNED… just so I knew when I walked down that particular aisle or through that section, that I wouldn’t miss a vegetable that had been sandwiched between smoked sausage and heavy cream. I’m notorious for that crap. Plus, I like my lists to be neat and tidy. Call me anal.

After hitting up two different grocery stores – one to get only vegetables, as they have much better produce, and the other for canned stuff and meat products – and about three hours later, I had spent roughly $75 on all the groceries for 7 different soups. Not bad, if I do say so myself. I got it all out of the car, loaded onto the kitchen counter, and photographed, for posterity sake.

Hamburger Vegetable bulkMinestrone bulkI knew that I had the rest of the shopping day to make at least one of the soups, which was Wednesday. I had to work a full, long day on Thursday, and then I would have Friday and Saturday available to do the rest. Three a day, if I’m so lucky, or so inclined, I guess I should be saying. Seeing as how I oddly don’t like having hamburger meat just sitting in the fridge for more than a day (my response is to always throw it in the freezer immediately, unless I’m using it that night – don’t ask me why), I figured the hamburger vegetable would be the first to be annihilated. While working on that concoction, I busied myself with prepping other vegetables for the days to follow. Celery chopped, carrots peeled and wrapped in a wet paper towel to retain its moisture and keep it from going rubbery, diced the bell pepper, diced the leeks, shredded the cabbage (plus we were having a cabbage based dinner that same night, that wasn’t soup) – everything I could do so my Friday would be infinitely easier.

Portuguese Bean bulkI’m so glad I did that much prep. It helped out immensely on Friday. I started my ham and bean soup base at 10 Friday morning. I finally finished making that one, two batches of Portuguese bean, and the kale and quinoa minestrone at 4:45. I imagine I’d have gone further into the evening had I not prepped everything on Wednesday night. Keep that in mind for when you ever decide to do meal planning like this. Prep helps. More than you’ll ever realize if you don’t do it.

Ham Bean bulkSaturday’s productivity was pretty awesome and a cinch compared to the other two days. It consisted of setting up two crock pots and my soup pot on the stove top, filling them with the appropriate ingredients, and letting heat and time do their thing. It was nice to end this endeavor on a light note. Every last container of soup went into the basement freezer. I know the next time I open it to rummage through, I’m going to be blown away at just how much I produced. I’m pretty damn proud to have gone through this whole thing and ended up with 7 delicious soups, no mess-ups, and a total of 34 meals for the future. We’ll demolish them by summer, I guarantee it.

So now that this is over and done with, what’s the next step?

I couldn’t even begin to tell you, but I bet it’ll be as fun as this was; and no, you don’t detect a bit of sarcasm in that statement. I truly had a wonderful time doing this project, just like when I set out to make my friend a bunch of freezer meals two years ago to help her out. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy being in the kitchen, even if things get a little messy and stressful once in awhile. At least if things go south in the privacy of my own home, I can yell and curse like a sailor and throw things and not have to worry about who might be within earshot. Except for the dog. He gets worried when I get angry at inanimate objects…