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The only thing I like more than frugal cooking is having it taste like it cost a fortune and took hours. This bean and ham soup was declared by my husband (and readers who emailed me) as the best soup ever, and it took very little hands on time. Can you see me doing the moon walk in the kitchen? Me, neither, but it’s a little funky and jazzy, though I won’t win any dance awards.
Cooking healthy wholesome food for my family, while maintaining a frugal budget, is one of my favorite things to do. I know many of you are in the same spot as I am. My aim over the next few months is to share my tips and tricks for keeping a food budget of $350 a month, with our favorite recipes, to help you and hopefully learn some new recipes.
Now, along with using common, healthy, and cheap inexpensive ingredients, it has to taste amazing, too. Because, hello, it doesn’t matter the cost or the health benefits if it doesn’t taste good. At least, that’s the way it rolls at my house with my family.
One of the best ways to create frugal meals is to cook a large piece of meat at the beginning of the week. I purchase whole chicken and hams when they’re on sale and freeze them. We raise our own grass fed beef, so I always have a good supply on hand, but you can read my tips for finding a good deal on grass fed beef here.
I cook the large portion of meat at the beginning of the week, typically Sunday’s for us. Then throughout the week, I prepare different meals from the meat, or freeze some for later use.
I’d cooked a ham a few weeks back and from one ham, we had almost a full weeks worth of meals, including lunches. I froze the ham bone with bits and pieces of ham still attached. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you can purchase meats with the bone still in, as you can then make bone broth or stock for future meals.
Bean and Ham Soup
This soup is hearty and filling, but still quite healthy. It can be prepared in a slow cooker or on the stove top, whatever your day allows for. I made mine in cast iron Dutch oven.
I use my home canned beans, so I don’t have to soak them the night before, but if you don’t have home canned beans (we grow heirloom beans and save the seed, so except for the cost of the canning lid, they’re free for us) then dried beans are usually cheaper to use. Soak them the night before in water.
Chop all of your vegetables up in fairly even size, so they cook evenly.
Put your ham bone in a large stock pot, Dutch oven, or slow cooker. Dump in all your vegetables. Now add the beans, undrained. Pour in 4 cups of water. Bring to a low simmer on the stove top. Allow to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every now and then. Once meat is falling off the bone, transfer bone to a plate. Using tongs, pick off any good chunks of meat remaining on the bone, and put meat back into soup. Add a dash of pepper and salt. Serve.
Cost break down estimates:
Ham bone= $3.00 (Total ham was 18lbs and cost $20)
Beans= Price of one canning lid $.10 or store bought dried beans 1/2 pound $.70
Onion & garlic=We grew it ourselves (how to grow garlic), store estimate $1
Total cost for bean and ham soup=$6.50, per serving $.54 Prices may vary where you live. These are estimates if you purchased everything out right. I try to purchase as many organic products as I can. My cost was less than listed above because I still have garlic, onions, and beans in our pantry from this year’s garden.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.