Fall is soup season, and here are six ways to make the most of it without breaking the bank.

Jessica Ball, M.S., R.D.
September 06, 2020
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Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

As the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to turn (which is an amazing spectacle here in Vermont), I have learned that letting go of summer and surrendering to fall can have its perks. Comfortable sleeping temps, pumpkin-flavored everything and ample fall produce are all hallmarks of this time of transition. And what better to do with all of that produce than dive headfirst into soup season? Making soup from scratch is a great way to use up your late summer bounty and newly in-season veggies, like butternut and acorn squash, and can cut down on packaging waste, too. Skip the store-bought versions that can be full of added sodium and excess packaging and instead try some of my favorite soups that you should be making, not buying. 

6 Soups You Should Be Making, Not Buying

Chicken noodle 

Talk about comfort food: this is one soup that is long touted as being good for the soul. Chicken soup is a childhood classic and a calming meal when you feel unsettled. Full disclosure, I have some on the stove right now. Though the classic can of Campbell’s at the store may be tempting, there are a lot of reasons to make this beloved dish from scratch. 

First of all, you can make a super nutritious and flavorful broth if you save your veggie scraps for homemade veggie stock. Bonus: this helps you cut down on food waste while boosting flavor. Canned soups can be loaded with added sodium. A can of traditional Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup has 1,185 mg sodium, compared to our recipe with 560 mg for the same 1 ½ cup portion. Also, when you make soup from scratch you can add (or omit) foods to get the flavor exactly how you like it. Plus, it can take just 30 minutes or can simmer all day until you’re ready to eat. We have chicken-noodle recipes ranging from a Mediterranean Slow-Cooker version to Classic Chicken Noodle Soup—the world is your oyster. 

Tomato 

At this point in the summer, you may be experiencing tomato fatigue. I get it. Though there are one of the things I look forward to most as my garden begins to flourish, there is only so much caprese I can eat. So what better way to use up this flavorful veg in mass than homemade tomato soup? This can be done as gazpacho, which can be enjoyed cold if you are still uninterested in turning on the stove, or served hot. The leftovers can even be frozen and saved so you can enjoy the flavors of summer even in the coldest winter months. 

Tomato soup can be made quickly in just 30 minutes, or simmered all day in a slow cooker. The more time you have, the deeper and richer the flavor will be. Plus, our Tomato Soup recipe has 125 fewer milligrams of sodium per serving than a typical can of store bought tomato soup. Make it a meal with our grilled cheese croutons—you can thank me later. 

Butternut squash 

Shifting gears a little bit, fall has plenty of delicious produce of its own to celebrate, and butternut squash could be the heavyweight champ. Butternut squash is packed with fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C that can help you stay healthy and nourished as the seasons change. It also can be made into a delicious, creamy vegan-friendly soup if you sub in coconut milk for cream. Roast it, put it on the stove or simmer it in a slow cooker. This versatile veg goes with a variety of flavors, so play around with the spices to try something new. 

Creamy Mushroom 

Canned cream of mushroom soup may be a staple for casseroles and the holiday season, but on its own it can leave a little to be desired. Enter homemade Creamy Mushroom Soup. Our recipe has 462 mg sodium per a two cup serving, compared to the 1,712 mg in store bought (that’s almost 75% of the daily recommended amount). Also, this is a great way to try out local wild mushrooms in your region, if you want to try something new. Though making this dish from scratch may not be as affordable as buying it prepared, it is well worth it for the flavor and nutrition boost if you have the means. Try one of our warming mushroom soup recipes to see for yourself. 

DIY Instant Noodles 

Though homemade instant noodles are no substitute for authentic ramen noodles (go support a local restaurant near you to get that), these recipes are a healthier alternative when you’re in a pinch. Compared to brand name Cup O’ Noodles, these DIY recipes slash the sodium and pack in veggies and protein, like eggs and tofu. This will help keep you nourished and full for longer, and you can even meal prep them for grab-and-go lunches all week long. 

Chili 

Ever since I was young, I’ve had an affinity for chili. Beef? Chicken? Vegetarian? Sure. This could be attributed to the family chili cook-offs my Mom would always host, or my admiration for one-pot meals. Regardless, chili is absolutely a soup you should be making from scratch. Whether it’s game day or you’re simply in need of something hearty and cozy, chili is full of protein, fiber and nutrients, so your body will thank you now and later. As a bonus, this is truly a meal that is better the next day as leftovers

Bottom Line 

As we all start to embrace the fall and cooling temps, soup is one thing that can make the days a little warmer. Making these soups from scratch will help you boost flavor and nutrition while cutting down on packaging waste. Plus, all of these soups can be frozen so you can enjoy the fresh flavors of in-season produce all year long. So return to the stove with enthusiasm, let's make some soup.