Five-Dollar Soup: Eating Cozy on a Budget

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Five-dollar soup with enough to feed an army (or at least a hungry family)? Is that even possible? Read on and we’ll show you it’s not only so, but it can be incredibly nutritious as well.

When the temperatures start to drop, so does my motivation for cooking. It doesn’t seem as enticing to stand over the stove making “real” meals with actual substance when I could just curl up on my couch with my cats and order takeout every other day…

But then inspiration struck. 

I had what seemed like no groceries. Maybe half a bag of flour, condiments, and spices, and a ton of canned and dry goods that I’m saving for the apocalypse. Then I spotted the little red and white Campbell’s can full of roasted red pepper cooking soup, and right next to it a bag of dried lentils. I brought it out to my kitchen and stared at them for a solid 5 minutes thinking “How do I make you taste better than you actually are?”

I wanted something cheap, comforting, and easy as can be. And I managed to do that by using most of the things that people will have or could easily substitute. Like red or yellow onions, instead of green, or you could use a tomato base or squash even, instead of red peppers if that’s more your style. You can even roast your own peppers in the oven if they’re getting a little squishy in the fridge, and puree them yourself instead of using the canned soup concentrate. It’s all part of the Ultimate Frugal Soup Formula philosophy.

Why did I choose lentils? 

They are a fantastic source of protein, fiber, and vitamins as well as being beyond cheap at less than a dollar for a pound of them. AND one cup of dry lentils is equal to about 1 pound of ground beef for substitutions in recipes. In my area, organic ground beef is going from about $5/pound to $9/pound at grocery stores. So, I can make a whole meal for $5, or I can spend more than $5 on meat ALONE. Why would I do that when I could use lentils as a substitute for almost any recipe that calls for ground beef?

Not to mention all of the great points a fellow writer mentioned in her article here

You’re talking about a fantastic little green legume filled to the brim with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory goodies, and some studies are even showing that they may play a big role in helping those with diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels. And this isn’t even beginning to get into the nitty-gritty of how lentils can help to improve one’s heart health.

When you choose a lentil, you’ve chosen a winner.

Roasted Red Pepper Lentil Soup Ingredients

Well, let’s be honest, who doesn’t use onions and garlic as a base for the majority of their meals? You can use any onion, scallion, leek, whatever that aligns with that general flavor profile. I think they add a lot of depth to dishes and can look really pretty sprinkled over the top as well. 

I’m using roasted red pepper cooking soup because that’s what I found in my cabinet and I didn’t have any tomatoes or peppers to roast and puree myself. The same goes for the canned veggies, you could easily throw in fresh chopped carrots, celery, or tomatoes, and a couple of semi-freezer burnt vegetables as well. The mix I had on hand contained carrots, celery, lima beans, potatoes, corn, green beans, and peas. 

I reached for coconut oil instead of olive or canola oil because – you guessed it – it’s all I had. BUT it seriously complemented the sweetness of the bell peppers and subdued (without eliminating) the spice of the red pepper flakes.

In total, if I were going to the store to get everything (except for cooking oil and the seasonings), I would be spending $4.81 and it fed two neighbors, my partner, and myself, and left us with about two servings of leftovers. 

Here’s the price breakdown:
  • $1 for lentils 
  • $1.50 for Roasted red pepper cooking soup 
  • $0.43 for one head of garlic
  • $1 for a pack of green onions 
  • $0.20 for 1 vegetable flavored bouillon cube 
  • $0.68 for a can of mixed veggies

How to Assemble Five-Dollar Soup

Here’s how to make it.

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil 
  • About 5 green onions (or one small red onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can of roasted red pepper cooking soup
  • 1 can drained mixed veggies
  • 1 cup dried and rinsed lentils 
  • 1 vegetable flavored bouillon cube
  • 2-4 cups of water 
  • seasonings of your choice (I used roughly 1 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, salt + pepper to taste, ½ tbsp oregano,1 tbsp parsley, and a few dashes of a cajun seasoning mix.)
  1. Turn the burner on medium-low heat, and add oil. Chop up onion and garlic finely and add onion to the pot and move around until soft, then add garlic. Stir until fragrant and drop the heat to low.
  2. Add your seasonings of choice to the pot and stir so they’re covered in the oil. Let those hang out for about 3 minutes and add your water and bring to a low boil. (If you’re adding fresh or frozen vegetables you can throw them in now, but if you’re using canned wait until closer to the end.)
  3. Once your water is just barely boiling, add your bouillon cube and can of red pepper soup. When the flavors have fully combined, throw in your lentils. This website recommends a gentle simmer for your lentils so they don’t get too squishy.
  4. After about 15-20 minutes, your lentils should be almost all the way cooked. You can now add your mixed vegetables, and keep the pot covered on the stove for an additional 10 minutes so that all of the flavors can combine. 
  5. You obviously HAVE to do a taste test, and add more water or let it simmer for longer for your desired soup consistency. Or throw in more spices or seasonings if you think it needs more!

Serve with a slice of crusty bread like focaccia, or roasted vegetables, and enjoy! You can also double the batch to throw some in the freezer. It will last for about 4 days in the fridge, and 2 months in the freezer.

And that’s all there is to it! Voila! Five-dollar soup!

What do you think?

Looking for other five-dollar soup recipes? Check out some of our other frugal soup ideas here. And while you’re at it, check out Daisy Luther’s Flat Broke Cookbook: Thrifty Meals and Shopping Tips for Tough Times.

What are your thoughts on the recipe? Are there other five-dollar soup recipes you have tried and recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

Five-Dollar Soup: Eating Cozy on a Budget

5 thoughts on “Five-Dollar Soup: Eating Cozy on a Budget”

  1. Wonderful!! Love it!! Love lentils n red peppers, so this is right up my alley. I m gonna try it this weekend.
    Thank you so much!!

  2. Good idea subbing lentil for ground beef. Any spice ratios you recommend to get it to taste more like ground beef? Since they can be bland.

  3. I often don’t bother to saute my vegetables – just chop and throw in pot. It does need to cook longer that way, but I like my soup well cooked so that doesn’t bother me. I do like the idea of a red pepper base and I have a jar of fire roasted peppers that needs to be used up, so I can see this soup coming my way in the near future!

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