You may already know the folk tale of Stone Soup: A hungry traveler comes to town with an empty pot, fills it with water, drops a stone in it, and tells the villagers he will make delicious soup with just the stone...all the soup needs is "a few garnishes", which the villagers happily provide. In the end, there's enough soup to feed everyone, and it only took a few odds and ends from each person.
You can take the same, effective approach to making your own version of Stone Soup. A favorite move of mine is to save all my carrot tops, celery ends and lettuce bits, then boil them with a little onion and garlic to make a delicious veggie scrap stock. I'll often buy a whole chicken rather than just the breast, so I can make soup from the carcass. It's not just a way to save money by making your own organic stock; using every part of your food is undeniably less wasteful. (Bonus: It also makes you feel pretty clever.)
As for Stone Soup, you can easily turn a basic broth into a meal, even if your cupboards are pretty bare. Beans, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, squash, rice, homemade croutons and a few good spices -- there's no science to it, but you'll quickly learn what tastes best together.
The Basic Technique
In a large soup pot, saute chopped onions, carrots and garlic, then add broth or water. Bring the pot to a boil, then throw in any vegetables that need cooking, add seasonings as desired, and let the soup simmer. Add your more tender veggies near the end (zucchini, greens, tomatoes), cooked beans, and serve the soup over noodles or rice, with cheese or croutons on the top. Easy, right?
I've always held the belief that creativity leads kids to become better cooks as they grow up, because like the Stone Soup story shows us, through an imaginative perspective we can learn how to improvise and make a recipe all our own. Have fun, get creative and enjoy the fact that you can make a delicious, healthy dinner without spending much money!
Should you desire a bit more guidance, model your stone soup after this home-style minestrone, Mom's chicken soup or a scrumptiously simple vegan vegetable soup -- or experiment with a traditional Portuguese recipe. Enjoy, you clever cook, you!