Frugal NationFrugal Nation

What's for dinner? Garbage soup

Don't throw out that dab of mashed potatoes or quarter-cup of corn. Repurpose even tiny amounts of leftovers into future meals.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 19, 2012 11:56AM
Logo: Woman cooking (Ableimages, Lifesize, Getty Images)Big holiday meals mean lingering holiday leftovers, some of which never seem to get finished up. Raise your hand if you had containers of unidentified foodlike objects in your fridge for a week or more past Thanksgiving.

(And if you still have them? Eeewww. Go clean them out right now.)

There's a better way to deal with dabs of mashed potatoes or a few spoonfuls of green beans. When life hands you leftovers, make "garbage soup."

Designate a jar, container or freezer bag for foods left over from a meal that you think will be forgotten in the fridge: the last few bites of corn, an eighth of a cup of gravy, the rice from the bottom of the pot, scraps of meat left from carving the roast or the chicken.

When the bags are full, pour some stock (homemade or store-bought) and seasonings into a pan. Add canned tomatoes or tomato puree if you want. Simmer this mixture for 15 or 20 minutes, then add the contents of the freezer bags. Heat thoroughly, adjust the seasonings, and dinner is served.

Frugal twice over

This potage de garbage is always rich and interesting because of the sheer variety of ingredients. It's never the same dish twice, though, because of that variety.
But it's frugal every time, for two reasons:
  • "Not enough to save" bits of food that would otherwise have been thrown out are instead turned into a hot meal.
  • Knowing the makings are on hand might keep you from ordering a pizza. After all, it takes about as long to wait for a delivery as it does to make the soup.
This tactic also works during the non-holiday season, of course. Any time there's a dab of this or that, toss it in the freezer.

Or maybe more than a dab: If you've eaten leftover chicken, potatoes and vegetables three nights in a week and there's still enough for another meal, there's no reason you can't turn it into future soup. Better that than setting it aside for "later" and having the leftovers turn into a science experiment in a far corner of the fridge.

More on MSN Money:

Dec 19, 2012 3:35PM
Dec 20, 2012 5:07AM

I am a batch cook so I generally freeze anything over 2 servings and use a week (or 3 or 6) later.


However, Wed I took all the stem pieces from 3 stalks of broccoli (that I do NOT like to eat as a veg) covered with chicken bouillon, added spices (minced onion, parsley…..) and made myself some broccoli soup.  Add some powdered mile to make it cream of.

Dec 20, 2012 6:28PM
very small left overs can often be include in the next omelet or frittata, if you have kids you can also "hide" veggies in pancakes and waffles or throw them in muffin batter before you cook them, juyst chop them up or mash them up good.  Actually you can hide them in a smoothy too!
Jan 21, 2013 10:12AM

Being vegetarian, I start my "garbage soup" with sauteed onions, garlic, etc. then a good base of dried beans or peas. When those are nearly cooked, I kick into action and go through every left over, frozen or otherwise, and every vegetable left over or soon to be, in my freezer and crispers! It is amazing how filling and delicious, not to mention healthy, that this type of soup can be! My last batch was topped off with a small frozen portion of left over mashed squash from Thanksgiving! I was thrilled to find it in the freezer, even two months later.

It was too small a portion to serve conventionally to a family, but it finished off the soup perfectly!

There is no sense whatsoever in throwing out good, healthy and still edible food, not to mention the savings.

Go fot it!

Jan 10, 2013 8:52PM
I live alone but I still have a problem with food. I try to be frugal but it isn't always easy to do.  I do have a lot of leftovers and I try to use them up but I still have food to toss.  I can eat leftovers for just so long in spite of the fact that I freeze and try to make soups etc which soup is my favorite.  I freeze a lot and try to keep up with it, but it isn't easy.. 
Jan 8, 2013 11:04AM
I have been doing this for years. My favorite is saving all the bits of meat in one package then when it is full I make  a crock pot full of chili.
Jan 11, 2013 2:31PM
My brother does this and calls it "Stuff"
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.