I eat soup year round. When made with plenty of meat and vegetables, it’s a tasty and filling meal in itself. For a long time I only cooked enough soup for the meal we were about to eat. Eventually, however, I realized that making soup in large batches is much more efficient. Although you have to spend a bit more time making a large initial batch, your reward is several meals worth of pre-made soup ready to be pulled out of the fridge and simply reheated whenever you’re hungry.
I realize that a “large” batch of soup is a relative term. For my family of two, I consider a large batch to be six to eight servings of soup. That amount keeps us going for three to four days of lunches. Depending on the size of your family, however, an eight serving pot of soup may only last you for two meals or less. To fully benefit from making a large batch, I would suggest increasing the amount of soup you make so it will feed you for at least three meals.
After making many, many batches of soup I’ve perfected my method. First, though, let me explain why I need a method: I don’t like random leftovers. I’m a big fan of make-ahead foods (what I would dub “planned leftovers”), but random leftover bits from various meals just don’t appeal to me. I tend to ignore them in the fridge until they go bad. Bad (and weird) habit, I know, so to get around it I deliberately plan for a certain number of meals worth of leftovers whenever I’m cooking for more than one meal. All leftovers are stored as distinct meals in my fridge or freezer. Because all the leftovers are substantial (and tasty) enough for an entire meal, I look forward to eating them instead of letting them go bad in my fridge.
My large batch method is based on the assumption that you will eat about the same amount of food every time you eat soup. This works well for Jesse and me. If we happen to be more hungry than usual, we supplement with other foods to fill out the meal. If you routinely experience varying appetites, however, you may find that another method may be a better fit for you.
Now that I’ve provided a little background, here’s how I simplify the process of making my large batches of soup:
1. First, decide how much soup you want to make. Your decision will depend on a variety of factors. The maximum amount you can make will be determined by how long you’re comfortable storing your soup in the fridge. Personally I’m comfortable eating soup that’s been refrigerated for a maximum of five days total. I suspect that this may be slightly longer than “official” food safety guidelines, however, so your preference may differ.
Once you know how long you can store your soup in the fridge, decide how often you want to eat soup over the next few days. I am perfectly fine eating the same soup for lunch every day for four days in a row. You may find this repetitive, however, and instead prefer to only eat it every other day. Or, maybe you want to go all out and have the same soup for multiple meals per day. Whatever you decide, plan out when you’ll be eating the soup and then use that information to figure out how many servings you’ll need to make.
If you miscalculate or something comes up such that you end up with leftover soup, freeze it for future use. I always freeze soup if I end up with extra, but I try to avoid freezing my soup otherwise as most of the soups I tend to make have much better texture when not frozen.
2. To save time while making your big pot of soup, keep some already prepped ingredients in your freezer. What you keep in your freezer will vary depending on what you like to have prepared ahead of time. I don’t mind chopping my veggies while I’m making the soup but I like to have my broth and meat all prepped and ready to go.
To avoid having to extensively defrost your prepared ingredients, always store them in the freezer already divided up into useful multiples of your typical serving size. I most often make a pot of soup consisting of six or eight servings so I store my meat as six or eight servings of diced or shredded meat in each container. You could easily store your meat as smaller or larger amounts, depending on the amount of soup you typically make. (To figure out a typical serving size, pay attention to how much meat you usually eat when eating a meal like roast chicken or pot roast, then estimate meat serving sizes for soup accordingly.) Similarly, freeze your broth in multiples of serving sizes. I use about one cup for a serving, so usually freeze in containers of two or four cups.
One you have these ingredients already prepared in your freezer, it’s super simple to just dump them directly into your cooking pot of soup. For broth, I find it works best to transfer it to the fridge the night before I want to make soup so it easily slides out of the container. (When I forget, I run some cold water over the container and the broth usually slides out just fine – but defrosting a bit first is simpler.) For meat, I simply take it out of the freezer and pop it out of the container and right into the soup.
Oh, and always remember to label your containers of prepared ingredients! Six servings of chicken looks very much like eight servings of chicken when it’s all smashed down into a container. I like my blue tape method for labeling containers in my freezer.
3. One you’re finished making your soup, store it in the fridge in appropriate multiples of serving sizes. This will look different depending on how you’ll be eating your soup. Jesse and I usually bring our soup to work so I store all of my soup as individual servings. This makes it easy to grab a serving from the fridge when you need it, rather than having to worry about scooping the right amount of soup out of a larger container. I find pint jars to be the right size for my servings. (Use a canning funnel for easy transfer of soup into jars!)
If you will be eating your soup at the same time as other family members, however, you may prefer to store your soup in containers that can hold two, three, four or however many servings you will need at a time.
Do you like soup? How do you prefer to make it – small batches or large? If you have any tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments!
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