Frugal Vegetarian French Onion Soup
I love this month’s The Recipe ReDux Challenge “Budget-Friendly Eats” because it hits the right tone: money is tight in many households, and feeding a family regular healthy meals is a challenge. How low in cost can we go to make a meal for less than $3 a serving?
Less than 3$ a serving?
How about less than $3 a meal? (Note that I bought the ingredients in euros and converted to dollars. Centimes is euros is the same as cents in dollars. 100 centimes = 1 euro. )
Yes we can~! And I did this by using onions, one of my favorite ‘budget’ foods (a kilogram, 2.2 pounds of onions is 0.89 centimes/0.96 cents), to make a traditional frugal warm comfort food soup, the one you know as “French Onion Soup”. Onions are a prebiotic food, they keep our gut flora friendly. When eaten raw, onions contain lots of sulfur compounds. Hint-that is good-onions are one of the top power foods, here’s why.
To make it nutritionally balanced, the soup is topped with crusty French bread and cheese, two other budget foods. I added a green salad as the first course (this is my trick on how I get my kids to eat their daily greens), and sliced apples for dessert. This added to the total costs (a head of green lettuce is 0.79 centimes /0.85 cents), but the apples are also a bargain at 1.25 euros a kilogram (1.35 dollars a kilogram) or about 0.60 centimes a pound (0.64 cents).
I share with you my favorite way to make Vegetarian French Onion Soup served with day-old crusty bread and melted cheese. You could easily feed 4 adults with this French Onion Soup, each serving costs less than 0.75 centimes/0.80 cents. This recipe is adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen, (The 40th anniversary is out now) The Moosewood Cookbook: 40th Anniversary Edition, an oldie but goodie ‘must have’ if you cook vegetarian.
My notes when feeding kids: You might think that kids don’t like onions, this is true if they are raw or strong onions, but the onions in this soup caramelize and get soft and sweet. As my 15 year-old son told his apprehensive-I don’t like onions younger sister last night “You don’t even think they are onions, they taste so different.” I topped my soup with toasted bread and melted cheese. I like the taste of the bread soaking in. My kids wanted the cheese bread on the side because they prefer the taste that way. I think you need to be flexible and easy going at the table, my kids liked the soup even if they ate it slightly differently than I did. I want them to enjoy the process of eating and not just eat for nourishment, the whole point is to eat and enjoy a nutritious meal. No battles at the table.
Here is a picture of most of my clan last night. It was an easy going Sunday evening late supper. I used the same dishes for the 3 course meal: I served the green salad first and after the onion soup went into the same bowl. Finished the meal with apples and extra slices of toasted bread for a few of my ‘birdy kids’ that love bread. Healthy, light, tasty and happy. Ask me if you have any questions on doing this, it is a great way to have kids eat slowly and get vegetables in with the ‘first course’.
Enjoy this budget-friendly frugal recipe. Let me know how it turns out.
Vegetarian French Onion Soup
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 10 Medium-sized onions (about 1 1/2 lbs), sliced into thin circles
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, one clove chopped and one clove cut in half
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 quart of vegetable stock (I reconstituted from a bouillon cube)
- 1/2 large loaf of French country style bread, sliced
- 4 ounces of grated Emmental or Gruyere cheese
- A few fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 Teaspoon of grainy mustard
- 1 Tablespoon of honey
- 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons of dry white wine (or a 1/4 cup of brandy added in the end, see Julia Child recipe below).
- In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions and one chopped garlic clove, and mix well. Let the onions cook for 10 minutes on low heat, mixing them often.
- Add the honey, mustard and a few sprigs of thyme. Mix again and let onions cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add quart of vegetable stock, soy sauce, white wine (if adding brandy instead add this at the end). Mix well.
- Cover and let soup cook slowly for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
- While soup is cooking, prepare the cheese toasts. Toast slices of bread until crispy.
- When they come out of the toaster, rub the half slice of garlic clove onto the bread.
- Cover the slices with a small handful of grated cheese and grill in toaster oven or under the broiler in the oven.
- Serve on top or next to the soup. (Mine looked like this)
French Onion Soup Food Costs
Converted from Euros/Dollars 1.07 dollars = 1.00 euro
- Onions 0.60 centimes/0.64 cents
- Butter 0.50 centimes/ 0.54 cents
- Vegetable stock 0.29 centimes/ 0.31 cents
- Bread 0.50 centimes/ 0.54 cents
- Cheese 0.75 centimes/ 0.80 cents
Total for main ingredients: 2.64 euros or 2.83 dollars
(not added in costs were from my ‘stock’ in the pantry: small quantities of soy sauce, honey, 2 garlic cloves, salt and pepper and the dash of white wine (also inexpensive in France).
Bon Appetit! Check out my fellow dietitian’s meals below for their inspiring recipes and Julia Child’s French Onion Soup recipe.
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