Homemade Broth on the Cheap

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto – made with broth

Broth is a welcome ingredient in so many dishes, providing a canvas for all your soup creations, as well as adding wonderful depth, flavor, and nutrition to cooked grains, veggies, and meats. When you’re feeling depleted, broth on its own is a great pick-me-up and restorative, good for even the queasiest tummies. And although store-bought broths are certainly convenient, they often lack the flavor and the nutritional content of a homemade broth.

But have you read some of the recipes for homemade broth that are out there? Often calling for using whole vegetables—carrots, onions, leeks, garlic, celery, etc., not to mention meat if you’re going for a meat broth—all of which is then strained out, leaving your final broth, ready for use or freezing or canning. Wait, you strain out all those good veggies? But before that, wasn’t it just… um… soup? Sounds like a lot of work (and a lot of money) for some homemade broth.

My husband sometimes teases me about my dislike for wasting anything. I know that you could certainly use the veggies from the strained broth in something else. But I think it’s kind of like downcycling—they just aren’t being used to their full potential. Sure, I like veggies that have been cooked for hours until they’re uber-soft—in soup!—and pretty much not in anything else. I generally like a bit more crispness in my veggies. We compost our kitchen scraps, so nothing is ever really “thrown away,” but it still seems wasteful to me.

Vegan Pho

Vegan Pho – with broth

So here’s my alternative. So you want to make your own homemade broth—vegetarian or meat, whatever. We usually store our broth in pints or quarts in the freezer, so when I’m down to one container of broth, I know I’ve got to make broth soon. Try saving your veggie scraps for a few days leading up to “broth-making day,” storing them in the fridge. These scraps should be clean and free of manky/slimy bits, but it’s perfectly fine if they’re imperfect or wilted. Some good broth scraps include carrot, potato, or beet peels; the stems from kale, chard, and other greens; trimmed ends of onions, carrots, garlic, radishes; stems from fresh herbs; any greens that have been deemed too wilted (but not slimy) for fresh use, such as romaine, spinach, mustard greens. You get the idea – the possibilities are endless. Come broth day, throw all this stuff in a pot with some water, some extra herbs if you want, salt if desired, simmer or slow cook to make your broth, strain, and store. All of these ingredients would have been composted or thrown out anyway, so there’s no waste and plenty of flavor.

If you want a meat broth, make friends with your local butcher or farmers and see if they’ll save you a bone or two for soup—a lot of times you can get them for free or super cheap, if you ask nicely. Alternatively, plan to have a roast chicken or something else with bones the night before. When you’re ready to make your broth, toss the bones in with the other veggie scraps and they’ll cook into the broth just the same.

The end result is still flavorful and nutritious, but instead of using lots of whole, fresh veggies, you’re just using scraps. No waste, no extra cost, no problem.

What do you do at home to reduce waste or save money? Favorite kitchen tips?

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