Dressing Up Progresso Soups for Frugal Meals

Progresso soup photographed by Steven Depolo

Soup photographed by Steven Depolo Flickr

By dressing up Progresso® brand soups, you can have a flavorful meal that will not break your food budget. Often, you can hide leftovers in a hearty bowl of soup. Perfect for the family members who hate leftovers!

This article covers all the basics that a cook needs to get started serving healthy, economical soups and stews.


No Recipe Needed

Using canned soup as a base has many advantages. Progresso® blends spices and herbs perfectly for tasty soups. By tapping into that expertise, you can add a variety of meats, vegetables, and pastas. Always add cooked ingredients and heat thoroughly until the soup is hot. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of additions per can of soup.

Later in this article, there are links to recipes using soup and leftovers to create tasty soups and stews. One of these might be the spark to get you cooking. After you have tried a couple of soups, you will be ready to tackle any leftovers!


How to Disguise Leftovers

Let’s use the example of green beans and Progresso® Traditional Beef & Vegetable soup. If you toss the green beans into the soup, your diners will probably recognize them as leftovers. Cut the green beans into smaller pieces that match the size of the soup’s veggies. Do the same with meat. If the soup has pasta, either match your pasta shape to Progresso’s pasta or replace the soup’s pasta with yours.


Beyond the Leftovers

No leftovers? Cook your raw vegetables in your soup pan. The oil or water that you use will add flavor to the soup. Want to add a potato? Bake it whole in the microwave oven and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Like the speed of microwaving your veggies? I find it is faster to steam the veggies in the microwave oven before sautéing in the pan. However, sautéing vegetables, such as carrots, onion, celery, and other aromatic vegetables, takes only 5 – 10 minutes, depending upon the size of the pieces. For soup, use small pieces that will easily nest in a spoon.

Sautéing veggies for soup ©Terrie Brockmann

Sautéing veggies for soup ©Terrie Brockmann

Vegetables Add Fiber and Flavor

Almost any vegetable is good in soup. From all varieties of onions to traditional soup veggies like turnips, you have a wide variety to choose from. Here is a sampling of vegetables to try:

  • Beans, canned or frozen
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Corn
  • Dried beans, cooked
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Napa cabbage
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Rutabagas
  • Succotash
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • And others

Roasted vegetables from grilling or an oven-baked roast create great flavor in your soup. If you reserve some of the pan juices and add them, they give the soup a deeper dimension.

No leftover veggies? Add a can of mixed vegetables or heat up some frozen mixed vegetables. Other canned ingredients include diced tomatoes, garbanzo beans, all types of canned vegetables, beans, and mushrooms.

Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, do not need pre-cooking or require only a quick blanching. Try tossing fresh tomato pieces or chunks into your hot soup for a great flavor and texture boost.


Adding Meat to Your Soup

Often, we have very little meat leftover and wonder what to do with it. Dressing up Progresso® soups helps you serve the meat as another meal or as a meal-starter. When you serve a soup before a meal, people are more satisfied and do not need the amounts of food that they normally do. For the cook, it is a win/win situation: using up leftovers and cutting the food budget.

Fish is more difficult to use in soup. If you use it, stir it in to the hot soup and allow the residual heat to warm it. If you overheat fish, it tends to fall apart. No matter how you do it, use a very gentle hand with leftover fish.

Here are a few other meats you can use:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Corned beef
  • Ham
  • Hamburger
  • Lamb
  • Meatballs
  • Mutton
  • Pork
  • Sausage
  • Seafood
  • Turkey
  • Wild game

Leftover meat is a tasty ingredient in your soup. It also is a thrifty way to stretch your food budget. However, sometimes, you don’t have leftover meat on hand. You can still have soup for supper.

Fresh meat is easy to prepare. Simply cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Sauté in your soup pot with your favorite oil, broth, or water. Using the meat in soup is a great way to stretch your meat budget. People eat less meat when it is in soup or stew.


Starches like Potatoes and Beans

Starches add heartiness to your soup. Some, such as lentils and beans, also add protein. This is especially good in vegetarian soups.

Some starches like couscous do not have a long cooking time. Most, however, require special cooking techniques or long cooking times. Therefore, I advise adding cooked starches to your soups. This is a great dish to use leftover baked potatoes, rice, pastas, or other starchy leftovers. Here are some suggestions:

  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Dried beans
    • Black-eyed peas
    • Garbanzo beans or Chick peas
    • Great Northern beans
    • Kidney beans
    • Lima beans
    • Navy beans
    • Pinto beans
    • Split peas
  • Lentils
  • Pastas
  • Rice
  • Wild rice
  • Others


Stock Up on Progresso Soup

Having a few cans of soup in your pantry can help you put a hot meal on the table fast. When you add cooked ingredients, you only need to heat and serve. Generally, even when you need to cook some ingredients, such as diced onions, small carrot coins, and small potato cubes, the meal takes only minutes.

If you have a two or three different Progresso® soups in your pantry, you can use almost any leftovers. A basic tomato, such as Vegetable Classics Hearty Tomato, is a classic for dressing up leftovers or planned-overs. Choose a straightforward vegetable that can support beef, pork, poultry, or seafood as well as any veggie. I typically have the tomato-based Vegetable Classics Garden Vegetable and the cream-based Rich & Hearty Creamy Roasted Vegetable soup on hand.

Other basic soups to stock for versatility:

  • Heart Healthy Minestrone
  • Heart Healthy Savory Garden Vegetable
  • Light Homestyle Vegetable & Rice
  • Light Italian-Style Vegetable
  • Light Vegetable


Soup Extras

Just like tossing fresh tomato into a soup, you can dress up your bowls of soup with other ingredients. These trimmings can be a decorative garnish as well as tasty additions. Try cheddar cheese shreds, roughly chopped cilantro or parsley, minced fresh herbs, or other flavor enhancers. Experiment with whatever you have on hand. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Bacon
  • Celery leaves, rough chopped
  • Cheese, shredded, crumbled, or diced
    • Cheddar
    • Feta
    • Mozzarella
    • Parmesan
    • Pepper jack
    • Swiss
    • Other
  • Citrus zest
  • Croutons
  • Flavored oils
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Sour cream
  • Toasted seeds
  • Yogurt cheese

You can sprinkle these on top of the soup for a flavorful garnish. Some people prefer to stir the extras in just before serving. Generally, you want to gently stir the ingredients in. Swirling sour cream or soft yogurt cheese into the top of a red soup, such as a creamed tomato soup, adds a simple, yet elegant, garnish.


How Much Soup to Serve

If using the soup as a first course, serve 1 to 1 1/2 cups per person. If serving as a main course, plan on at least 2 cups per person. If your family has a hearty appetite, you may need to make 3 or 4 cups per person.


Suggested Recipes

Need a recipe? No problem! Here are a few recipes that use soup as a base. Most of these recipes serve two, but you can easily double the ingredients to serve three or four hearty eaters.



Dressing Up Progresso® Soups for Tasty, Frugal Meals

Most families are busy and do not have time to simmer soup for hours. Using Progresso soups as a base gives soup a rich flavor. The bonus to adding leftovers to your soup is that it makes a very cost-effective meal. Next time you see soup on sale, stock up on a few basic flavors.


This article is not endorsed by Progresso® or General Mills, Inc. The author is not affiliated with the company. In regards to advertising, please read the site disclaimer below.


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