Garbage Soup

LHL readers, please welcome Cindy and thanks to her for this great guest post!

Tonight we had garbage stew for supper. Sounds yummy, right? Actually it was quite tasty and paired very well with a fresh loaf of honey oat bread from the bread machine.

I picked up a handy tip in one of the many “How to Reduce Your Grocery Budget” articles and books I have thumbed through. Place a glass jar with a lid in your freezer and whenever you have just a spoonful of leftover vegetables, broth, soup, gravy, meat or just about anything that goes well together, put them in the jar instead of in a container in the fridge to grow mold and be thrown out in a month (if you’re good about cleaning your fridge regularly). In our house, there’s always a bit of something, especially vegetables, which never get taken back out of the fridge and eaten. Main dishes become someone’s next-day lunch, but no one remembers to grab the bit of peas or corn that was served with that main dish. I always felt guilty throwing those bits away, so the idea of having a free meal at the end of a month or two was pretty appealing.

When I make my stew, I start with water and bouillon cubes, throw in a couple cubed potatoes and carrots, some chopped onion and garlic and whatever is in the garbage jar. Sometimes I have some leftover taco meat or a piece of roast in the fridge to add to it. After the raw veggies get soft, I taste test and add some seasonings (N’Orleans Cajun, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, salt, whatever suits me). It never turns out quite the same twice, but it almost always is a hit, especially when served with fresh bread on a cool evening. And the best part is, I have a very inexpensive meal to stretch a tight budget week and don’t have to feel bad about wasting food.

Do you make “Garbage Soup”? What’s your frugal go-to meal?

Support Little House Living by Sharing This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. My grandma would take the peels and throw them into her garden along with ash from the woodstove and eggshells. Made the best compost. She had a great garden!

  1. When I was in Cub Scouts we had what we called HOBO soup. Except we used different cans of veg and soups. This is a great idea, but I think I might call it Hobo soup instead, the name is a little more kid friendly. 🙂

  2. I too have made “garbage soup” for years. I simply keep a tall container or two in my freezer compartment and into it goes leftover vegs from dinner, the broth poured off the vegetables from the can, end ofs (like chopped celery leaves, onions, etc. I just keep a couple of those going in the freezer till I decide to make soup. I learned this from my late mother in law who used to call it refrigerator soup. To all of it, she would add 1 can each of condensed vegetable and tomato soup. Then during the noon soup meal, my father in law would dose it with Tobasco, even in the Summer.

    Ahhh, Cindy. I remember Hobo Soup from Blue Birds. Everyone brought 1 can for the pot. Thanks for the memories! 🙂

  3. We called it HOBO Stew also. learned from my mother in law which raised 2 sets of Girl Scouts. I have a twist. I start the base with V8 juice and broth.

    For stew cooked from scratch I have another tip. Get a very large Tea Ball that has a chain. Put a whole Garlic head and some pepper corns in it, seal and hang in the pot as you slow cook the stew meat. When the soup is ready, the garlic is soft. It added flavor to the soup, and now can be used to spread on fresh bread to go with the soup.

    1. That’s Brillant! I always use coffee filters and constantly fighting with the twine to keep it out of the broth!

  4. I make Trash Chili with any leftover beans, ground meat, peppers and onions. When I finish a jar of tomato sauce, I swirl some water in it and add that to my freezer container. When I have a few full containers, I make chili and add whatever is lacking (kidney beans, more seasonings, a can of tomatoes).

  5. my mom did something very similar. She did it with the leftovers of the week and called it refrigerator soup. I started making it in college. My roommates said I was some kind of kitchen elf.

  6. I also have a scrap jar in my freezer for in edible bits of veggies , chicken bones, onion peels . I dump it in my crock pot with water cook for 12-15 hours , strain and freezer. Best broth ever!

  7. I do the same thing but I also have a separate container for pork leftovers (sausage, brats, chops, etc.) I use the pork leftovers in my chili. My son-in-law (the man who hates leftovers), raved about my chili and wanted my recipe. Imagine his surprise when he found out my secret ingredients were leftovers!

  8. Leftover Thanksgiving Soup is my family’s favorite. Everything goes into the pot. Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, relish tray remnants (no pickles), etc. Sometimes they want tovskip dinner and go straight to the soup. LOL

  9. This is brilliant! I freeze all my veggie scraps and bones for soup broth, but never thought about leftovers or canned veg “juices”. My only question is about freezing the glass jar. I’ve tried this before and the jar seems to brake on me sometimes. How do you avoid breakage? I only have a few on my half-gallon mason jars, and just can bare to loose anymore.

    A helpful hint to share: put all your scraps that you will NOT be eating at the end (onion skins, bones etc…) into a cotton or muslin bag before adding to the stock pot. It makes a beautiful CLEAR broth! (And it’s washable too.)

  10. I do this except in a freezer bag in the freezer. I make pot pies bottom and top crust with all the leftover goodies I collected.

  11. Recently i have read your post and comments and their new ideas they have share, I really like it, i never try it yet but now i had decided to go for this refrigerator soup. thanks