I grew up in a household that had no choice but to pinch pennies. We were immigrants – and not the wealthy kind that came here for their PhDs – more like the kind that came with a single suitcase, barely speaking any English. We lived month-to-month in a 2 bedroom apartment that housed 6 of us for 5 years before we upgraded to a 3 bedroom. If folks wonder why I have no concept of personal space, now you get it, right?
To make it all work, we clipped coupons – my favorite Sunday activity – and definitely went out of our way to find a deal. My mom was the kind of woman who would stand in a customer service line for 15 minutes to get back 15 cents for an overcharge. My grandmother could not enter a Western supermarket without lamenting, “$1.99 for lettuce? You know I can get 5 heads for $1.00 at the Asian store. Why would anyone pay so much?”
Even though things have changed a lot for us (the American Dream is alive and well folks!), you can’t erase a childhood of frugality. When it comes to groceries, I continue to be a value shopper and love challenging myself to create budget dinners. This black bean and leftover rice soup uses some of my favorite cheap-o practices:
- Do without the meat – beans are a great protein-filled non-meat alternative.
- Take advantage of dried bulk goods – canned beans are convenient, but if you want to save even more, cook your own beans.
- Use vegetables that are cheap and have a long shelf-life – cabbage is already one of my favorite vegetables, and I love it even more because it’s not expensive, takes forever to spoil, and is good for you!
Lastly, I’m always looking for ways to repurpose rice and other grains. Bulking up this soup with leftover rice makes not only a budget, but filling meal. And of course if you’re not pinching pennies, top it with avocado and sour cream for a creamy finish.
- Learn how to dice onions and slice cabbage.
- Soups cook fastest in a pot that holds heat well, like a Dutch oven.
- The recipe below calls for canned beans, ~1 1/2 cups of beans. If you want to use dried beans, that’s 1/2 cup (1 cup of dried beans = 3 cups of cooked). My method for cooking beans is to just throw them in a slow cooker with a 3 to 1 water to dried bean ratio plus some salt and a bay leaf or two. I cook on high for about 2 to 3 hours and the beans are done! Divide up and freeze if you made a big batch.
- Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
- Onion – 1, diced
- Green cabbage – ½ head, sliced
- Green onions – 2 stalks, chopped
- Black beans – 1 can, rinsed and drained
- Cooking oil – 1 tbs.
- Tomato paste – ⅓ cup
- Hot sauce – as desired (I used about 2 tablespoons of Tapatio)
- Vegetable broth – 1 quart
- Leftover rice – 2 cups
- Avocado – 1 to 2, cubed
- Sour cream – for serving on soup
- Garlic / Onions / Cabbage / Green onions – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
- Beans – Rinse and drain.
- Heat a >5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil and then garlic to heated oil. Once you can smell the garlic, add in onions with some salt. Saute until softened, ~3 minutes.
- Add in cabbage, black beans, tomato paste, hot sauce, and broth with a dash of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Add in rice and then simmer until cabbage is cooked, another 3 to 5 minutes. Now, taste. Your soup might need some help right now with flavoring. Season to taste with more salt or hot sauce, and if you feel brave, dig into your spice drawer (cumin, coriander, and paprika would all be great candidates) and go for it.
- Cube avocado and top warm soup with avocado, green onions, and sour cream.