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Frugality of Folly: healthy soups lunch for less than 20 pence (30 cents)?

Yep, it is possible.

In fact, you can see the lunch I had today on the picture: homemade lentil soup and homemade pita bread.

Total cost: 19 pence (28 cents) per person.

Soups are probably one of the most nutrition efficient foods. Most soups work out at between 7 and 10 pence per serving (11 and 16 cents) and are, as a rule a nutritious and healthy option.

Most beans and lentils based soups are not only very low on sodium and cholesterol, but are also a very good source of Vitamins, Iron, Zinc and protein. They also contain fibre and are about the only way – still – to get vegetables and pulses in our soon to be thirteen years old son.

Today I’ve decided to share with you the recipes for our three most favourite soups; because I am a geek, I’ve also costed them down to the last cube of chicken stock.

Lentil soup

This is the favourite of at least three members of the family; the other two love is as well. To make it you need:

  • Red lentils: 500 grams (50 pence);
  • Carrots: 2 large ones (7 pence);
  • Celery: three sticks (9 pence)
  • Onion: 1 (4 pence)
  • Passata: 1 pack, 310 grams (29 pence)
  • Chicken stock: 2 cubes (5 pence)

To make the soup, chop the onion and chop the carrots and celery in small pieces. Place them in a bit of olive oil (use a large pot or reduce the amounts) and sweat them for several minutes (sweating vegetables means that you, salt them, lower the heat and put the lid of the pot on).

Add the lentils and tomato sauce (passata); break in couple of cubes of chicken stock and add water. Watch the water – it is better to put less than is needed and then add some. There are few things that are less palatable than watery soup!

Boil until the carrots are soft. Turn the heat off and…your soup is ready. We like nit smooth but chunky is very nice as well!

Note: if you like cumin you can put some in this soup – lentils go with cumin.

The total cost of this soup is £1.05/$1.71 (I’ve allowed 1 pence for gas but this may be conservative).

This makes 10 servings of soup working out at roughly 10p per serving.

Orange soup

Nope, this soup is not made from oranges; we call it that because it looks orange. To make it you need:

  • Sweet potatoes: 750 grams (69 pence)
  • Butternut squash: one average (85 pence)

Peel the potatoes and squash and sweat in a bit of olive oil. add salt and water and boil till soft. Smooth and it’s ready.

The total cost of this soup is £1.54 ($2.50) and it makes ten servings – about 15 pence per serving.

This soup is not only delicious but it is also what can be called ‘happy’ food – it is rich in Omega 3 & 6 oils and contains vitamins and minerals that are good for depression. Perfect winter lunch!

Tomato soup

On this one our family is divided – two of us really love it and three eat it but they’d rather have lentil soup.

To make it you need:

  • Tins of chopped tomato: 4 tins (4×45 pence= £1.80)
  • Tomatoes (fresh): five tomatoes (£1.09)
  • Tomato puree: 1 tube (35 pence)
  • Passata: 4 boxes, 310 grams each (4×29 pence = £1.16)

Put everything in a large(ish) pot; add water and boil until the fresh tomato is soft (about 20 minutes). Smooth it and it’s ready.

Serve with fresh, chopped basil and/or a splash of balsamic vinegar.

All this costs £4.40 to make and is about twenty servings – which makes a serving about 22 pence.

Completely delicious (you can probably guess who is one of the family members who love this one) but not as healthy as the other two soups. Then again, much of eating is about pleasure!

I usually cook large amounts of soup and we freeze it; this means that we can have healthy dinner during the week and I can take soup with me for lunch. It doesn’t defrost (well, we do live in Manchester, UK) but just in case I have Lock & Lock Storage Containers  which are, in my experience, the only ones on the market that don’t leak.

Soup Goes with Bread

This is a bonus. When we have soup for lunch, I usually make nice, homemade bread.

Here is the recipe for pita bread that my friend Elaine gave me years ago:

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 410 grams flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 20 grams olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
  • 210 grams water

I put all these in order in my breadmaker and set it on ‘pizza’ setting. In 45 minutes I have the dough which I divide in 8 balls; shape the balls like pita bread and place them on a tray (lines with silicone sheet). Then cover the tray with a towel and leave the pittas for about ten minutes.

Heat the oven to 230C. Bake the pita bread for 6-7 minutes – if you have a kid let them watch it rise.


Oh, and the pita bread costs about a third of the cheapest on the market (25 pence).

Don’t tell me you have no time: making pita bread and soup takes about 20 minutes (chopping vegetables takes me time). It is also very Zen – chopping is perfect for presence meditation.

I bet, cooking and eating soups can save a family £20 per week from their food budget easy.

I want you to do two things:

1) Leave a comment sharing your favourite soup recipes.


2) Tell me how much do you reckon soups save you per week.

13 thoughts on “Frugality of Folly: healthy soups lunch for less than 20 pence (30 cents)?”

  1. 1p for gas? that seems really cheap considering the time soups need to cook for. But it is still a great way to eat well, keep warm and save money. I just made white beans with spinach, garlic, tomato and a bit of bacon, delicious. Lentils are my favorite too.

    • @Pauline: Calculating the gas is tricky but…Our gas bill adds up to about £3 per day. We have a large house and living in the UK means it has to be heated most of the year. So, I suspect that very little of the daily gas bill goes on cooking; hence the 1p.

  2. Great stuff. These are certainly soups to make for myself and my brother over the coming weeks of winter. The tomato soup seems a lot of produce to buy and carry (if you don’t drive), but with 22 servings it could last us months.
    I believe a carrot soup can be done with similar ingredients to the lentils one. It can be done around the same way with 1 pound (16oz) carrots, which is usually the same as a bag from the shop. I’ve always loved a creamy carrot soup, with coriander or not.

    Also I do agree with Pauline^ about the gas, but either way it’s only going to cost you a few pence for 20 or more minutes on the stove. And that’s much more economical than boiling tinned soup which isn’t going to be as hearty, healthy or tasty as a home-made one.

  3. The orange soup sounds delicious Maria! I’m going to have try that with some good rustic bread. I just bought a Cuisinart that I haven’t used yet and making a nice soup would be a great excuse to break it in! Happy Holidays to you and John!

  4. Favourite soup – that is a tricky one as I love so many. Possibly my fav is not the most frugal – Cauliflower And Blue Cheese Soup
    I love lentil soup too – and indeed love lentils for frugal stews and bakes.
    Soup is also very good for reducing foodwaste – using up tired vegetables that may otherwise go in the bin – and you can make soup out of almost anything

  5. We’ve started making potato, leek and carrot soup. You HAVE to have it chunky, it’s so nice on cold winters days to warm you up at lunch time. we make in batches of 8-10 portions and it probably comes in at about 20-30p per portion including energy to cook.

    I must try your lentil recipe, sounds delish! 🙂


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