Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is the Madison Farmers Market turned into a big pot of warm autumn comfort.
If you follow The Law Student’s Wife on Instagram or Facebook, each Saturday morning you can count on a flood of gorgeous farmers market images: bright flowers, crates bursting with ripe tomatoes, and pumpkins so pretty, Cinderella would have a hard time choosing just one for her carriage.
The farmers market inspires my cooking 1) Because the produce is abundant, affordable, and so fresh it was often picked that morning, and 2) Because I wind up with so many veggie impulse buys, I have no choice but to work them into our menu. Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is my autumn farmers market love story.
Butternut squash and I have a long history. Last fall when one of the growers marked his squash down to $.20 a pound, I brought home so much I had to store it behind Ben’s man recliner. (We were out of space in the kitchen, and the space under the bed has been claimed by my out-of-season clothes and Ben’s old running shoes.) I’m a bit of a kale fanatic, and ever since adding roasted carrots to my grilled cheese, these orange lovelies have been on my weekly farmers market purchase list too.
Combine fall veggies with pretty white beans for healthy protein, whole grain noodles for tummy-filling fiber, and a heap of freshly grated Parmesan + bacon because life is short and it’s the right thing to do, and we have a steaming pot of satisfying autumn bounty.
I receive a lot of questions from readers—many of whom are students themselves—about how I handle Ben and my food budget, while still enjoying healthy, satisfying meals. I’m no Dave Ramsey, but Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans (which feeds 8 nicely and 6 really nicely) is the case study for a few principles I have learned about eating well on less dinero. Let’s break it down:
- Fresh, seasonal ingredients: Buying in-season ingredients is good karma for both your taste buds (fruits and veggies taste best in their prime) and your wallet. In the case of this Minestrone Soup, both butternut squash and kale are in season, so they set me back all of $2.70 or $.38 per serving.
- Choose store brands where quality difference is negligible: For this recipe, I used the generic brand of chopped tomatoes, white beans, and chicken stock. I did spring for the low sodium versions of each—worth the net $1 difference to me. Of the three items listed here, if you want to splurge one name-brand, I’d choose the chicken stock.
- Mind your protein: Beans have to be one of my all-time favorite budget-friendly super stars (eggs are the other). Beans are good for you, easy to make, and dirt-cheap. Stock up on cans of beans when they are on sale (I bought these pretty little cannelli beans for a whopping $.77) and add ‘em to everything. For even more savings, plan ahead and start with dry beans. The bacon was a bit of a splurge when you look at the total cost of the package ($5.75), but I’ll use that package across three different dishes. I’ve found that about four slices of good bacon is just enough to add bacon-licious flavor, without upsetting your wallet or your waistline. (This Warm Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Kamut Salad is my latest bacon-kissed obsession.)
- Splurge for quality where it counts and make it last: By being smart with my meal dollars, I have room to add a few higher quality ingredients, so I choose the most important ones. In our Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans, it’s the extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and they’re not costing me as much as you might guess. As I mentioned in my post for Quick Garlic Pasta, I buy big blocks of Trader Joe’s-brand Parmesan ($6.49 per pound), then grate them in my food processor. The taste vs. the green can varietal is beyond compare, and the price difference when handled this way is negligible. It’s the same story with extra virgin olive oil. I look for largest bottles of better-quality brands, and the benefit I receive far outweighs the small price difference.
Segue into one of my final dollarini-saving principle: Coupons! You know those annoying coupons that get printed at the Target register? If it’s something you ordinarily buy, stuff it into your purse and use it. I’m by no means one of those insane coupon ladies (I lack both the storage space and the energy), but I love me a good deal, and if a coupon will give me a few additional pennies for my cheese allowance, it’s worth the effort.
Today, I’m excited to share a coupon that is good for the rest of the month: $2 off California Olive Ranch Olive Oil. Give California Olive Ranch olive oil a try anytime this month, and if you don’t like it, California Olive Ranch will buy it as a part of its Taste Guarantee campaign. You’ve got nothing to lose and yummy olive oil to gain. You can also share your experience with olive oil and healthy eating by Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, and all around living up pics of you and your fam gathered around the table with hashtag #tasteguarantee. Spread the olive oil love, and pass me more bread for dunking!
Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is my food-budget happy place. What’s yours? Feel free to share links to your favorite budget-friendly recipes and tips about how you stretch your food dollar. In the meantime, enjoy this big pot of warm, comforting Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans. It’s autumn farmers market bounty, brought directly to your table.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof by Ina Garten, a book I love and recommend.
Disclosure: California Olive Ranch compensated me for my time to create this recipe and post. All opinions are 100% my own.