Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Fall Soup Party - Planning and Prep

May I humbly present to you one of my favorite Fall traditions? Our Fall Soup Party. It's the (legitimate!) child of my love of hot soup served in my large blue mug from the Dollar Store...

... and my love of having a freezer stocked with meals for the winter months.  

I probably spend the equivalent of seven days each Fall making meals to freeze for the simple reason that making a dinner each afternoon is simply too much for this (busy? lazy?) mom to manage during the Winter months.  (It's bad enough I have to do this during the Summer.  Ugh.)  I cook in categories, and I kick it off with "soups" and the Fall Soup Party.

I love the Fall Soup Party so much that I wanted to share a little about how it's done - maybe you'll be inspired to try something similar.  If you're hoping to find inspiration for sophisticated Fall parties like this...

... this is not the post for you.  

If you are hoping to find a simple menu and a family-friendly party, more like this...

... and this...

... you've come to the right place!  (because those are my pix from last year!  They come up when you Google Fall Soup Party!! I'm sort of Google famous!  Sort of...)

Thursday is the big day so I'll be sure to get a photos up from the party itself.  (Prepare to be underwhelmed - it's just my immediate family and my parents.  We started calling it a "party" a few years ago simply to get my then-picky eaters excited about soup.) For now, here's a little on how I plan, prepare, and cook.  

* I pull out all my soup recipes from my recipe box and decide which ones I'll use this year.  These are usually the tried and true recipes that make an appearance every year.  The kids usually get one request each. 

* I peruse allrecipes.com and Pinterest for new ideas.  I search by what sounds good to me.  For instance, this year I knew I wanted to try a sweet potato soup and I've never made a meatball soup, so that's what I searched for.

Once all the recipes are gathered, I divide them into repeat-recipes and the new ones.  I first take the soups I'm familiar with and create my shopping list.  I plan for multiple batches of everything - usually double batches, but there are two soups that I usually quadruple - Chicken and Wild Rice and Winter Veggie Bisque.  I account for all of that on the shopping list. 

my ghetto shopping list - I use tally marks to keep track of how much I need of each ingredient.
I'm sure there's a better way, but I'm sticking with what I know :)
Yep - I REGULARLY spell carrots wrong.   Regularly.  (ps.  I bought 10 lbs of carrots for this endeavor and they're almost gone!)  
* I did my grocery shopping for this first list early on Saturday morning and started cooking when I got home.  I got a soup in the Crock Pot and started two on the stove top that I knew would be done within an hour and a half.  Then those pots would be free for the afternoon round.  While those were cooking I chopped the veggies and cooked the meat for the afternoon soups. I made a very simple soup in the evening.  I also chopped the veggies and meat for one of the soups I'd make the next day.

* I finished the "familiar" soups on Sunday and took stock of what ingredients were left.  

* I got the "new" recipes together and formed my next shopping list (which was considerably smaller) and did that shopping early Monday morning.  I typically only make one batch of a "new" soup to test it out, unless it sounds really good.  Monday I made one new soup, today I made one, and tonight/tomorrow I'll make the last one.  And I'm done!!!

*  I have one more small shop to do before the party to pick up the soup toppings and "extras" - croutons, crusty bread, oyster crackers, tortilla chips, cheese, wine and beer.  I'm treating myself to some pumpkin ale that night :)

Here are some extra tips:

- Russ takes the kids for most of the day Saturday and Sunday when I'm cooking!  I couldn't do it without his help - so it's definitely a team effort.  (He even runs to the store for me when I realize I forgot stuff!)

- It helps to have these things: two big soup pots, two crock pots, an immersion blender, a big freezer.  (And an apron.  I get messy.)  

- I have tons of heavy duty freezer bags on hand for storing the finished meals.  A typical soup gets divided up into two full bags (for meals this winter) and one bag that's 1/3 full for the Fall Soup Party.

- I know I'll be washing pots and pans all weekend, so I try to have the sink and counter tops cleared off.  But... that hardly ever happens, even when it's not Fall soup time.  I also know that the kitchen floor will be a mess and I'm fine with it - the kids can sweep up all the onion skins and carrot bits when I'm done!  Really, I'm just prepared for the house to be a wreck while I'm doing my Fall cooking.

- I leave all the groceries out all weekend (except fridge stuff, of course!), so nothing gets put away in the pantry - it's all right there on the kitchen floor for when I need it.  

- I use post-it notes to help me keep track of what time each pot or Crock Pot is "done" or needs to have something added, etc... 

- I know that getting ready for the Fall Soup Party keeps me busy and wears me out by the end of the day, so I take it easy on myself in terms of preparing dinner for my family that week.  We eat leftovers, pasta and sauce, frozen pizza, and scrambled eggs on the days when I'm cooking like a crazy lady.  

- Sometimes I try to include the kids in helping prepare the soups, but usually I'm more interested in efficiency and speed than offering them kitchen-experience time.  There are other times for that. School lessons also get a little sketchy when I'm working in the kitchen many hours a day.  So today, for instance, both of the boys did some lessons on the floor in there while chopped and simmered and spiced things.  

- You've probably already figured out that this method of purchasing and making mass quantities of food is wacky on the grocery budget.  We are blessed that we don't live paycheck to paycheck, so the big grocery bills for my various Fall cooking sprees are covered by "savings" and then we decrease our weekly grocery budget significantly through the Winter months. 

The 2013 Fall Soup Party Menu

(the repeat favorite soups)

* some of these recipes show up on my "Recipes" page up top and include notes on how I "change them."  They are marked with an asterisk. *

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup *
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup *
Lentil and Sausage Soup *
Sausage Barley Soup (I add a little pasta to this)
Lemony Lentil Butternut Soup  (I use this recipe but add butternut squash and additional seasoning.)

(the new soups this year)

Cheddar Ale Cauliflower Soup (I followed this recipe but made the following changes - I added 8 oz. of beer, 16 oz. of shredded white cheddar cheese, 2 tsp. of dijon mustard as well as salt and Adobo seasoning.)

all the soups (except for two)  ready for Thursday!
(you should see my freezer!!!)
* * * * * *

Here's the post with the pictures from the party!

Something to ponder...

Christ said, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."  Ludwig van Beethoven said, "Only the pure in heart can make a good soup." 
Good soup here on Earth and the promise of Heaven??  
Keep your heart pure and it sounds like you can't lose ;)


  1. You rock mama! I was telling Jeff about this and he is totally on board for an attempt at stocking the freezer with soup!

    1. Ooh! Let me know what you make! I could talk freezer meals for hours :) (Do you guys have an extra freezer??)

    2. We do have an extra freezer in the basement....it's currently empty...I have dreams of filling it up but alas, those are just dreams right now...hoping next year we have a good crop from the garden and can begin filling it up with soups, freezer meals, and all kinds of veggies!

  2. I wish I could be there for the tastings!!!! Can't wait for this years pix...I am SO gonna try the meatball soup...Hope you have a great evening Thursday...Love, Claire

    1. Some day I hope to make the soup party an invitation event - all are welcome, bring your spoons! I'll let you know when I get that brave!
      The meatball soup turned out great! I think the kids are really going to like it. T

  3. I'm loving this idea. I haven't really ever frozen much before. Do you freeze the pasta in the soup? Or do you add it when you serve it?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jocelyne!

      Some soups I do freeze with the pasta already in it - from the recipes above, I did this with the Spaghetti Ring and Meatball soup as well as the Lentil and Sausage Soup. But the other sausage soup I decided to wait till I defrost it for serving, then I'll add a large pasta. I guess I usually add it ahead of time if it's small and it won't really matter if it gets pretty soft. One time I froze a soup that had cooked tortellini in it - I don't recommend that!

      Cooking in bulk and freezing meals is one of my favorite things, so stop back again soon because I'll probably be writing about my annual frozen meal exchange and second and third rounds of freezing food for the winter! (I pretty much wrote about it all last autumn, but I can't stop talking about it b/c I love it so much!)

      Hope you get to try a soup night/party! Let me know how it goes!

  4. I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive me and it is very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
    Party Plan

  5. Your fall soup party is incredible. Loved all these different soups you have prepared. Last week I also threw a dinner party at one of San Francisco event venues. All my known were invited there. Loved to serve yummy food.


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