Chicken Orzo & Vegetable Soup


Happy November! It’s officially the month of soups for me and today I want to share an easy recipe that is healthy, tastes good, and is perfect for leftovers! Yesterday was the first day it rained here in California and today it actually feels like the fall I’m used to back home on the east coast. This is definitely the perfect weather for soup! 

Back in January one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get in shape and a huge motivator was my wedding that June. 6 months to get my eating habits in check...yeah, OK. Luckily with the help of Weight Watchers and getting into a routine of activity, I was able to consistently lose about a pound each week, which is the healthy and safe way to do it. Weight Watchers also taught me how to portion less for each meal and pay more attention to the ingredients and nutrition labels of the foods I eat. One thing I wasn’t expecting when I signed up was their vast recipe choices...and they were actually really good! It didn’t make you eat cardboard and water each week; you could actually enjoy food while on their plan of counting points. However, you will begin to count everything...I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G and I became a little obsessed. Just sayin’.

This chicken orzo and vegetable soup is one recipe that originally came from Weight Watchers and you can get it here. As we developed our own recipe book (find our food tips and tricks at the bottom of this post), we altered the recipe just slightly but kept it within the parameters of the point system. So if you’re on Weight Watchers or you just want to find healthy, but yummy, recipes this one is perfect for just that. Besides, who doesn’t love a good soup for those colder days?

One thing I MUST mention is that my husband and I swear by Trader Joe’s. If you haven’t been and you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what it is then I’ll pray for you. But really, you need to find a location nearest to you and check it out. All of their products from the food to toilet paper is environmentally friendly, prepared fresh, and they never have sales because their prices are already low! You can seriously feed a family and keep it within your budget. They don’t necessarily carry everything you might need but we’ve learned to not rely too much on those things. Plus the other place we shop is Costco (see our tips and tricks at the bottom...again) for those items that we always need such as butter and garlic. So, don’t be surprised to see everything, for the most part, that we cook with is from Trader J’s. They also have great recipes on their website here.

Here are your basic ingredients and goodies that go into your soup.

8 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock
4 medium uncooked carrots (diced)
1 uncooked fennel bulb (we used celery today since we didn’t have fennel readily available) (diced)
2 cups uncooked chicken breast (diced)
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp fresh dill (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

I have a love affair with mushrooms. Of any kind. This was an optional ingredient for us today so feel free to get creative with your veggies and pop them in...even if they’re not in the ingredients list!

And today we used celery due to us not having any fennel. Sad day.
(we used it in another recipe earlier this week)

The onion and garlic are other optional ingredients we are using today. I personally like the crunch and taste of yellow onions so I’ll practically put those in anything. The garlic also adds a nice savory flavor to the chicken broth.

Once you have all of your ingredients prepared the easy part of this recipe is that you just add them in one-by-one! Have a soup pot, we use our dutch oven religiously, with a couple tbsp olive oil heated. Add the chicken and cook until partially cooked through. Then, remove the chicken from the heat and add your onions and other veggies. You’ll then return the chicken to the pot add your broth. From there it’s all about the seasoning! Add salt and pepper to taste then cook until chicken is cooked throughout and veggies are tender, which is about 8-10 minutes.

Once ready to serve, add your lemon juice and dill and this soup is about 1 1/4 cup per serving size. This soup can be great leftovers or even stored in the freezer for later meals. I like to portion them out into Ziplocs or other tubberware so I get the correct portion size when I go to heat it up rather than just pouring the batch into any container. This helps, again, with portion control. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Here are a few ways Philip and I save money when grocery shopping. We began this new method of budgeting last year and it’s something we really see a difference with AND no more wasting food! 

Pick a grocer.
First you need to decide where you’re going to shop at. I’m sure you want healthy and fresh ingredients just like anyone. Major grocery stores have these items but I’ve found they're far and few between and they can be costly. Whole Foods is a great place for fresh foods but again you run into the problem of overpaying (in my opinion) for much of their stuff. Like I mentioned before, Trader Joe’s has been our #1 choice because of their food quality choices and prices. You may not find all of your needs that you could find in a regular grocery store, such as name brands, but we’ve learned to go without them or we make special trips for those necessary items (i.e. Philip and his ONLY toilet paper of choice: Charmin).

Meal Plan
Meal planning is an obvious way to stay organized but I will tell you that when you plan out exactly what you’ll eat each week you end up saving a lot of money. One way we do this is we’ve created a binder for all of our recipes. We have a few cookbooks but we love looking around the web for fun and new recipes to try at home. We print them off and stick it in our binder. That way each week we pull out the recipes we want and keep them in the front pocket.

The other thing we do, and it’s mostly for fun, is we bought removable chalkboard paper and put it on our fridge. That way we see each day what meals we are planning. I bought mine at The Paper Source along with chalkboard markers but you can pretty much find them anywhere or even get creative and try these via Pinterest.

Costco. Is it worth it?
This is something that you would have to see if it fits your budget and, most importantly, your needs. We cook all the time at home and save eating out for fun or special occasions. Needless to say, we use a lot of basic cooking ingredients such as butter, olive oil, garlic, and meats. Now, at the grocery store you don’t have to break the bank, however, Costco allows us to buy these items in bulk and it will literally last us for months. We freeze these items, except the olive oil (of course), and just pull out what we need. 

Random note: I love my Misto oil sprayer because it allows you to use the oil you already have and pump it to make it spray for uses of baking or cooking. It replaces the cost (and not to mention health) of Pam and other products like it. Find it on Amazon by clicking the link below.

I know that was a lot but I hope you have found yourself an easy new recipe and some tips to help you save money when shopping each week. Be sure to comment and share your favorite soups for fall and what tricks you use to save money when grocery shopping. I love finding new and creative ways to save!

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