It’s a good idea, both for your own health, the earth’s health and your pocketbook’s health to include a couple of meatless dinners in your menu each week. In my home, though, meatless meals can’t too closely resemble vegetarian meals. No tofurkey or other tofu products may cross through the entrance to my home. My meatless meals need to look just like any other dinner.

One meatless dish that I’ve added to my repertoire has been bean soup. I could make a bean soup completely from scratch (and I have). I could buy it in a can (and I have). Or you could take a third option – buy a bean soup mix that includes the beans and spices needed, and add your own vegetables and broth. The other night I went with option #3 and made Bean Cuisine’s Ultima Pasta E Fagioli.

Bean soups are full of fiber and protein and low in fat, and this particular one was chock full of vegetables. They are hearty enough to fill you up – enough that you don’t miss the meat on the dinner table. And they are a great value. I spent about $10 total to make this soup, and there are 14 one-cup servings when prepared. Now that’s a value. I paired it with simple grilled cheese sandwiches with bread made in the bread machine, and dinner was done.

In addition to the soup mix, you’ll need olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, water, beef broth, salt, diced tomatoes, and parmesan cheese to make the soup. The directions on the back of the package are easy to follow. Twenty minutes of prep went into putting the soup together and three hours of cooking time made my kitchen smell really good.

Soup mixes like Bean Cuisine’s Ultima Pasta E Fagioli are healthy and convenient. To purchase all of the separate beans, peas and pasta that this soup called for would have been expensive, and I would have only used a little from each package. By using the mix, I bought only what I needed, and I didn’t have to be concerned with storing the unused portions. It would probably work out to be a little less expensive to buy everything individually and make my own mixes, but at under $10 for the whole pot of soup, I’ll pay a few extra pennies for the convenience.

Making the choice to eat eco-friendly and healthy means trying new things. Why not pop down the soup isle of your local market and see what type of bean soup mixes catch your eye. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Easy, nutritious bean soup
Meatless meals don't always have to scream, "I'm meatless." A hearty bean soup brings on the nutrition and the satisfaction.