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My Journey to Plastic-Free (and Cheaper) Chicken Broth

My Lazy, Cheap and Green Way to Make Chicken Broth

If you make your own chicken broth from actual chickens, you can just go ahead and stop reading this post right now.

Step 1.  Long ago, I purchased chicken broth in cans.  I think I usually paid $1 for a 14.5 ounce can (a little less than 2 cups).   All those couponers probably get their canned chicken broth for free.  I occasionally used b6uillon cubes too, but mostly canned broth because it was faster and more convenient.

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth, 32-Ounce Containers (Pack of 12)

Step 2. When I got married, I suddenly had cable, and I noticed that all the cool kids on the Food Network used the boxed chicken broth (except Ina Garten, who used her own homemade chicken broth, of course).  That seemed really nifty, so I started using the chicken broth in aseptic cartons.  Several months ago, I purchased organic free-range chicken broth at Costco for a little less than $2 a box (each box is 4 cups of broth) or less than 50 cents per cup.  I also sometimes bought a quart of organic chicken broth at Trader Joe’s for $1.99.  Sometimes I didn’t use the entire box and actually had to throw some or most away.  Sad. 


Image from EWG

Step 3.  A few years ago, I became aware of a little chemical named BPA (hormone disruptor), which lines virtually all canned foods, including soups and broths.  You can read about levels of BPA in canned foods in this report, or check out this very recent guide by The Breast Cancer Fund.  When I learned about BPA, I was glad I had already switched from using canned to boxed chicken broth.  I also started trying to rely less on other canned foods as well.  I didn’t switch broths at this point.  I just felt good about what I was doing.

Step 4. A few months ago, my sister told me that she used Better than Bouillon chicken base (a concentrated paste that you add to boiling water) for chicken broth.  I found it at Costco, and purchased a 16 ounce bottle of Organic Reduced Sodium Chicken Base for $6.89.  The 16-ounce bottle makes 19 quarts of broth, which translates to about 9 cents per cup.  I made the same tofu soup (one that relies heavily on the flavor of the broth) two weeks in a row with my boxed broth and the Better than Bouillon paste to see if we noticed the difference.  We didn’t.  I maybe even liked the soup made with Better than Bouillon a little bit better. 

Now I find that prefer cooking with Better than Bouillon for a number of reasons:
  • Great price!  It’s hard to beat 9 cents a cup for broth.
  • No waste.  I only use as much as I need.  The jar lasts several months in the fridge once opened.  Unopened jars are shelf stable for much longer.
  • More versatile.  I can easily make the broth more concentrated, simply by adding a little extra base (instead of having to wait for a soup to reduce in liquid).  I find it is not any harder to use the base because I almost always use broth in soups that need to be boiled anyway.  I simply add a tablespoon or more straight to the pot.
  • Nearly plastic-free packaging.  Better than Bouillon comes in a glass jar with metal lid.  While the boxes of broth may be BPA-free, there is new research that suggests all plastic (even BPA-free plastics) may leach harmful estrogen mimickers into food, and liquid foods are even more likely to be subject to plastic leaching.  There does appear to be a little plastic on the lid, but the broth base doesn’t really touch the lid. 
  • Significantly less packaging than boxed and canned broth.   Buying, carrying and storing one little jar of broth base is MUCH more convenient than buying, carrying and storing 19 boxes of broth, or 40 cans of broth.  Those cans and boxes are both heavy and bulky!  Less packaging also means less energy used in manufacturing and transportation.  After using up the base, I can clean out the jar, and reuse it for something else.  Metal cans can be recycled, but the aseptic boxes got tossed in the trash.   
  • Non-scary Ingredients: Chicken meat and natural juices, maltodextrin, salt, chicken stock, cane sugar, chicken fat, potato starch, natural flavor, dried onion, dried garlic, turmeric.  I could do without the maltodextrin, but as packaged convenience foods go, this one is not too bad.

So until I raise my own chickens and/or have a bigger freezer, I’ll be using Better than Bouillon.

(Note that Better than Bouillon also makes beef and vegetable bases.  My Costco sells the organic reduced sodium beef base too for the same price.  We don’t use a lot of beef broth around here, but it’s nice to know it’s available.)

Discover more Lazy and Cheap Ways to Be Green by clicking HERE.

What do you use for chicken broth?

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