Stock: frugal delicious nutrition

Holy frugal delicious nutritiousness, Batman, it’s time to stock up!

This is a companion post to a guest post at Kitchen Stewardship. For instructions on how to make chicken stock from either raw ingredients or the carcass of a roasted bird, hop on over there and check it out. Don’t forget to read the comments; blog readers are clever people and I learn more in the comments of some posts than the text itself!

Broth, stock, plain soup: the terms are often used interchangeably but the bottom line is it’s the elixir of youth and a mighty tasty start to a whole lot of what comes out of my kitchen.  Technically, stock is the liquid that results from putting bones, joints or meat in water and applying heat; broth is the soup made from stock with meat or vegetables added, and soup is a generic term for what gets me through the winter.

Why Do We Need It?

It’s a cheap meal base.  One to 1.5 pounds (700g) of organic, grass-fed veal bones costs me less than $5. From that I can make at least 1.5 gallons (6L) of stock, which – if I used it all in soups so it was used up as quickly as possible – would provide the backbone for three family meals. That’s not too shabby!  But not only does it stretch your budget, it stretches the impact of any meat you put with it by allowing the body to access more of the protein, and it could stretch your life. For $5, I’m in!
It’s a tasty way to supplement.  When I finally throw away stock bones they are brittle, falling apart in my hands or tongs, and leaving bone dust in the pot. That means that every last little bit of all the things that made that bone strong are now dissolved into my stock, ready to make me strong: calcium, phosphorous, and – to a lesser degree – magnesium and potassium (source. See reference 56).  This is especially important for those, such as myself, who cannot consume dairy to get these necessary minerals.
Minerals are so important to so many bodily functions that your body will rob your bones to supply your blood, to keep those daily processes going.  If you’re not getting enough minerals in your diet, either because they’re not there to start with or your body can’t use them due to gut issues, you will become deficient.  The results are symptoms and diseases, most often in the form of mood and behaviour disturbances.
It’s kind of the elixir of youth.  If you’re pregnant or TTC, or over 30, or an athlete (or just like to walk or garden or sit – as I do to write – with your legs tucked up under you), the support that the chondroitin, collagen, glycene and gelatine in bone broth can give to your joint, bone and skin health is pretty compelling. They help your skin stretch without tearing (leaving stretch marks) or creasing (wrinkles), they keep your knuckles and knees sturdy and flexible, and they are like moisturizer on your insides, helping them to do their job efficiently and effectively. (Incidentally, collagen mollecules ar etoo large to be taken in through the skin, so save your money on those fancy face creams and put the savings towards a slow cooker and a supply of good bones!) As Sally Fallon puts it:
The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.”
It's so soothing and nourishing to the gut that the entire Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet hinges on regular intake of stock. 

In the case of pregnancy, the baby increases the mother’s need for glycine by 2 to 10 times her normal rate (source. See reference 40) We really are what we eat, so getting strong bones, joints and soft tissues into our diets helps us grow and maintain them in ourselves and our children, too.  The list of ailments that gelatine alone can help is pretty astounding:
“food allergies, dairy/bean/meat/grain maldigestion, colic, hypochlorhydria, hyperacidity (gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, ulcer, hiatal hernia) inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, malnutrition, weight loss, muscle wasting, cancer, osteoporosis, calcium deficiency and anemia.” (source)
Food is certainly more than its nutritional breakdown, (thanks to Michael Pollan for popularising the term nutritionism to describe this tendency,) and broth is no exception. It gives a rich, comforting depth of flavour to things that packaged foods try to mimic with MSG.

For more on broth, including how to make it from poultry, store it, and use it, hop over to my (first ever!) guest post at Kitchen Stewardship.  In a couple of days I’ll be posting about making stock from ruminant bones, joints and off-cuts.


  1. ... and soup made with home-made stock is just so utterly GOOD, that all the health benefits are just a plus really :-)
    And, I put the bones etc into a slow-cooker and go away and leave it to do all the work. All that magic for not a lot of effort. Win/Win :-)

  2. I know, I know! How awesome is a ready-made crock pot of wholesome fast food? Apparently 4 hours of slow cooker = 1 hour in the oven, electricity-wise. The stove needs less power, I think, so you're into pretty cheap prep on top of cheap ingredients.
    And yeah, I don't think anyone who's had soup from real veg and real stock (and not much else, because that's all it needs) would ever go back to tinned/canned/powdered. They can't put enough MSG in there to make it taste like anything. Oh sure, it tastes strongly, but of what? MSGishness. Not soup. Bleh.

  3. Excellent post. Just found your blog today, through Real Food Media. Loved the gelled broth in the chicken/turkey stock post, and hopped over here to hear more about the chemistry of cooking.

    You and I are gonna be great friends is my guess!

    Just had us some yummy beef stock with clam juice and clams and garlic and celery and peppers and carrots... call it "Something Clam Soup" lol.... The kids devoured it, even the ones who don't like clams.

    I'm on a mostly liquid diet right now... GAPS gave me elimination issues... blah... but, I hope I'm healing up inside from all the broth!

    Thanks for the great read, and you can bet I'll be back!

    By The Spoonful,

  4. What a generous comment, Meg, thank you! I don't always blog about food, but I try to label food posts ("recipes") for easy searching amongst the this-and-that. I'll do a post on stock from ruminants later in the week, and then I'm working on another lit review of interesting research, this time on effects on the baby of different types of fats in the mother's diet.
    Good luck with GAPS! Hopefully you're experiencing a "healing crisis" and the 'issues' turn out to be the turning point. There's a bit at the end of one of my "Health Hydra" posts about that which might offer some good news to you - I hope so!