But the prices are outrageous. I selected the cheapest soup on the menu — vegetarian split pea. For a tiny 8-ounce serving and a rather tasteless dry roll, I paid $3.95.

As my mom often says with a knowing smile, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Forgot my lunch, Mom. Left it sitting on the counter, just like when I was a kid. Drat.

So I’m at work, lunchless and famished, forced to head out to a local eatery. I chose one eatery because their freshly made soups are delicious, they willingly tell you the calorie count and they let you taste before you buy.

But the prices are outrageous. I selected the cheapest soup on the menu — vegetarian split pea. For a tiny 8-ounce serving and a rather tasteless dry roll, I paid $3.95.

For split pea soup? Diners have not been so hoodwinked since a hungry traveler arrived in a village with an empty pot, filled it with water and tossed in a stone.

To be fair, restaurants have rent and employees to pay. And restaurants are not the only places charging steep prices for split pea or bean soups. Check out the ubiquitous black kettles at the grocery store deli. You’ll pay about $3.29 for a 12-ounce container, which means an 8-ounce serving costs $2.19. Willing to heat your own?

I found a can of Campbell’s Chunky Pea Soup with ham for $2.39, or $1.19 per 8-ounce serving. And that’s before adding in the cost of a roll.

How much can you save if you make your own?

I bought two 16-ounce bags of split peas for 79 cents each and used three cups, for a total price of $1.20. I added four carrots (55 cents), three stalks of celery (36 cents), two onions (30 cents), two potatoes (20 cents) and garlic (10 cents). My total cost for the pot of thick, delicious soup was $2.70.

The recipe made about 14 8-ounce servings, or 19 cents per serving. Add in the cost of a slice of homemade bread (6 cents) and I’ve got lunch for a quarter. That’s a savings of $3.70 over the restaurant version.

If that 25-cent price tag isn’t enough to convince you, consider this: Pea soup is one of the easiest soups to make. Variations abound, it holds in the fridge for several days, and it freezes well. Split peas, like lentils and dried beans, are so nutritious that I don’t have enough space to list all the health benefits.

The results of my experiment reaffirmed my commitment to pack a lunch every day. And yes, Mom, I’ll try not to leave home without it.


3 cups dried split peas, sorted and rinsed

10 to 11 cups water

2 medium onions, chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste

Optional toppings: Chopped tomato, chopped scallion, sour cream, croutons

Put peas and water in large pot on high and bring to a boil to give them a head start while you start chopping vegetables. Add onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes. Season and serve.

If you prefer a smoother texture, you can puree about half the soup, in batches, in the blender, or use an immersion blender in the pot. If you prefer a creamier texture, use 10 cups water and stir in a cup of milk near the end of cooking time.

Variation: For a non-vegetarian version, fry four strips of bacon till crisp, remove from pan, then sauté onions and celery in the drippings. Drain off grease and add onions and celery to soup pot. Serve bowls of soup with crumbled bacon on top.