This is from The Supper Book: 10th Anniversary Edition by Marion Cunningham. Kind of funny–you can buy a hardcover of this on Amazon (used) for $3 (plus shipping) but the paperback version, that I have is $8 (still a deal!). This is so simple, but so delicious. Certainly frugal, let’s see $1 for the beans, two onions for 50 cents maybe. The ham is the expensive part and that’s only because I actually did buy a small piece of ham just to make this. Normally I would have cooked a ham and used a ham bone but that’s hard to do with just the two of us! So I used about $2.50 of ham. Her recipe says 4 servings but I know we’ll get at least 6, likely 8. I’ll likely serve with a small sandwich, like a tuna melt. So $1 / serving or less. You’d pay more for a can of ham and bean soup and it wouldn’t be half as good and you’d get two small servings.
This is ham and bean soup at its simplest and it’s delicious. If you want more in it, you could think about adding some carrots and celery (I would saute first in a bit of oil with the chopped onion then add the other ingredients.) You could also use chicken broth if you wanted. But I think you will be surprised at how delicious this is in its most simple form.