It's getting chilly outside at night, and the days are getting shorter. Fall is here. It's time to make soup!

I may be rushing the seasons, but I love homemade soup. It fills our house with wonderful smells. It's warm and filling, and I can work on other things while the soup simmers away. I can also prepare most soups with leftover ingredients that I already have in the house making it a true frugal food, too.

My first soup of the season came from the "rescued" ham in our freezer. It made a great meal and terrific leftovers, but I wasn't quite ready to throw out that ham yet. I knew the ham bone and scraps would also make a great soup. Bones make a simple, low-cost "base" or "stock" for soups and add tremendous flavor.

If you find yourself with a ham bone this fall (we used the bone from a spiral-cut, honey glazed ham), try out our favorite ham and string bean soup:

1 ham bone, with scraps of meat attached

About 2 cups ham, cubed

4 medium potatoes

2 cans green or yellow string beans (or two large handfuls of fresh or frozen beans)

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

Place ham bone in a medium-sized pot. Add enough water to cover and bring water to a rolling boil.

Reduce heat and simmer bone for one hour. While preparing the stock, wash and prep vegetables. Chop potatoes, carrots, and celery into bite-sized pieces. If using fresh or frozen beans, break or cut beans to bite-sized length.

After bone has simmered for one hour, add vegetables. (Keep the bone in the water.) Cook vegetables at a low boil for 30 minutes.

Remove bone. Add cubed ham and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with rolls or crusty bread.

This is the first time that I used a honey-glazed ham to make soup stock. It tasted terrific! The small amount of glaze on the bone created an interesting combination of sweet and salty. This recipe works equally well with bones from a nonglazed ham, which is what we usually use.

Keep an eye open for reduced-price hams around Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can often find bone-in whole and half hams for 50 cents a pound or less during the holiday season.

No plans to bake a whole or half ham? No problem. You can also make a wonderful ham and string bean soup with a ham slice:

Following the cooking directions on the ham slice package, brown the ham in a medium-sized pot. I often have to cut the ham slice in half and brown it in two batches. (You'll want the entire ham slice to touch the surface of the pot, because the browning process will leave a rich flavor behind for your soup stock.) Remove ham and set aside to cool. Add bite-sized vegetables to the pot with enough water to cover the vegetables. While vegetables are cooking, cube ham. After 30 minutes, add cubed ham back into the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.