It happens all the time, a good friend from out of town calls and wants to visit-today! Instead of putting out cheese and crackers you can serve a delicious gourmet soup that looks like it took all day to prepare when really you whipped it up in under an hour.
Soup time savers
Make it in One Pot
Instead of using multiple cooking techniques and different pots and pans, make your soup in one pot (even one crock pot). You can cook the meat, beans, pasta, vegetables, etc. all in one pot and it's much simpler than cooking them separate. Also, all the flavors will meld together much better if they are all simmering together.
Use canned broth
To many, using canned broth is against everything they believe, but if you are in a rush canned works just as well as homemade. Most canned broths taste pretty darn close to homemade but to add some extra flavor cooked saved poultry, beef, pork, or shellfish bones in the broth for 15 to 20 minutes then remove the bones. Also, add fresh herbs and lots of good vegetables which will impart extra flavor to the broth while cooking.
A great time (and money) saver is to use any leftovers you have laying around. Leftover plain pasta, rice, or beans can be added to the soup towards the end of the cooking process. Even leftover chicken or other meat pieces can be added along with leftover vegetables. Just be sure to add any already cooked items towards the end of the soup simmering so they don't get too soggy.
Use pre-cut/pre-cooked ingredients
The fewer ingredients you have to cut the better. So look for vegetables that are pre-cut (frozen veggies work great) or even meat that is pre-cooked or partially cooked (like frozen shrimp or grilled chicken pieces). This will save lots of prep and cooking time.