At some point, if you really want your cooking to sing, you're going to need to learn how to make stock.
Want proper, homemade gravy? You need stock. Risotto? Stock. Really hearty soup on a cold day? Stock.
Canned chicken stock isn't bad, if you get the low-sodium stuff, but it isn't nearly as satisfying as homemade stuff. I can't say I'm a fan of commercial beef broth. You can find, sometimes, condensed veal stock that's pretty darn good, but pork, lamb or duck? Not usually, and not anywhere close by.
Luckily, it's not that hard to make if you have the equipment: A large, heavy pot; a second pot, which needs not be quite as large and heavy as the first; a roasting tray or two; an oven and a stove.
Material-wise, you need a good collection of meaty bones.
Chicken stock is probably the easiest to make because the bones are easiest to come by. Even if you're not deboning breasts and thighs, just save the carcass when you roast a whole chicken. Not roasting? Well, then, save the carcass from the next rotisserie chicken you bring home from the supermarket, or the bones from your next bucket at KFC, or from the Buffalo wings you're going to gorge yourself on during the Superbowl -- though in that last case, you might want to give them a good rinse to wash away some of the spice and vinegar.
Beef, pork, veal or lamb will be a little more work. You can hold onto bones from slow-cooked cuts, but they will have already given up a lot of their flavor. Roasts and smaller cuts will provide better bones, but it'll take a lot of grilled lamb chops before you have enough for a good-size batch of stock.
Save the bones you can, and supplement them with neck bones, which turn up semi-regularly in the meat cases at Price Chopper and Grand Union. I buy a package or two as they become available and hoard them in my freezer for when I have enough.
In the case of pork, feet make a wonderful additive. I've made great pork stock almost entirely out of pig feet. The chicken feet you can find at Asian grocery stores serve a similar function.
I should also note that if you buy meat at the famers' market, you can usually make arrangements to buy stock bones from the meat vendors there.
Got your bones? The next step is optional, but you'll wind up with a better product if you use some aromatics. Tradition dicates you want a pile of vegetables not larger than half the size of your pile of bones, half of it onion, one quarter of it peeled carrot and one quarter of it celery. I save and freeze the trimmings from onions and celery that I chop of other purposes and haul them out when it comes time to make stock.
(You may have noted that I'm telling you to keep a lot of stuff in your freezer. I'm not even close to done with that, either. Sooner or later, if you are serious about cooking, you'll want to invest in a freezer for your cellar.)
Also optional but recommended is some parsley, some thyme, a bay leaf or two and maybe a couple cloves of garlic.
Roasting any raw bones you have will improve the flavor and darken the color. I've found doing this under the broiler, after brushing the bones lightly with olive oil to be faster and easier than the 500-degree oven called for in most stock-making instructions. You also might, but don't need to, roast your vegetables.
The bones, the vegetables and any juices released during the roasting go into your largest pot along with enough cold water to cover the whole kit and kaboodle by two or three inches.
Put it on the heat. Use the ladel to skim off the scum that will start to form as it reaches a boil. Once it's bubbling away happily, drop the heat to a low simmer and leave it alone for the next several hours.
I like to get a batch going at bed time and let it work its magic while I'm sleeping, but before trying that you'll want to develop a feel for how fast your largest pot boils down on your stove -- I wound up with a pot full of scorched vegetables and guinea hen bones before I got my timing down.
Once it's cooked way down and the bones are poking up through the surface, you'll need to strain it. I pour out the first pot into a second one through a collander to remove the big chunks and then into a third one through a seive. If you don't have a third pot you can scrub out the first pot and strain back into it.
If it doesn't taste rich and meaty enough for you yet, boil it down until it does.
How you store whatever you're not using right away is up to you. I pour it into large Mason jars to keep in the freezer, but sometimes I put some into an ice cube tray -- using a cube of stock to add a shot of flavor to a pan sauce or other preparation was a trick advocated by Julia Child.
If you're going to have different kinds of stock on-hand, remember to label the containers. You will not be able to tell by looking at them.
There will be, as it cools, a layer of fat that forms at the top of whatever you're storing it in. This may, if you desire, be skimmed off and used for sauteing.
Stock -- make it, use it, savor it.