The basic Japanese soup stock is made with dried fish, sea weed or mushrooms. As dried bonito (katuobusi 鰹節) is most appreciated, it is expensive and needs a big bulk of it to make flavorful stock. Instead of this poor cost performance bonito flakes, I usually use dried small anchovies.
A bag of 8oz dried anchovy, called Iriko or Niboshi （いりこ、煮干） is $5.99 at a nearby Korean supermarket. This makes a 10 oz jar full and supports my kitchen for 3-4 months. Compared to this, a 3.52 oz (100g) bag of bonito flake is $14.78. I bet this makes a gallon of stock. This does not make sense for me, at least for everyday cooking.
How to prepare
Put the dried anchovies in a thick, heavy pan and roast over low heat.
Roast slowly until very crispy but never burn. It may take 20 min. or longer.
When they are cooled, transfer the anchovies to a food processor.
Process to powder them.
Keep them in a jar.
How to make stock
Add 2 tbs of the anchovy powder to 2 quarts of water. If you have time, leave it overnight. Heat over medium heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minute and strain it with a tea strainer.
Comparing with usual chicken stock which requires hours of simmering, this is easy and quick. Of course this stock contains no MSG and its flavor is never fishy.
This is the basement of most of Japanese cooking. If you still think this is too complicated to do, there are some instant soup stock products available as well.
I have the recipe in Japanese, too.