Saving Money on Groceries: Meat – Part 3

So far in this series on lowering the cost of meat in your grocery budget, I’ve covered my three key strategies:
- Knowing my buy price
- Buying in larger quantities, and
- Doing the prep work one time.

In the last post, I shared the simple method I use for ground beef and ground turkey. The principles are the same with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but it does require a little more prep work.

Again, my goal is to handle the meat once, usually with a day or two of buying it. That way, when I’m ready to cook, I just pull a bag out of the freezer, and either cook it (if the dish allows) or defrost it so I can cook it the next day without any extra prep work.

My husband and I have been using this method since we were first married, when it was just the two of us. Then a meal-size package was only two peices of meat; now it has to contain enough for six of us. But the methodology is exactly the same.

Preparing Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breats for the Freezer and Future Meals:

To start, I gather up my tools:
- the platter of chicken
- quart-sized,  Ziploc freezer bags
- kitchen shears (scissors)

Kichen shears, chicken, and freezer storage bags - all ready to go.

Kichen shears, chicken, and freezer storage bags - all ready to go.

For the storage bags, be sure to use Freezer grade bags. After trying multiple different brands, I’ve chosen to stay with Ziploc, but if you don’t have them available or you are not using freezer-grade bags, be sure to double bag your meat so you don’t get freezer burn.

Also, kitchen shears (scissors) are a must! Trimming chicken with a knife is a major pain (in my opinion). If you don’t have a pair, I highly suggest investing in some. They are indespensible for preparing chicken and other types of food.

Also, if you don’t like to handle raw meat, you might want a pair of sterilized rubber or latex gloves.

And as always, be sure to follow proper food handling guidelines, especially when working with raw chicken. My rule is that no one can do the prep work with me unless they wash their hands before and after touching the meat. And they can’t touch anything else while working with the meat.

For each piece of chicken, I do two things:

1.  Trim all the fat and gristle off using the kitchen shears. I am not gentle. And I probably chop off more than most would. But I save all the trimmings for making chicken stock later and/or for pet food.

Trim the fat and gristle from the chicken breasts

Trim the fat and gristle from the chicken breasts

2.  Cut the chicken breasts into serving size peices. Now that there are six of us, I have different size peices for different members of my family. But remember a recommended serving size is not a whole breast of chicken; it’s 3 oz or the size of a pack of cards. Most chicken breasts can be cut in half or even thirds to get good sized chicken.

For thick peices, I’ll also use the scissors to butterfly cut the thick parts so that each peice is of similar thickness.

If stir fry chicken is on the menu, I’ll cut up a breast or two into stir fry sized strips.

And if chicken strips are on the menu, then I’ll do the same – cut some into the size I use for chicken strips.

Cut the chicken breasts into serving size pieces

Cut the chicken breasts into serving size pieces

Then I bag up the chicken into meal-size servings. So each Ziploc bag contains exactly the amount of chicken needed for one meal. For our family of six, a tray of chicken usually yeilds 3-5 meals (bags), plus a bag of trimmings.

Marinade can also be added before freezing

When you are done you’ll have several meals worth of chicken and one bag of trimmings for stock or pet food later.

Ready to freeze and cook later

Ready to freeze and cook later

To save freezer space, flatten the bags and stack them in the freezer.

Flatten bags fit better in the freezer

Flatten bags fit better in the freezer

I like to have a consistent place in the freezer for each type of meat (poultry vs. beef vs. trimmings for stock). But if you don’t have a system like this in place, be sure to label the bags with a permanent marker (don’t use water based, it won’t be readable later).

Now, all I have to do  is grab a bag and throw it in the heated pan and start cooking.  This really works well for baked chicken dishes, stir-fry, and sauteed chicken.

For fried chicken or breaded chicken, or marinaded grilled chicken, I’ll pull the bag out the night before and let it defrost in the refigerator. Then it is ready to go the next night.  And, if you have the marinade in the bag already, all the marinading is being done during the defrosting. (works wonders and saves a ton of prep time.)

So, if you aren’t doing something like this, I highly recommend giving it a try. :)

Other Posts in This Series:

Saving Money on Groceries: Meat

Save Money on Groceries: Meat – Part 2

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