Frugal Cooking: How to get 4 Meals from 2 Whole Chickens

titus-2-TuesdayOver the years, I’ve cut my grocery budget from over $1000/month for 6 people (2 adults and 4 kids under 6) to where it is now at $300/month for 6 people (2 adults, 4 hungry kids ages 6-12)

So when a friend asked a while back for some recipes that would allow her to cook more frugally and cut down her budget, I almost went into overload, because there are so many ways. 

But one of our favorite ways is to cook whole chicken and make multiple meals of  it.

As I’ve mentioned before I buy meat when it’s on sale and freeze it for when I need it. So usually I pick up whole chickens on sale for between $.59 to $.79 a pound, so one chicken costs about $3.  

So, to start, I pull one or two chickens out of the freezer and defrost it. For the sake of this example, let’s assume I’m doing 2 chickens so I can make multiple meals out of it.

Meal 1: Roast chicken, rice, and vegetables

I roast the chickens, covered in the oven for about an hour at 425 degrees. One chicken is used as the meat for that night’s meal.

Then I pick off all the meat from both chickens and separate into 3 zip lock freezer bags. Any chicken broth drippings from the pan I roasted the chicken in are spooned into the three bags, as chicken freezes better and is moister with some broth.

The carcasses are then put into gallon size zip lock bags and saved (in the freezer) to make chicken broth later.

Now I have three bags of chicken to work with – sometimes these are frozen, sometimes held for the rest of the week’s meals. But basically here are what I make out of them.

Meal 2: Chicken and Dumplings over rice or quinoa

Since we’re really on a tight grocery budget now, I try to work in as much nutrition as possible, so I use homemade chicken broth, throw in potatoes, lentils, and some barley, as well as grated carrots and chopped cauliflower if I have it. This way the meal is nutritious and filling.

Meal 3: Chicken pot pie filling served over rice or as a chicken pot pie

The chicken pot pie filling recipe that I use calls for lots of veggies (whatever you have on hand), so again it’s nutritious and filling. And I’m using homemade chicken broth for this as well.  The recipe I use also makes a double batch, so there’s always left overs for either another dinner meal or for lunches.

Meal 4: Chicken Tacos

These I make in my small crockpot. Just throw in the chicken, a little chicken broth, and some taco seasoning and let it simmer until it is warm and seasoned.

I serve these on whole wheat tortillas, with rice, salsa, cheese, and sliced spinach (my crew won’t eat lettuce but they do eat fresh spinach – go figure!). Sometimes I’ll pull some pinto beans out of the freezer and add those in as well, to make it extra filling and nutritious.

The Bonus: Homemade Chicken Broth

All chicken carcasses are saved for a day when I feel like making broth. Broth is super easy to make, I can’t believe I was afraid of it for so long. But basically I do this in my large crockpot overnight.

At the bottom of the crockpot I put a roughly chopped onion, some celery if I have it, and a couple chopped up carrots (these are thrown out at the end so it doesn’t matter how neat they are). Sometimes I throw in a clove of garlic or two as well. 

Then on top of that I put in as much chicken carcass and trimmings from the freezer as will fit. Cover it all with water. (but leaving at least a 1/2 inch for the broth to fill in – believe me if you fill it all the way, it will overflow and make a huge mess!)

Then splash in about a tablespoon of vinegar (helps draw the nutrition out of the bones).

Cover and cook on low all night. (Warning: about 3am the house smells really really good and may wake you up.)

The next day, strain the broth out from the vegetables, meat, and bones. I give the meat and bones to the cats and then throw it away afterwards.  Place the broth in a bowl in the refrigerator for a day or so.

When the broth gets cold, the fat rises to the top. Then you can just use a spoon to scrape it off and dump the fat in the garbage.  What you are left with is yummy, fat-free homemade chicken broth and it cost you less than a $1 for the onion & carrots.

Now, it may look more like jello, but that’s because it contains more nutrition from the bones than store-bought chicken broth does. But believe me it cooks up great.

I freeze the chicken broth in pint canning jars and fill an ice cube tray with broth for those recipes that only call for a tablespoon or two of broth. Then when I need broth, I just pull it out of the freezer and microwave it and it’s all ready to go.

Sometimes I also just pull out a jar, heat it up with some onions and vegetables and have a yummy hot soup in less than 20 minutes.

So if you do all that, you have at least 4 if not 6 meals from just 2 whole chickens.

This method also works great with Turkey, only you get more meals. Just last night I made turkey broth from our christmas turkey, and we’re on meal 4 out of 7 I think of dinners with left over turkey. Definitely an easy way to stretch the grocery budget and cook frugally :)

Enjoy!

…Shannon

P.S. For more ideas on how to cook frugally, I recommend checking out the Hillbilly Housewife website. This is THE site where I learned a great deal on how to stretch my grocery budget just by cooking frugally.

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