Frugality comes in many forms and can be found in many places. I recently experienced frugality in my own kitchen: me, a chicken and some creativity. Here’s how I got five meals out of one 5.5-pound chicken.
When I look at a chicken, I see more than a meal — I see opportunities. A chicken represents a chance for me to put on my “creative cook” hat and cook up a storm. Whole chickens (roasters) go on sale pretty often for around $1.50 (or less) per pound. Right there you have a frugal deal — but wait — it gets better! For an average investment of $8.00 (roasters are usually 5 to 6 pounds) you have all that meat to work with! While I personally like to get a raw bird and cook it from scratch, many grocery stores and warehouse clubs offer pre-cooked whole chickens which are a bit smaller for $5-$6. Regardless of whether you cook it yourself or let the store do the initial roasting, there is a lot that can be done with that chicken! Once you have roast chicken, you have the protein component for several meals all cooked and ready to turn into new and different culinary creations. Here’s my top five meals starring one $8.00 chicken:
Meal #1 - Roast chicken, stuffing and oven roasted vegetables
I take advantage of the fact that the oven is already on to bake the stuffing and vegetables. My husband and I enjoy the white meat and wings this first meal, so we split one breast and each take a wing.
While I have the cutting board and knife out, I take the opportunity to dissect the uneaten part of the bird for easier future meals. I take the meat off the second breast, thighs and drumsticks and cube it up for use in upcoming recipes. The yield is several cups of chicken meat. Everything else: bones, cartilage, andskin goes into a storage bag for soup-making (coming up in another meal).
Meal #2 – Chicken pot pies
I always make extra gravy so I’ll be able to add it with some of the chicken, diced potatoes, peas and carrots to individual pie crusts.
Meal #3 – Chicken soup
I boil down all the bones with onions, garlic, carrots, celery and spices for a couple hours until all the meat that was left on the bones falls off and the bones have released their collagen (the gelatinous protein) and voila! homemade chicken stock. I strain it, pick out the chunks of chicken, add more ingredients like noodles or rice and new vegetables and we’ve got a pot of chicken whatever soup.
Meal #4 - Chicken Tetrazinni
This is a simple dish to prepare by stirring cubed chunks of chicken into cooked spaghetti noodles with a Parmesan cheese sauce.
Meal #5 - Chicken quesadillas
Mix shredded chicken with a bit of salsa, spread over tortillas and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Fold over and heat on a griddle until the cheese melts.
There you have it: one chicken, five meals! It’s frugal in terms of money — $8 for the meat for five meals! It’s also frugal in terms of time. I cooked one “big” meal which gave me the ability to make four additional meals more easily than if I’d had to cook more chicken each time. By varying the types of dishes, it seems less like “leftovers” and more like a different meal each time. These are just some of my ideas for making the most of an abundance of chicken.
What can you do with one chicken?