A Frugal Chicken

When I posted our week of chicken meals last week, many of you commented on the “work” of my “from scratch” meals. So, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into one of my favorite frugal kitchen routines by nourishing my family from one chicken for several filling meals!

  • First, find a good chicken. Check out Eat Wild or Local Harvest to see if you can find a nearby farm. Keep an eye out for pastured chickens that aren’t pumped full of soy and antibiotics; at least ones that aren’t crammed into stinky cages. It’s just healthier that way.
  • Once you have your chicken, look for the “giblets” (the chicken guts). Yes, icky; but it’s worth it! Don’t waste the money you spent on your chicken by tossing these out.
  • Some butchers may do the work of already removing the neck and giblets for you, and put them in a little bag (sometimes stuffed back inside the chicken). If not, scoop out the inside cavity of the chicken by hand to remove the organ meats and neck. Reserve them in a bowl in the refrigerator; we’ll use them later.

Now you’re ready to start preparing your chicken meals! (Obviously, if you have a very large family, the chicken won’t stretch as far, but I’m basing this on meals that serve an average of 4 people. You can still use this concept, though.)

Here are my typical meals from one chicken. (You don’t have to make/eat them all in one week. You can freeze meat, broth, or prepared meals for other weeks, if desired.)

  • Roast Chicken
  • This is a simple “toss it in the oven, and forget about it” meal; perfect for a busy day. Once you’ve quickly removed the giblets, toss the whole chicken into a roaster pan, sprinkle on some sea salt, herbs and oil, and pop it in the oven. (Seriously, this is quicker prep work than a boxed macaroni meal!)

    Serve portions of the chicken for dinner (with plenty of quick side dishes to round out the meal, such as steamed veggies). Reserve the rest of the meat and bones for later.

  • Stock Day
  • Here are some great simple instructions for a traditional chicken stock. (I don’t do the “cheesecloth step,” I just scoop out the bones when finished.) After removing the meat, place the chicken carcass in a large stockpot and cover with water.

    Make sure to add a dash of vinegar, to help draw out the nourishing minerals from the bones. After bringing it to a boil, let it simmer all day. Refrigerate your stock. Once cool, it will be a “gelatin” texture.

    If you want soup that same day, add your desired veggies, beans, grains, etc to some of the broth; or make soup with all of it, and freeze some. (I usually make a frugal vegetarian soup, since the broth itself is so nourishing.)

  • Leftover Chicken Meals
  • Add some leftover cooked chicken to two more meals. Make the chicken stretch by adding it to a bean salad, curry, pizza, or a frugal stir-fry for dinner (serve with brown rice), salad sandwiches (with veggies) for lunch, or even omelets!

    We typically add additional proteins, such as eggs, beans, or peanut butter/sauce to make the chicken stretch, while still having a hearty meal.

  • Make Soup Again
  • Remember those giblets sitting in the fridge? Use them to make a nourishing broth! I save these for a “crockpot day,” by simmering the organ meats and neck in a couple quarts of water, along with some veggies & herbs. This broth will have a much more “meaty” taste than the bone broth you made earlier. Add beans and grains as desired.

    It’s the rare “brave” eater who will eat those organ meats floating in the broth, so I scoop them out (after cooking, before serving), and save them for yet another meal:

  • Chili-
  • I completely “disguise” the organ meats by pureeing them in a blender. Then I stir these into a spicy-sweet “vegetarian” bean chili for some added meaty flavor and nourishment.  This is our favorite way to eat iron-rich chicken livers!

  • Baby food-
  • A portion of bone broth you made earlier is wonderful dished up cold for baby as a gelatin meal! This fun wiggly food is incredibly nourishing with all the minerals of the marrow, and necessary fats for baby’s development. (The chicken meat and skin is great for baby too!) You can read more on this in Nina Planck’s Real Food for Mother and Baby.

  • UPDATE: As I was cleaning out my fridge, I realized I had forgotten to mention one more item: Chicken Fat! :) We skim it off the top of our cooled broth. Then we toss spoonfuls into a frying pan as a healthy & frugal alternative to frying in vegetable oil. Here is a great tutorial on making your own Schmaltz.

So, here’s the count- At Least:

  • One Roast Chicken Supper
  • Two “Bone Broth” Soups
  • One Giblet Broth Soup
  • One Pot of Chili
  • Two Leftover Chicken Meals
  • One Batch of Baby Food (many meals!)
  • One Batch of Schmaltz

Are you stretching your chicken? What are your favorite chicken recipes?

Visit Tammy’s Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays!

Photo Credits: jules:stonesoup, adactio

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