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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20 comments to A Frugal Chicken

  • I just bought a chicken today. I plan on stretching it for sure. I always make the roast chicken, bone broth, a soup with the meat, and then use more meat in salads or other ways. Plus my husband usually brings a little meat for left overs. I am not brave enough to use the organ meats, so I do pitch them. Maybe I will try a broth out of them….

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  • what a timely post! i once refused to tough raw meat, but am picking up a whole chicken from my co-op this thursday. the puree for chili is a great idea. thank you!

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  • I try to stretch a chicken as far as I can too! Baked chicken for dinner, slices for sandwiches in my husband’s lunch, chopped up for casseroles and make broth with the bones. I still haven’t been brave enough to use the giblets, though. I should really try that.

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  • I am with you on the cooking from scratch! And I really think that whole chickens are one of the best buys in the market. My family of four can easily eat for at least three and sometimes four days off two chickens without having repeats. My favorite way to cook them this time of year is on the rotisserie in the grill. Keeps the heat outside! They can then be used so many ways.

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  • Kendra

    I often cook a whole chicken and I do make it streeeeeetch. One chicken will stretch our family of nine for two meals :) Although, I will add my useful idea…I have struggled with “leftovers” for a long time. We used to end up tossing our leftovers because they wouldn’t get used and started doing icky scientificky things. So we have resurrected my mom’s old tradition of “garbage soup.” Every so often I toss all the left overs into the crockpot. I’ll add some veggies if they are lacking in there. I add some extra water, simmer it all day and viola’! My family loves it. Even the youngest at 2 seems to slurp it all down. It might sound strange or look strange (i.e. black beans and ground beef together with noodles and chicken and pasta sauce), but it really is a hit. One child even requested garbage soup for their special birthday dinner.

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  • It’s amazing how far you can stretch a chicken huh? I’m always surprised (and delighted) by what I can do with one.

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  • This is my kind of cooking! The prep work may take a little time, but you reap the rewards all week!

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  • Thanks for this helpful post. I have never processed a whole chicken before, but we are joining the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) so as soon as we get a chicken I will be following these steps!

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