Stretch Your Budget: Chicken

Stretch Your Budget ChickenIf you tend to run out of money before you run out of month, you need ways to make the most out of your ingredients. Starting with chicken, we’ll look at ways to maximize protein to have healthy, varied meals for less.

What can you do with a 6-pound roaster chicken?  Quite a lot, actually.

This week I made it into 5 meals (for 3 adults) and 3 quarts of broth. It could be stretched even further, but we ate roast chicken as the main dish the first night. Using the meat as a secondary ingredient in a recipe allows you to use much less per person.

Hands-off Approach

I have always been grossed out by touching raw chicken, so it took a lot for me to go from using the nice, ready to cook boneless skinless breasts to pulling apart an entire carcass. I am ok with it now as long as I have as little physical contact as possible with it. (Yes, I am very grateful it is available already butchered and plucked.)

The cooking process for a whole chicken can be as simple or complicated as you wish. People have come up with elaborate seasoning mixes, ways to tie the limbs, basting procedures and marinades. I plunk the ugly thing down on a rack in the roasting pan, spritz some olive oil on it and shake some spices over the skin. Then I usually forget about it until I can smell it wafting through the house. My chicken has a crispy, flavorful skin and moist meat. It isn’t necessary to overcomplicate it, but you certainly can if it makes you happy.

I start off by roasting the chicken because I think the flavor makes all dishes taste better than just boiling it. We also like to have the first meal be the straight-from-the-oven roast meat.

Roast Chicken

6 1/2 pound Roasting Chicken (I used a fryer chicken a couple times and it was not nearly as good)
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil (I use a mister)
1/4 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or minced fresh garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
1/8 teaspoon celery salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place chicken breast side up on rack in roasting pan. Spray or brush skin with oil, and shake spices evenly over the top. Cook for approximately 12 to 15 minutes per pound. If the skin isn’t getting crispy enough, turn the oven to 425 degrees for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. I use a digital temperature probe to test if the chicken is done. You should have the internal temperature at least 170 degrees before eating.

Note:  You can oil and spice both sides, flipping over the chicken partway through cooking. I stopped doing that when I found we weren’t eating much of the meat or skin from the bottom side.

Oh, and remember to remove the giblets first. I did not see the point of having to stick my hand into the poor creature’s abdomen to retrieve the cluster of weird body parts for a long time. (I have also had the experiences of trying to pry them out after I have frozen the chicken, cooking it with them still inside, and failing to identify what they are in a container in my freezer, but I digress …)

Make the Broth

Save scraps from chopping vegetables in your freezer for making broth. It is a great way to recycle less appealing parts of the vegetables, while adding excellent nutrients and flavor. As soon as the chicken has cooled down, I pick all the good meat off of the bones and save it in containers or freezer bags for other meals. I fill my crock pot 2/3 full of water, add a couple handfuls of vegetable scraps, the giblets, the carcass, and the following spices:

1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/3 teaspoon black ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/3 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/3 teaspoon parsley (optional)

I set the timer for 8 or 10 hours on low. The next day I turn it off, let it cool down, and pour it through a mesh strainer into containers. I put the containers in the refrigerator and then skim off the fat that floats and hardens at the top. Then it can be frozen until later use. My chicken made 3 quarts of broth, of which I will use a quart of broth for the jambalaya. It also made 5 1/2 cups shredded meat to use it in the following recipes.shredded chicken

Meal 1:  Roast Chicken
Simply carve and serve meat alongside a nice vegetable and starch. We had ours with corn and mashed potatoes this week. Everyone devoured it before I was able to take a picture.

Meal 2:  Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya (1 1/2 cups chicken, 1 quart broth)

Meal 3:  Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas (1 1/2 cups chicken)Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Meal 4:  Creamiest Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo (1 cup chicken)

Meal 5:  {Mock} Chicken Parmesan Pasta (1 cup chicken)


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  1. says

    I love using chicken for tons of meals! My sister once told me that we use too much of it, but you can’t beat how many great meals come out of just that one bird! It’s like it’s own secret “power food”. I used to be the same way with touching raw meat, but finally graduated to not using gloves from work to clean them lol! Pinning :-)

    • Rebecca says

      Chicken is not my favorite meat (plus the ick factor) but it is definitely one of the most versatile. As long as I keep making it different ways, my guys never seem to get sick of it.

  2. Emily says

    I do this about once a month! I haven’t been so good about making broth lately, but I have bones and veggie scraps in bags in my freezer for when I am ready to make some again. I usually can it when I do, or make up soup and can the soup. Then it is ready to go without much more than heating it up for dinner.

    • Rebecca says

      Canning always seems to be something I wait to do until I have a lot at once. Do you just can a few quarts of the broth?

  3. says

    I used to make roasted chicken all the time, but I haven’t done it as much lately. Makes beautiful broth though! Thanks for sharing at Fridays Unfolded!


    • Rebecca says

      It certainly does! Your website and newsletter are lovely. It’s an honor being part of Fridays Unfolded.

    • Rebecca says

      Thanks Ashley! Hope you find them useful. My favorite part is they are easy and versatile. I don’t have much time to fuss.

  4. Lana says

    When I bring whole chickens home from the store I take them out of the packaging and remove the ‘superfluous stuff’ and put it into a ziploc freezer bag and toss it into the freezer. It can straight from the freezer to the crockpot this way or if you are thawing it you don’t have to worry about it getting thawed all the way through the innards because you have already gotten rid of them.

  5. Sarah says

    Thanks for sharing! I just wanted to share about how glad ( sometimes proud)
    I was that I’ve been privelidged to grow up learning how to and getting lots of practice butchering chickens of all kinds. Those days bring some precious memories as we got the chance to work and sing or commune together with family, aunts, and cousins. Precious memories!

    • Rebecca says

      That’s wonderful to grow up that way, and have such experiences to learn from! I lived in a small village in Mexico for a couple years as a child. I still remember and am impacted by the way they worked as a community, and their hands on approach to life.


  1. […] Yes, they really do. I have an almost 0 waste kitchen and I buy things like value packs of chicken and ground beef during sales and then spread them out in the different meals. If I make brown rice for a meal, I’ll cook extra and freeze it for the next meal with rice, etc. Any extra servings or ingredients are immediately frozen and reused later in the plan. I explain more in and and […]

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