In an effort to live more frugally, I have taken it upon myself to set a monthly food budget and to try and start planning ahead for meals. Mark and I have never really been able to stick to any sort of budget before, mostly because we haven’t REALLY had to. But with our recent move to Florida from the UK and having to buy EVERYTHING all over again, including a new car and a house full of furniture, things have been a lot tighter than we’re used to.
And with another baby on the way, it is more important now than ever for us to figure out a plan for living within our means and still making nutritious choices for us and our kids.
With that in mind, I have been slaving away reading blogs and scouring Pinterest for awesome ideas on how to save money. It is truly amazing how many resources are out there for anyone who is looking for them. With crock pot cooking gaining a massive cult following, you can find ways to make and prepare a TON of meals in advance and save loads of money, too!
And since I’m rather proud of myself at the moment, I decided to share some of the things I’ve learned over the last few weeks and try and add to the resources available out there.
I read on a money saving site that buying a rotisserie chicken is cheaper than buying the same chicken raw and cooking it yourself. And lo and behold, they were right! At our local Costco, a hot and ready rotisserie chicken is only $5 while the equivalent chicken in the poultry section was over $9! So I went ahead and bought TWO.
The first one I used for dinner that night. Why slave away over a hot stove when you’ve got a delicious and already cooked meal right there? I then sliced up the leftovers and used them for sandwiches over the next few days. Big big hit.
The second one, well that is where it gets interesting. Each chicken weighs four pounds, and I decided to see exactly what I could get out of that. The results amazed me!
What worked for me should work for anyone, and I’d love to see if it rings true for you, too! The first thing I did was put the entire chicken in the fridge until I was ready for it. I actually waited until the next day before I attempted to get creative.
Also, it made the next step much easier.
I picked up the now-cold chicken and turned it over. On the bottom of the plastic dish it came in, as well as coated on the bottom of the chicken itself were LOADS of lovely fat globules. All of the juices and fat had congealed to form jelly-like lumps, and I was able to pick them all off quite easily. I threw them into a small plastic zip lock bag, and it will be GREAT for future use either as homemade chicken gravy or to add flavouring to chicken dishes. Why pay for the expensive super condensed stock when you’ve got the real thing right there?
The next thing I did was use my hands to pick ALL of the meat off the bones. I basically threw it all into a huge bowl, white meat, dark meat, everything!
All of the skin, bones and gristle I set aside, using the lid of the plastic pot it came in.
I wound up with TEN CUPS worth of good chicken meat!
I was then able to separate the meat into various bags. I put about two cups of the shredded chicken into each zip lock bag, which will be PLENTY for any meal I choose to make. Think of the options! There’s Chicken Stir Fry, Shredded BBQ Chicken, Curry, Pasta with Chicken, Chicken Fajitas, and any number of casseroles! The options are endless.
Just chuck the individual serving sizes in the freezer and grab them when you need them. If you want to use less chicken per serving, that’s great. It just means you can make it last longer. Bulk it out with peppers, onions, veggies, rice, or any number of other staples. You are only limited by your imagination.
With two cups per baggie, this gave me FIVE easy meals right away, and I promise that depending on what you make, there WILL be leftovers. I used one baggie for chicken fajitas, and we ended up having enough left over for lunch AND dinner the next day!
Anyway, once you have dissected your chicken and extracted all the meat you can from it, you’ll be left with a giant carcass and lots of excess skin and gristle.
DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY! This is your new best friend!
Get out your biggest pot and throw the carcass inside of it. Throw in the skin, too! Every little bit of chicken that is left, throw in there. Fill it with water so that it covers all the bones and such.
Then, set it on the stove to boil. Add in a couple of chopped up onions, some garlic, salt and pepper… Have some celery in the fridge? Chop it up and add it in. Carrots? Throw ‘em in there. Get it boiling.
Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down a bit until it’s at a gentle simmer.
If you want to add your favorite spices, herbs or flavorings, go ahead, but try not to dilute the taste too much. You want it to TASTE of chicken!
Keep it simmering for as long as you can. A good few hours is ideal, although I was short on time and had to make do with about 90 minutes.
Eventually, you will see that the water has turned a sort of cloudy yellow, and the smell that emanates will make you melt. It is SO good.
Once you think it’s had enough time, use a strainer to catch all of the chicken and veggies and drain all of the liquid into a container. A jar, a large freezer bag, or even a bowl will work.
Fair warning – I stupidly put it into a ziplock bag while it was still very hot. Ziploc bags do NOT stay sealed if they are full of hot liquid. They instead explode and go all over your floor. Ahem.
Luckily I managed to still get about a quart of really good quality stock out of it. AFTER it cooled, I transferred it again into a large freezer bag and it will stay frozen until I’m ready to use it.
So there you have it. One small chicken for $5 and dinner for a week!