This article is part of a delicious frugality series called How to stretch a whole chicken into many healthy meals. To start this plucky series from the beginning, read the introduction.
Stretching a whole organic chicken into 22 healthy servings for $49 bucks is easy. It’s the meat measuring, food photographing, blog writing, and penny counting that nearly killed me. Unless you scrapbook every morsel of food you eat, stretching a chicken shouldn’t be this onerous for you. Promise.
Anycrazyblogger, so why did I attempt such an arduous frugal food experiment? Easy. I wanted to prove that eating healthy, organic food on a budget is possible when you take the time, put in the effort, and have a plan.
|Frugal Chicken Series:|
Yes, I am certain you can make these healthy meals cheaper by using a non-organic chicken. So if an organic chicken is not in your budget, that’s OK. The point is that eating healthy food is not as expensive as so many people often whine about. Buying packaged products and eating out is what kills the family budget, not healthy meals made at home from scratch.
Now, before taking on this task, I laid a few ground rules just so you know I didn’t wing it. Here goes:
Squawky’s Chicken Stretching Rules:
- Rule One: Must use a whole organic chicken (read why).
- Rule Two: Meals must be healthy and frugalicious. No deep fried battered chickens on a stick.
- Rule Three: Most food must be from fridge or pantry. No big shopping trips!
- Rule Four: Each meal must feed at least two people, leftovers are encouraged.
- Rule Five: Meals must have some variety.
- Rule Six: Meals must all be made in my slow cooker. I’m lazy, busy, and I love coming home to a hot meal.
- Rule Seven: The cost must be reasonable — I’m not trying to out cheap the internets, but rather have an honest go at making healthy meals with the food in my house while using mostly organic ingredients. Cheapest isn’t always bestest, anyways.
I’ll stop flapping around now. Here’s how I stretched a single organic chicken into 22 healthy meals for $49 bucks — this includes side dishes too people!
Day One: Oven Baked Whole Chicken Dinner
I started this frugal adventure with a single 6.28lb organic chicken for $21.92. Not so frugal you say? Admittedly, this chicken was by far my biggest expense.
I used to be scared of baking a whole chicken. Not anymore. Follow my instructions and you’ll be fine.
- Recipe: Oven Baked Whole Chicken
- Meals: 2 servings
- Chicken consumed: 1/2 breast, 1 leg, 1 wing, 1 thigh
- Sides: spaghetti squash, salad, roasted vegetables, quinoa.
I prefer light meat while Carl enjoys dark. And yes, Carl got a little annoyed (and hungry) while I photographed his meal. Being married to a blogger can be brutal.
Why only 1/2 breast and a few chicken pieces? Well, the amount of meat on this organic chicken was mind boggling. I took the time to measure just for fun. Each chicken breast measured about 8 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick. That’s bigger than any boneless non-organic chicken breast I’ve bought from the grocery store. Plus, the amount of meat from the carcass, legs, thighs, and wings was astounding.
It sounds funny, but I think our organic chicken yielded far more meat than the non-organic birds I’ve bought in the past. So I deem this pricey poultry a winner!
Homemade Chicken Stock
After our baked chicken dinner, I removed most of the meat from the leftover chicken carcass and made homemade chicken stock in my slow cooker. The idea was to further stretch this chicken by making healthy soups and stews with homemade chicken broth.
Making chicken stock is very frugal and super simple. I basically used ingredients I might have otherwise discarded, such as: the chicken carcass, past prime carrots, celery, and onions.
Chicken Stock Details:
- Recipe: Homemade Chicken Stock
- Meals: see below
- Chicken used: 1 chicken carcass
Day Two: White Chicken Chili
The White Chicken Chili feast was easily my favorite meal of the slow cooked bunch. Perhaps I was in the mood for something spicy, or I just love beans — either way this one was a winner. I had to invent my own version since most chicken chili recipes call for raw chicken. I also wanted to make do with the ingredients I had on hand.
The most expensive part of this recipe were the two cans of chopped green chilies totalling $3.98. I couldn’t find a fresh alternative where I live, hopefully you can (and skip the cans).
Day Three: Chicken Noodle Soup
By day three of this frugal food experiment my gorgeous homemade chicken stock was ready. On this day we also experienced a cold snap and Carl got a case of ‘the sicks’. A sick man stuck inside a cold house is a grumpy (and sad) scenario, so I fired up my slow cooker and made a whole lot of chicken noodle soup.
I enjoyed this recipe. But since I cannot eat gluten, I made my own helping with quinoa — a tasty gluten-free alternative. Learn how to cook quinoa for the details.
Day Four: Chicken and Chickpea Stew
For this frugal chicken-stretching recipe all you need is a little leftover cooked chicken, a slow cooker, and some chickpeas. Easy, tasty, frugal, and good.
This recipe really stretches leftover chicken since it contains chickpeas and potatoes. We dined on this stew for two lunches and one dinner. I was thrilled to cut costs further by using tomatoes frozen from my summer garden.
Day Five: Chicken and Lentil Soup
On my final chicken-stretching day I really didn’t feel like eating chicken. Carl still had a bad head cold so I made chicken soup for him, and added lentils for me.
I enjoyed this simple soup. Next time I’ll make it with less onion though. Or maybe next time I’ll just make another batch of White Chicken Chili.
Final Thoughts, Master Grocery List
Adding up my frugal food budget the total cost for all 22 healthy meals (including side dishes) came to $48.60, or $49 bucks if you prefer a nice rounded-up number. That’s a frugal $2.21 per meal for healthy, organic food — less than the cost of a single fancy latte coffee thinger at your local coffee shop. Here’s the budget breakdown with a master grocery shopping list:
Master Grocery List:
- 1 whole organic chicken, 6-7lbs: $21.92
- 1 spaghetti squash: free from garden
- 2 romaine lettuce, 2 leaf green: $3.97
- 8 carrots: $1.49
- 8 celery stalks: $0.73
- 7 medium onions: $1.51
- 3/4 cup mushrooms: $0.58
- 1 cup green beans or broccoli: $ 0.79
- 5-6 cups fresh spinach: $1.49
- 4 large tomatoes, or 1 28-ounce can: free from garden
- 2 medium potatoes: $0.34
- 1 garlic bulb, 5 cloves garlic: $0.23
- 2 cups dried quinoa: $1.82
- 1 cup dried white kidney beans: $0.53
- 1 cup dried green lentils: $0.51
- 1 cup dried chickpeas: $0.54
- 1.5 lemons: $1.05
- 1/2 lime: $0.25
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, or mix: $1.79
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley: $0.13
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander: $0.18
- 3 bay leaves: $0.17
- 2 tsp ground coriander: $0.16
- 2 tsp ground cumin: $0.16
- 2 tsp dried basil: $0.15
- 1 tsp dried oregano: $0.10
- 1 tsp chipotle chili powder: $0.12
- 1/2 tsp paprika: $0.07
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme: $0.10
- 2 cans chopped green chilies: $3.98
- 4 cups egg noodles: $1.15
- 1 bag of wraps: $2.49
- 1/2 tsp olive oil: $0.03
- salt and pepper (to taste): $0.07
TOTAL COST: $48.60
PRICE PER MEAL: $2.21
There you have it — 1 snarky blogger, 1 sick husband, 1 organic chicken, 22 healthy meals, all for $49 bucks. Yes, you might dine on fewer meals if you’re a construction worker. And perhaps you could stretch this cluck even further if you eat like a little person. Regardless of your caloric needs and consumption, I deem this frugal chicken-stretching experiment a success!
Squawkback: How many meals can you stretch out of a single whole chicken? (and how did I do?)