1 Organic Chicken, 22 Healthy Meals, $49 Bucks

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:
  1. 1 Organic Chicken, 22 Meals, $49 Bucks
  2. Oven baked whole chicken
  3. Homemade Chicken Stock
  4. White Chicken Chili
  5. Chicken Noodle Soup
  6. Chicken Stew
  7. Chicken Lentil Soup

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:

  1. Rule One: Must use a whole organic chicken (read why).
  2. Rule Two: Meals must be healthy and frugalicious. No deep fried battered chickens on a stick.
  3. Rule Three: Most food must be from fridge or pantry. No big shopping trips!
  4. Rule Four: Each meal must feed at least two people, leftovers are encouraged.
  5. Rule Five: Meals must have some variety.
  6. Rule Six: Meals must all be made in my slow cooker. I’m lazy, busy, and I love coming home to a hot meal.
  7. 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.

Dinner Details:

  • 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:

If you’re new to slow cookers or crock pots, check out 6 Reasons to use a Slow Cooker and then see How to Buy a Slow Cooker for a few frugal buying tips.

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.

Dinner Details:

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.

Dinner Details:

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.

Dinner Details:

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.

Dinner Details:

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

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?)

Your two cents:

  1. di fairbanks August 25th, 2012

    wow, i don’t feel like such a skinflint after reading this! i’ve been doing a lot of this for years; in fact, when i cut up a fresh onion or carrot, i save the ends in the freezer to use when i make the broth! i also dehydrate my own celery to use for seasoning, since around the holidays i can usually get it for under 50 cents a bunch. i like the soup ideas, but i also use a fair bit of the chicken for my chicken/cheese quesadillas and enchiladas, or chicken salad, or chicken pot pie, or….the possibilities for leftover chicken are almost endless!

  2. TwoYellowDogs.Terri August 26th, 2012

    I am so inspired. I do whole chicken similarly, except use a pressure cooker. Cooks in about 30 mins., let rest/cool, remove skins, icky stuff (goes to dogs in small portions); shred most delicious moist chicken. All I throw away is bones. I typically use for huge pile of shredded chicken for chicken encilladas. (my guests rave about my chicken enchillads–secret is pressure cooked chicken and green enchillda sauce). Broth is reserved for other cooking. But now, today, I am going to pressure cook a chicken for a weeks worth of meals; and chili, soup, ??, will be born. Thanks for the inspiration, meal ideas!

  3. Christine Weadick August 26th, 2012

    I make stock from the holiday turkey every year. I strip as much meat as I can from the bird’s remains and toss into a bowl. The bird goes into one of DH’s stockpots he bought for beer making. Add lots of water, a couple of onions, quartered, 3-4 celery stalks, and a bunch of peppercorns. Then I boil it for 7-8 hours, adding water as needed to keep the level up. While that’s boiling I bag up the meat for the freezer.A couple of handfuls to a bag. After the turkey has cooked all day I strain it into a corning ware pot, which goes into the fridge for the night. Next morning I skim off the fat and package up the stock… it will look like brown jello, into plastic containers and freeze. When we want some turkey soup I pull out some stock and a bag of meat, toss into a large pot to thaw and heat up, add what ever left over veggies are around and some left over rice or pasta or noodles… what ever is there. I add a bit of dry sage and call it supper. My boys love it!!!It cleans up left overs a couple of times over.

  4. Honour 25 August 29th, 2012

    To expand on your theme, every ethnic group has a favorite Chicken based dish + a plan-over. for example, Coq a Vin + Parisian chicken [heated in marmalade]. Chinese King Pao + stir fry or Chop Suey, Pilaf, Paella, Spanish Rice, Cacciatore + Tetrazzini. The only thing different is the combination of spices for Greek, Mediterranean, Italian, Creole,Hungarian,

    There are endless casseroles using up left over rice, pasta, couscous, polenta, cheese, ham, veggies. I give it a made-up name like Tango Tonight and it’s fun to eat. Chowders, deep dish pies, wrapped in biscuit dough or wonton wrapper, dumplings and an endless variety of salads, soups & stews. With summer fruit plentiful try sauces like orange, apricot, peach, pineapple, cherry to perk up boring chicken.

  5. Ronja November 4th, 2012

    Where did the other 3 cups of chicken come from?!! I counted 2 half breasts, two wings, two legs, two thighs, 1 reg breast, and then you wrote “1 cup chicken” and “2 cups chicken” for the last two recipes!! Where is that meat comming from?! Even with the gibblets and the back meat I can’t just randomly “find” 3 cups of chicken. Am I crazy?!

  6. Steffanie November 15th, 2012

    What kind of “wraps” do you buy, Kerry? We eat gluten-free as well and haven’t come across any yet.

  7. Sue April 30th, 2013

    Well . . . you are cooking for two. I am cooking for 6, three of them BIG men. That chicken would have been pretty much decimated at the first meal, with a little meat and a carcass left over (from which I would make stock for a future recipe). That was one BIG chicken, though – over 6 pounds – quite impressive! Most regular chickens are in the 3-1/2 pound range, so in that regard I think you got a screaming deal!

    It sounds to me like you and your hubby got five days worth of dinner, with leftovers that may have been frozen for another time. I’d say you got your money’s worth! Good job!

  8. Channine Choudhary October 15th, 2014

    done this great money saver time saver and it’s healthy just had the lentil soup delish x

  9. Anna March 5th, 2016

    Wow, I wish food cost so little in Canada!!! 😐

    Here that $49 shopping list would cost me $100 for sure. Loved the recipes though!!

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