This is the introduction to a multiple part series called How to stretch a whole chicken into many healthy meals.

Don’t ever invite me over for dinner. I might just open your fridge, check out your leftovers, and start photographing your food. That’s exactly what happened to Kazia and Logan Mullin when they opened their door to my crazy and let me walk through.

Frugal Chicken Series:
  1. Introduction
  2. 1 Organic Chicken, 22 Meals, $49 Bucks
  3. Oven baked whole chicken
  4. Homemade Chicken Stock

You see, the Mullins are an interesting bunch — they have three kids (three-year-old Sadie is the youngest, Harrison or ‘Harry’ is 6, and big brother Alias is 8), they live on a budget, and they eat healthy, mostly organic meals throughout the week. Since Logan works full-time in IT and Kazia runs her own small business, I had to wonder: how does this busy family of five manage to get dinner done?

It only takes a peek into their freezer to figure it out. Go on, take a look…

…and looky here too…

…have you figured it out it? Now don’t cry fowl — the Mullins dine well on an organic dime (or two) because they know how to stretch a chicken until it squawks. Using one whole organic chicken, they can re-spin that clucker into multiple healthy meals by making homemade chicken stock, and using the remaining meat to slow cook soups and stews. Amazing, non?

Now I’m no stranger to stretching meals to save time and money, but I think the Mullins have me beat. Here is the Mullins’ plucky money saving method:

The Mullin Method:

  1. Buy a whole organic chicken, around 6-7 lbs.
  2. Bake whole chicken, eat family meal.
  3. Make homemade chicken broth in slow cooker.
  4. Make a stir-fry or fajita dinner.
  5. Slow cook a chicken soup-type meal.
  6. Slow cook a chicken stew-type meal.
  7. Depending on what’s left, another stew or soup.
  8. Freeze remaining chicken stock, if any.

If you’ve been stretching a single chicken for decades then you know this method is nothing new. The internets are buzzing with bloggers who boast about the distance their dinner travels on one bird, and the mileage they muster from their leftover chicken meat. For example, Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar goes the distance in The Frugal Whole Chicken, J.D. Roth over at Get Rich Slowly makes Simple Homemade Chicken Stock, and Kristen Swensson Sturt at Cheap Healthy Good ruffles a few feathers in 1 Chicken, 17 Healthy Meals, $26 Bucks, No Mayo.

Since I’m impressed by the Mullins’ Method and I’ve never fully stretched a chicken until it frugaliciously squawked, I’ve decided to throw my slow cooker into the mix and do my best to get dinner done with one bird flying across multiple meals. But there are rules:

Squawky’s Chicken Stretching Rules:

  1. Rule One: Must use a whole organic chicken (reason below).
  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.

These are the rules, and I’m sticking to them. If you’re new to slow cooked meals (or just need a little convincing), check out 6 Reasons to use a Slow Cooker and then see How to Buy a Slow Cooker for many helpful tips.

Why buy an organic whole chicken?

Yes, an organic whole chicken costs A LOT more than a supermarket rotisserie chicken. So why spend your hard-earned money on organic meat?

I have an obvious bias since I live on an organic cattle ranch where the cattle eat nothing but grass and roam freely on pasture — they are grass fed animals and they are exceptionally healthy. The farmer who lives next door to me (which is several miles away) raises organic chicken — they are free-range, they roam, and they are exceptionally healthy.

The beef and chicken you generally buy in the supermarket is mass produced in feed lots or in small confined cages — these animals are not necessarily unhealthy, but they cannot be compared to those animals who roam and live a life outside on pasture.

In his article on Animal Welfare, author Michael Pollan answers the questions: Is grass fed meat really better for me?, Where can I buy grass fed meat?, and Why aren’t you a vegetarian?. As the mega bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, I think Mr. Pollan is far better equipped than I am to tackle the challenging subjects of food cost, mass production, and dietary choices.

If you think that the cheapest food is the best deal, you may think again after seeing Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc. — an excellent and disturbing movie that examines the costs of putting value and convenience over nutrition and environmental impact. Go see it. Then share it with your friends.

Next Steps

I’m playing by the rules, so I can’t go over to my neighbor’s and pluck a fresh chicken from their farm. Instead, I went to the local butcher shop to buy that free-range chicken I keep squawking about. Here’s the proof:

Yes, the butcher thought I was nuts when I photographed my chicken on the scale. I live in a smallish town, so everyone knows everybody. Sigh. Anyways, buying your chicken should be a lot less embarrassing, just leave your camera at home.

The proof is in the price. So far my total cost is $21.92, and I’m totally OK with that. Over the next while I’ll show you how I applied the ‘Mullin Method’ to stretch this bird — I’ll share my successes, my failures, and you can follow along with my frugal foodie experiment.

Squawkback: Got a tip to share when it comes to stretching a chicken? I could use a little plucky advice.