When it comes to buying and cooking chicken, there are so many ways to save money.
Good, better, and best
Although pasture-raised chickens are the best bet nutritionally and ecologically, not everyone can afford to buy it or to eat this kind of poultry exclusively. I consider certified organic or local, antibiotic-free, free range the next best bet in my book (The Garden of Eating), but again, this may not be in your budget now or as a weekly expenditure.
That's dark meat chicken there: a meaty chicken back and a small thigh. The back from a cut up fryer has a fair amount of meat on it. It's not to be wasted.
I’m all for local, organic, and grass-fed and I’m also practical. If you don’t have the income to eat that way or do it it 100%, then you make the best choices within the confines of your current economical situation. I think it’s more important to eat a protein- and produce-rich diet, even if it’s not 50% or even 100% organic, local, or pasture-raised. So, with that in mind, check out the tips below. If you have tips I haven’t thought of, let me know by posting your comments below.
Check out the weekly ad specials that show up in your mail box. Here in Phoenix, AZ, Sprouts Market, Sunflower Market, Frys, Safeway, and Food City offer weekly specials on so many food. You can find poultry, meat, fresh vegetables, and fruits at prices even people on very limited budgets can afford.
2) Buy more dark meat poultry
For the cost of boneless skinless chicken breasts, you can usually buy two to four times as much dark meat chicken. Yes, it’s higher in fat, but fat’s not bad. We need fat in our diets. It increases satiety at meals, makes the meat more moist, and means you don’t have to add oil to it in cooking. Besides, dark meat poultry (thighs and drumsticks) contains more iron and zinc than breast meat so it gives you a nutritional boost for your buck that you don’t get from white meat chicken.
3) Buy more bone-in poultry
I know a lot of people like buying boneless, skinless chicken. I’ll admit that I buy it sometimes (usually when it’s on a sale or I need it for a particular recipe), but I don’t buy it all the time. Bone in poultry costs less than boneless. Sure the boneless breast halves and strips are easy to handle, but it’s not that much harder or more time consuming to cook bone pieces. Baked, roasted, or grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks take very little hands-on prep and yield delicious meals.
4) Make bone broth
Buying chicken on the bone provides the main ingredient you need for making Bone Building Broth (recipe below), a more nutritious alternative to those cartons of preservative-free chicken broth sold in natural foods stores and the health food aisle of supermarkets. You can cook the bones all day or overnight in a slow cooker (aka Crock Pot®) Strain it, cool it, bottle it (I use wide mouth quart and pint canning jars), label it, refrigerate it, then freeze it once it’s cold. If you go through a quart of this broth (technically stock) every week and use home made, you can save $150 to $200 a year.
You don’t have to make bone broth every week. I make it about once a month. In the meantime, you can stash the bones in bags in the freezer (I use leftover, meaning previously used and rinsed, zip-top bags for this). Take the bones out and cook them when you want, when it fits your schedule. It takes less than 10 minutes to assemble and get the pot cooking. You can make it big batches in a large stock pot or slow cooker. Figure about 30 minutes total for assembling, straining, pouring into jars, labeling, and sealing the pine and quart jars with screw on lids. I like to vacuum seal the broth in wide mouth canning jars using a Tilia Food Saver, but you don’t absolutely have to vacuum seal. Remember to leave an inch of space below the lip in the jar.
Serve the chicken the first night, as is with whatever seasonings you put on it before cooking whatever or condiments you like. Cook two or three chickens at a time if you have a big family so you’re sure to have leftovers. You can chill then freeze some of the meat after stripping it off the bones.
If you don’t like eating the same meal the next day, transform the chicken into a new dish the next day. After cooking the meat, freeze what you don’t plan to consume within three days. That's curried chicken salad in process>>>
You can turn a single roast chicken into multiple meals with different seasonings and condiments, particularly if you make the chicken fairly plain the first time around. Think curried chicken salad, chicken waldorf, Cobb Salad, chicken over green salad with vinaigrette or avocado and salsa, Shredded chicken in chili, chicken in lettuce wraps with Thai flavored condiments, stir fried veggies with chicken and peanut sauce added at the last minute, chicken, chicken tacos, chicken burritos or enchiladas (if you eat tortillas) and so on. Note: These same strategies apply to cooking chicken breast meat, whether you bake, roast, grill, or poach it.
Whatever chicken parts you cook, cook with multiple meals in mind. This is the key to having great food on hand when hunger strikes. Leftover chicken provide the perfect addition to pack lunches, easy to assemble dinners, even breakfast. Serve it as is or slice, dice, shred, or chop it. Dress it up, sauce it, toss it, and season it with different condiments or accentuate it with different side dishes to add variety to your meals.
There are so many ways to make tradeoffs that pay off. Let me know if this posts gives you new ideas to save time and money.
Basic Bone-Building Broth
Total hands-on: 20 to 30 minutes/ Cooking: 10 to 20 hours /Yield: 4 quarts
I save all the bones from boning and cooking chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, and pork––even if we’ve nibbled on them. I separate meat bones from poultry bones in recycled bags in the freezer. When I have enough, I make a thick, milky, gelatinous, mineral-rich broth. I read that a cup of bone stock/broth may contain as much calcium as a glass of milk. Because I make mine so thick, it probably contains more. I use it to make sautéed greens, Better Brussels Sprouts, Better Barbecue Sauce, Lean & Creamy Dressings, stir-fried vegetables, gravy, soup, and stews (see index for recipes).
Note: Sea vegetables add trace minerals, including iodine and chelate heavy metals (including mercury) and radioactive isotopes from your body. I start cooking this in the morning or after lunch or supper, and let it to cook all day or night. If you’re only cooking bones from breast parts, the broth won’t turn milky, but it will still be delicious.
Ingredients (for a large batch):
3 to 4 pounds poultry raw or cooked bones, from whole carcasses, fryer parts, backs, necks, or wings of chicken, turkey, duck, guinea fowl, game hens, etc.
3 tablespoons lemon juice, organic red wine vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves and/or 2 to 3 (5-inch) pieces kelp, kombu or alaria sea vegetable
12 peppercorns, optional
1 teaspoon each dried rosemary and thyme, optional
1 large onion, quartered
1 large carrot, quartered, optional
5 to 6 quarts filtered water, or slightly more as needed to amply cover bones
- Combine ingredients in 8-quart stockpot. Add water to cover bones. Cover and bring to full rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low to keep broth gently bubbling. Skim off foam that rises to surface during first 30 minutes.
- Simmer 10 to 14 hours, or until broth appears milky. Add more water if needed to keep bones covered. To add more nutrients, mash with potato masher after 8 hours.
- Uncover and simmer 1 hour longer, or until reduced to 4 quarts. Remove bones with large slotted spoon or pour through colander over extra-large bowl. Return broth to pot and place in sink filled with several inches of ice water. Cool for 30 minutes.
- Strain and ladle into 1-quart Mason jars or freezer containers allowing 1 inch of head space in each container. Label, date, and refrigerate. Broth will thicken as it cools.
- Skim off and discard fat layer before using or freezing broth. You can freeze some of the broth in ice cube trays and transfer to larger freezer containers. Use refrigerated broth within 10 days. Use frozen broth within 9 months.
Nutrition breakdown not available
* Slow Cooker Version: Combine all ingredients, except water, in 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add water to within 1 inch of top. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, if possible, then reduce heat to LOW and continue to cook for 8 to 10 hours.
Source for recipe: The Garden of Eating: A Produce—Dominated Diet & Cookbook
© Copyright 2004, Rachel Albert-Matesz