Yes, you read that right. I can feed my family of four, three filling dinners from one whole chicken. How? Because I cook chicken like a depression era grandma. Nothing goes to waste, not even the bones. Meat is expensive, especially if you choose to purchase organic or free-range products. Learning to stretch food through creative cooking will help you save money every month without sacrificing flavor, nutrition or full bellies.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is by learning to cook with whole chickens. If you’re freaked out about cooking something that isn’t boneless and skinless or you’re not sure how to butcher a whole bird, check out our quick video tutorial for a simple how-to before you get started cooking. I promise, it’s not that scary. Once you’ve done it a couple of times it gets a lot faster and easier too.
My basic formula for meal planning with a whole chicken is this: one soup, one casserole and one basic dinner. I start by buying the biggest whole chicken I can find (on sale at Aldi they are usually around 5-6lbs and about $1 or less per lb. (P.S. I love Aldi)). When I get the chicken home from the store, I open it up and portion it out into the pieces I’ll be using for my meals for the week. The legs and thighs go into the casserole, the breasts go into the basic dinner and the bones including both breast tenders are reserved for making soup. I put the different portions into separate gallon sized freezer bags for use when I’m ready for them during the week.
The key to making these meals both flavorful and filling is to beef them up with extra (less expensive) vegetable and starches. The chicken is there for texture, flavor and added protein but it isn’t the star of the show.
Below you’ll find twelve of our own inexpensive, and filling family friendly recipes. Four for soup, four for casseroles and four basic chicken dinner recipes. Mix them up according to your preference and add them into your weekly rotation. You’ll be amazed how much money you can save just by knowing how to stretch a meal! Waste not, want not as they say!
*This article is dedicated to my sweet family, who endured two entire weeks worth of dinners that were all chicken, all the time so that I could get this post up! Love you!*
What are some of your favorite cheap and easy chicken dishes to make? Leave us a comment below!