Saturday, March 14, 2015

Looking for a Rubber Chicken to Save Your Budget?

Buying meat these days almost requires going to the bank first to take out a loan.  So, once you have bought it, how can you make it stretch to as many meals as possible before you have to ask for another loan?

I am not saying it doesn't take some time and a little work and planning but you can get more meals out of that chicken that you bought than you might think.  You can make it stretch just like the proverbial rubber chicken.

First, let's say you bought a whole chicken this week for what is said to be the US national average of $1.50/pound (in the UK it is the equivalent of $2.25 per pound).  For a five pound chicken you would pay $7.50.  If you take it home and roast it your family of four could probably demolish it at one seating.  Cost per serving for four servings equals $1.87 just for the meat.

There must be a better way.  And there is. 

Instead, go home and put that chicken into your biggest soup pot and cover it with water.  Put the lid on the pot and slowly stew the chicken until the meat is done and tender and juicy.  Remove the chicken from the pot, remove the skin and take off all the meat from the chicken carcass.  Try to keep the breast meat intact.   And, remember, there is meat in the wings, too.  Don't miss any. This meat will make a meal for your family this week or later in the month if you freeze it for later.

Now, skim any gray froth off the soon to be stock, return the bones  and skin to the pot and then continue to let it cook down some until it is quite rich and yummy.  Remove the bones from the broth and then refrigerate the stock so that the fat will rise to the top and you can skim it off leaving you with low fat chicken broth to use for the below meals. You can either freeze it to use later or keep it in the fridge if you are going to use it in a day or two or three.

Now, this is where we separate the women from the girls.  Slowly work your way through the bones removing whatever meat was still sticking to the bones.  You will be surprised how much you will find is still there.  If you get a cup full that can be turned into another meal for your family so do a good job.

Remember that meat you removed from the carcass at the beginning of all of this?  Let's see what we can do with that:
  1. Slice the chicken breast and serve it with gravy and mashed potatoes and green beans.  Slice the  meat thinly (easier when cool/cold) and give each just enough so they don't feel gypped.  Remember, they can fill up on the sides.  About a quarter pound each is all they need.  Use 1 pound of meat and about 1 cup of broth to make the gravy.
  2. Chicken divan with broccoli (use extra to stretch the serving size).  Add some sides to round out the meal.  Use 1/2 pound of chicken to make the recipe.
  3.  Chicken a la king.  Serve over biscuits and make the biscuits big to help fill them up.  Serve with peas and another side if you desire. Use 1/2 pound of meat and some of the broth.  *
  4. Chicken and dumplings served with corn.  You know the drill, use the dumplings to help fill them up. Use 1/2 pound of meat and some of the broth to make the gravy to cook the dumplings in.  If you have leftover gravy from meal number 1 use it here. *
  5. Chicken pot pie using whatever veg was left over from the above meals (green beans, broccoli, peas, corn) or with frozen mixed vegetables.  If you don't like to make a pie crust buy the pre-made ones in the dairy case.  If it is good enough for Southern Living Magazine it is good enough for us. Use 1/2 pound of meat and if you have leftover gravy from the chicken and dumplings you can use it here or you may have to make more using some of the broth you made. *
  6. Pizza with bits of chicken such as buffalo chicken pizza (marinate the chicken pieces in hot sauce) or chicken Alfredo pizza, or chicken taco pizza.  Let you imagination go. Use about 1/4 pound of meat here.
  7. Chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup. Use the "extra" meat you picked from the bones and the some or the rest of the broth.  Add onion, celery and carrots to the broth with the noodles.
*If you are worried about having enough broth to make the soup, where good stock is most necessary, these meals can be made with part homemade broth and part broth made with a stock cube or stock pot.  I prefer the stock pots since they are not nearly as salty.

You might even have enough left over from some of these to provide a lunch or two to serve the next day.  Wonderful!

There, one week of meals for your family from one five pound chicken.  That is at least 28 servings for $7.50 of meat or $.27 per serving of meat.

Remember, just because a recipe says use a pound of meat doesn't mean you HAVE to do so.  Cut the amount in half and augment with vegetables or such.  The food police will not end up knocking at your door because you didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I promise.

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