The goal of the government during the Great Depression was to have “a chicken in every pot.” Well, there’s a good reason they picked chicken. Even though the prices on poultry have gone up, along with everything else, it’s still a bargain. When my kids were growing up, a Sunday’s roast chicken was always good for a second meal — pot pie, chicken noodle soup, chicken and mushroom crepes or just chicken salad. Now that there’s just two of us, we empty-nesters can get three or even four meals out of a single bird.
First, consider your options at the grocery store. Do NOT buy selected chicken parts if you’re into saving money. Split chicken breasts can be pricey. For the price of two breasts, you can buy a whole chicken. And for less than the price of a whole roasting chicken, you can buy one of those family packs that includes all the pieces, already cut up for you. (A recent shopping excursion had a while chicken at $8-plus and the cut-up chicken was about $6.)
Of course, it depends on how you plan to use the chicken. But if you’re looking to make soup, enchiladas, stew or something else that just calls for cooked meat, the latter can be your friend. Here’s what I do:
From a whole cut-up chicken package, I select one breast and the two legs. That makes one meal for my husband and me — on the grill, under the broiler or in a recipe, such as cacciatore). The remaining breast, thighs, wings and back go into a soup pot. Barely cover with water, add a chopped onion and a stalk of celery and season to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour, till meat is very tender. Set chicken pieces aside to cool before taking the meat off the bones. Discard skin and bones and cut meat into bite-sized pieces.
Use the chicken meat for the above-mentioned purposes (pot pie, enchiladas, etc.) You’ll have some left over (at least a cup or so). Continue to simmer the broth in which the chicken was cooked till it reduces down to about a quart. Cool and refrigerate, along with remaining chicken meat. On another day, reheat the stock and add vegetables, such as carrots, celery, onion, zucchini, whatever you like) and reserved chicken meat. Throw in a handful of noodles or rice if you want a starch in the soup. Cook till veggies are tender and rice or pasta are, too. Add chicken meat, taste to correct seasoning, and serve. You’ll probably have leftovers for another meal.
That’s four meals from one chicken. I paid $6-plus for the chicken. That comes out to $1.50 per meal, or 75 cents per person, for the protein. So what are you waiting for? Get a chicken for your pot.
For lots of recipes calling for cooked chicken meat, check out Food Network’s Recipe site.