The following Best Savings Tip comes from reader, Denise:
We are a family of 7, so it is important that we get the most out of our grocery budget. I learned a few years ago how to get the most out of a whole chicken.
I try to buy several at a time on clearance (my last find was $0.59/lb) and batch cook them the same day. Once the chicken is fully cooked, I take it out of my roaster, and strain the drippings into a stock pot. I always eyeball it, but I add in about 1/2 as much water, red pepper flakes, onion and garlic powder.
In a separate bowl, I make a slurry – flour or cornstarch mixed with cold water. Whisk this until no lumps remain. Once it is fully mixed, add it slowly into the drippings, whisking the entire time to get it fully incorporated. It will thicken as it simmers, so I usually add about 2 cups of slurry to my pot. I let that simmer for 4 hours.
While that is simmering, I pick the meat and bag it for the freezer. On one side I have a trash can for the skin, fat, etc. In front of me I keep a large stock pot to throw the bones into. When the meat is all picked, I add enough cold water to the pot to cover the bones plus an inch.
I then add any leftover veggie's I might have in the fridge – a few slices of onion, a small carrot (chopped), celery. Then a good tablespoon of red pepper flakes and let that simmer 3 hours (this means that both pots – gravy and broth – are coming off the stove at the same time). Skim the fat off of both, strain the broth to remove all the veggies, let cool and pour into glass jars (recycled) for the freezer. Gravy will keep several weeks in the freezer, broth at least 3 months.
From each chicken I make 3 full meals – pizza, pasta salad, casserole, stew, noodle soup, pot pie (etc). After the third meal there is usually just enough to make a Rice-A-Roni style meal – cook a few cups of rice in the free broth with some extra seasonings, add your leftover chicken and some mixed veggies, sprinkle a little cheese on top and serve with crusty bread – makes a great, low cost meal.
I saw shopping tonight that the store brand cans of broth are close to $1/can, so I know I am saving about $200/yr in that alone – we use a lot of broth! Gravy in a can is $1.50- 2.00, in a jar, it's $2.50 – 3.00. Getting the meat on clearance and batch cooking means that I have no excuse to call for pizza – the meat is all cooked and can be quickly thawed for a meal, even if I'm running behind. Batch cooking also saves money on energy bills, and saves me a lot of time in the kitchen.
A great Depression Era tip that I often use, is after your first batch of broth is strained, break all the bones in half and make a second batch right from scratch – cover with cold water, add seasonings and veggies and let simmer again. If you need more gravy than what you have, you can make gravy from the broth – it's so handy! I believe these tips together save us about $300/yr, and you can do this with other meats as well!
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These are awesome tips, Denise! There are truly so many things you can do with a chicken. I will freeze my broth but that's about it. I plan on trying the Rice-A-Roni tip to save on money AND the sodium (those meals are loaded with sodium!).
Readers: how else do you use a whole chicken?