How to Stretch a Chicken to Make Six Meals

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make 6 Meals

When I mentioned that I can stretch a chicken to last us six meals, many of you thought I was kidding. I can’t believe you thought I was kidding. I’m always so serious about everything I say around here. Just kidding.  About being serious. I’m not kidding about the chicken though.


There are six of us in our family and we all enjoy our food. That’s my polite way of saying, “Good grief, my boys can put away a lot of groceries in a short amount of time and then come back in an hour asking for more.”  That said, if I roast a nice chicken for dinner and serve it as the main dish, there won’t be much left of said chicken at the end of the meal. Just enough to pull a few scraps of meat together for a small casserole, then the bones are used to make broth. So, worst case chicken scenario at my house:  One Chicken, Two and a Half Meals.

But if I cook a chicken to make broth, and then use the meat from the chicken to make several different meals…now that is the best way to get the most out of a chicken!  It’s cost effective, it saves loads of time and it’s easy.

The chickens I buy are from a farm nearby and they are big (between 4-6 pounds) and nice and meaty. I pay good money for them (around $15), which sounds like a lot…but if I get SIX meals from one bird? That’s only $2.50 worth of excellent protein per meal (42¢ per serving)…for my family of six!

Okay, so let’s say I cook a chicken all day to make broth and to have cooked chicken meat ready for meals.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to do ever when it comes to cooking nutrient rich and inexpensive meals for your family, by the way. To stretch the chicken to last our family six meals, here is an example of what I might do over the course of a week or week and a half (freezing the broth and/or chicken after a few days to pull out as needed):

1. Use one batch of broth and a little bit of chicken to make Chicken Tortilla Soup. Because I’m using the rich broth, I don’t feel the need to use much chicken (if any) in this soup.


2. Use the other batch of broth to make Chicken Noodle Soup. Again, I would use very little chicken to make this as there is so much goodness in the broth. And if you recall, sometimes I forget the chicken altogether, much like I forget to put the bananas in my banana bread. You’ve got to love my “duh” moments.

3. Next, I’d throw some chicken in Homemade Alfredo Sauce with pasta. I just use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken for this as the sauce and noodles make up the bulk of the meal. (Add steamed veggies and a salad and you’re good to go!)

4. For a tasty lunch later in the week I’d make Black Bean Taco Salad. Because there are black beans and cheese in this salad, it doesn’t require a lot of chicken to complete the meal. Yum – this salad is so good!!

5. Not out of chicken yet, I can now make Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta. Again, the pasta and cheese and milk are so filling, not a lot of chicken is needed. Plus, the cheese helps add protein to this meal.


6.  Last, I’d use whatever chicken is left to make Chicken Veggie Quesadillas. With all the veggies to fill these quesadillas, the small bits of chicken add just a little bit of protein to complete the meal!


Now, I feel very strongly that our family needs good, healthy protein at each meal, so I’m not usually parked in the “skimp on meat” camp. We eat lots of eggs and nuts and beef and other meat. But getting a lot of goodness out of one chicken is a great way to cut down on time in the kitchen and save money too!

The moral of the chicken stretching story is:  If you don’t use the chicken as the main part of the meal, but just as a supplementary part…you too can stretch a chicken for all it’s worth.

What is your favorite way to stretch a chicken? As in…what are your favorite meals to eat with leftover, cooked chicken?

Disclaimer:  No chickens were actually stretched during the writing of this post.

This post was originally published on January 23, 2011.

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  1. Terese says

    oh and i forgot chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot. I have a totally awesome recipe i found on the internet a few years back. It’s really easy and most importantly delicious.

    The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup

    By Jill4man on November 15, 2004



    Servings Size

    * 1 (46 ounce) can chicken broth
    * 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
    * 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
    * 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded (I use rotisserie from the deli)
    * 2 anaheim chilies, diced
    * 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
    * 1/2 cup diced onion
    * 3 -4 large tomatoes, diced
    * 2 garlic cloves, minced
    * 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
    * 1 tablespoon chili powder
    * 2 teaspoons cumin
    * 2 teaspoons pepper
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (I use the chipotle flavor)
    * 1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper (optional)


    * 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    * 1 avocado, chopped
    * 1/4 cup cilantro, pulled from stem
    * 1 lime, cut into wedges
    * 2 cups crushed tortilla chips


    Prep Time: 15 mins

    Total Time: 6 1/4 hrs

    1. 1 Throw everything except the garnishes in your crock pot and let it cook on high for 5-6 hours.
    2. 2 Dress with garnishes and give it a squeeze of lime (a must:-) and you’re good to go!
    3. 3 Enjoy!
    4. 4 If you are not using a crock pot, saute the garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil before adding the remaining ingredients.
    5. 5 Simmer for at least an hour so that the flavors mix together.


  2. Denise Wilson says

    I always stock up on whole chickens when they are on sale. Then, I boil them for broth and get 3 or 4 meals out of the chicken. We love the taste of chicken that has been boiled. It is so tender and delicious!


  3. Mary Ratliffe says

    “Disclaimer: No chickens were actually stretched during the writing of this post.”

    That had me laughing soooo hard I almost peed!


    julie honsberger Reply:

    was soooo funny….LOL


  4. Maria says

    I freeze my bone broth in plastic muffin tins I found at a thrift store. Since they’re plastic, the broth pops out very easily. Each little cake of broth is 1/3 cup. I put them in a bigger container in the freezer and pull out however many I need to make gravy or any other sauce.

    This is my version of convenience food.


    Amanda Reply:

    That is a wonderful idea! I have used either butter dishes (but that was too much) or ice cube trays (but that was too little). Thanks for the idea!


    Becky Reply:

    Wow what a great idea! Never thought of this, I have a few of those tins in my cabinet.Ill be using those from now on for freezing my broth


  5. says

    I have a recipe for deep dish chicken pot pies from my my grandma, it is soooo yummy. It’s my 4 year olds favorite meal. These freeze very well and are great to hand out to people needing a meal like when people at church have a baby we do a two week meal sign up so this is one of my go to meals. I get chickens when I find them on sale (sometimes as low as $0.59/lb!) I will use two chickens, and this will give me enough meat to make 8 pot pies with meat left over that I throw into the broth and make a huge vegetable soup and freeze about 6 meals of that. So 2 chickens, 14 meals at least!


    Amanda Reply:

    My pot pie recipe (and one for chicken enchiladas) all in a post about how I stretched a chicken, if anyone is interested.


  6. Simone says

    It is just the 2 of us so I usually roast the chicken and then de-bone the rest for soup or casserole etc. Silly question, but does any body know if you can use the rendered chicken fat (what comes to the top after you have chilled it) in place of lard/shortening? (I am not sure what where lard/shortening comes from, but it looks like the chicken fat?) I was thinking I could scrape it off and freeze it until I have enough and use it for making pies?


    Susan Reply:

    Lard is the rendered fat of a pig, usually used for homemade pie
    crusts, which I’m guessing is what you want to use it for… (although,
    I just did a quick google search, and it looks like commercial lard is
    hydrogenated to make it shelf stable, so chicken fat may turn out to
    be a healthier alternative, but I don’t know for sure. I’ve
    never used chicken fat in pie crust, but I would
    give it a shot, just to see what it does…keep us posted!


    Audrey Reply:

    I have rendered chicken fat and used it for tamale dough, as well
    as using it as a cooking fat for sauteing veggies. I think the
    chicken fat usually ends up being quite a bit softer/melty-er at
    room temperature than lard/shortening (that’s why they are
    hydrogenated — makes them more solid). So you will have to
    adapt your pie crust to compensate. But I think it could work, and
    would be great for chicken pot pie!


    L. Vilneff Reply:

    Hello Simone
    Here’s a site I found sometime ago which tells you how to render chicken fat.

    I hope this helps


  7. Kristin says

    You are so funny! :) I cook similarly with chicken. I always make at least one variety of soup with it, and then will make other things like chicken stir fry (just coat in cornstarch, ginger, garlic powder and soy sauce, cook until browned, then cook veggies, then add everything back in w/ 1 cup water & 1 tsp chicken bouillon granules). It’s very good! Other meals – I will sometimes add gravy to the chicken and do an easy shredded chicken sandwich dinner, or serve the chicken/gravy on top of mashed potatoes.


  8. Carole says

    Fantastic! Can’t wAit to try this with the 21 lb turkey I got on sale this week! It will be so fun to surprise the kids each night! Thanks for using real-life recipes that we will all enjoy, too!


  9. Carole says

    Forgot to mention that when I let the meat sit overnight in the broth, the meat is so much more moist. I then skim the fat from the pot, remove the meat, and freeze it separately for other meals in 2c. Portions.


    Melinda S Reply:

    I wondered what would happen if we did this. Every, and I mean every, broth recipe says to remove and store the meat separately from the bones and I’ve always wondered why. Any thoughts?


    Carole Reply:

    Hmmm… I know I’ve done it both ways- taking the meat off the bones and letting it sit in the broth and also leaving it on the bones to sit in the broth. Just to be clear, I put the chicken/broth in the fridge to sit overnight and then I separate them for storage in the freezer. I’ve never had any problems doing this, health-wise, and the chicken is very moist!


  10. Madonna says

    I make chicken with dressing. bake a pan of cornbread, crumble, add shredded chicken, onion ,celery, sage, add broth to moisten, bake til heated through. Everyone who has tasted it loves it. also works great with leftover turkey.
    Another favorite for leftover chicken is chicken salad, with grapes and pecans. also few Craisins thrown in .


  11. Melinda S says

    Loved this. I’ve never stretched my chickens 6 ways, but I will try now. As stated above, it’s really helpful the way you put in the actual recipes.

    Fun reading! I’ll be back!


  12. Julie says

    This won’t work for our family. A serving of protein is the size of a can of tuna…possibly even larger according to my nutritionist who came from an ivy league university. The low intake of protein can cause various diseases like thyroid and cancer.


    Marla Reply:

    I don’t think she’s saying you should eat low protein. It’s just a post about how to stretch a chicken. You can eat more protein for lunch or breakfast on those days. It’s just ideas, and these meals can be stretched over 2-3 weeks, with high protein meals mixed in between. Then you can avoid your cancer. Sheesh.


    Sherri Reply:



    Shelley Reply:

    Eating that much protein is not necessary. In fact, vegetarians are at lower risk to get cancer.


    Rae Reply:

    Eating that much protien from MEAT is not necessary. Protien in a vegetarian diet comes from other sources, like legumes and nuts.


  13. Nola says

    Enchilada casserole

    Peppers and onions sauteed
    fajita seasoning pack
    Cheddar cheese
    sour cream
    black beans

    mix all of the above ingredients (can add others too like black olives, poblano peppers etc or whatever suits your taste)

    Layer in casserole with corn tortillas and enchilada sauce bake 350.


  14. Sara says


    I have a family of three. Sometimes we do roast the chicken first, but get several meals out of it:

    Meal 1: Roast Chicken
    Meal 2: Shred remaining meat off the chicken and mix with BBQ sauce to make BBQ chicken pizza
    Meal 3: Use the carcass from the chicken to make broth and use the broth to make a big pot of spicy pinto beans for beans and rice
    Meal 4: Use the leftover beans for taco salad or nachos
    Meal 5: On day one when roasting the chicken save all the drippings from the meat to make gravy for biscuits and gravy for breakfast one day (Country, I know…not so healthy, I’m sure…but definitely delish.)

    Thanks for the fun ideas!


    Joy Reply:

    But if you’re out of food & can’t afford anything else I’m sure it would be tasty. Something is better than nothing.


    Jodie Reply:

    thank you! we are seriously out of money with no light in sight for a very long time (12 more months!). I LOVE your ideas. thank you again!


  15. says

    I have recently started doing this, as I’ve seen the concept presented in several different blogs. It has worked out GREAT!!! Some of the recipes we use the chicken in are Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Chili Nachos, Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Soft Tacos, Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Chicken Quesadillas, Chicken Spinach Pizza, Chicken Cobb Salad, among others. My husband doesn’t like pasta, so I’m not able to use that as a filler. But I do like adding beans to add variety and to bulk up the recipe as well. I buy the “whole young chickens” from the store, cook 2 of them in the oven, and separate it into about 6 packages. Then I throw the carcasses in the crock pot overnight to make broth. These are small chickens, and I could probably stretch out the meat even further (after being inspired by this post). My goal in the future is to buy organic or locally raised chickens twice a year, and make enough to last 6 months. As it is now, I buy the chickens once a month, and make enough to have at least one chicken meal per week (using the extras for lunch meals). I find that doing it this way not only makes the chickens stretch further, but also saves me tons of time in the kitchen!


  16. Carrie says

    Do you freeze your chicken? I am always unsure of how long it will keep in a fridge.

    Thanks for the great advice!


    Laura Reply:

    We usually eat it all up within about a week, so I leave it in the fridge. If you won’t eat it that quickly, I’d say to put it in a freezer bag!


  17. says

    Okay this may be a stupid question but how do you boil a whole chicken? I have stretched chicken breasts by boiling but not the whole thing.


    Laura Reply:

    Here’s a post I wrote explaining how to cook a whole chicken:…very easy!! :)


    Holly Reply:

    I just do it in a crock pot overnight and it turns out great, raise the chicken off the bottom by balling up some tinfoil and propping chicken on it, season, and stock or other liquid for extra moisture cook on low for a long time.


  18. Carole says

    I just made bbq chicken pizza with one medium sized chicken breast, BBQ sauce, and shredded cheddar and my family (14,12,10&hubby) were quite full after salad with it and there was a piece for him for lunch the next day! Thanks for the inspiration!!!


  19. says

    I’m not sure if “omelet” is the right word (maybe we should go with egg taco) but I like to do this with shredded chicken:

    beat 3-4 eggs, salt and pepper, add a little milk if you like ’em like that

    pour into non-stick, greased skillet (spray on cooking oil is fine) over low-med heat. DO NOT STIR!

    add shredded chicken on top of cooking egg pancake

    season with Tony Cachere’s

    add shredded pepperjack cheese (and veggies or whatever else you want here)

    when the egg pancake has firmed up, fold egg pancake over to form an egg taco

    eat your mass of protein and enjoy!


  20. Gretchen says

    LOVE this post. Very encouraging. I oven roast a whole chicken with sides for one dinner and then strip it of the excess meat and of course make broth with the bones. The rest of the meat goes into a a rice and beans (super duper low cast) lunch for my husband all week. I use some of the broth to cook the rice in. I typically make the rice and beans Sunday night and pack it into containers so my husband has an inexpensive, quick and easy lunch to take each day. (of course, he goes meatless pretty often too!)


  21. Nicle says

    Ask your ivy league dietician friend if she recommends 1 serving of protein or per meal or one per day. I think you’ll find that the idea is one per day and so having eggs for breakfast and nuts for snack and beans over a salad for lunch will make the little bits of chicken in dinner add up to be more than enough!


  22. says

    Last week we stretched a chicken in 4’s. We had just my husband and I one night and had roasted chicken, then night 2 we fed 4 with chicken fried rice (using stock to cook rice) and had leftovers for 3 lunches for me, night 3 we fed 4 with chicken lime tacos, and night 4 we fed my hubby and I with chicken, artichoke and pesto pasta and had leftovers for 3 indvidual lunches…. and it was a small organic chicken!


  23. Melissa says

    Hi ladies, I know this has been a great site, thank you for all the ideas! Has anyone done cost comparisons on whole chickens verses breasts and what prices would be comparable after deboning?


    Dawn Reply:

    Having spoken to a friend who raises chickens about exactly this, they increase the cost per pound when they remove the bones, to compensate for the extra work, so it is a better deal to buy the whole chicken. Don’t forget, the bones are essential for really good broth, so without those you are loosing out!


  24. Donna Wallace says

    I love this idea. I usually buy whole chickens and cut them up to make meals and cook the bones for broth…………I don’t like over cooked meat, as sometimes overcooked in crock pots, but I just cook with the warm on my pot, after first heating food on high, and the meat doesn’t become “dead” as I call it. to me the taste changes on overcooked meat.

    BUT, I would still make the broth and after 45 minutes take the meat and bones out and separate and then put the bones back to cook for a long time. Package the chicken meat for different meals and freeze. I do put onion peels in with onions & vegis for color in the broth when cooking, but those too are not saved while making the broth to be frozen.

    You probably all know this by now, but if the broth doesn’t come to a boil and is slowly simmered, the broth doesn’t become cloudy.



  25. Donna Wallace says

    oH, AND YES, making your own broth, sure makes a better broth……….so much thicker and with real nutrients, unlike the canned version.


  26. says

    I do this very often. I cook 2 chickens at the same time. You can read about that here, if you are interested I freeze one. The second, we eat that night. Then I make broth in the crock pot over night. With the broth and the leftover chicken that I have picked from the bones, I make chicken pot pie and enchiladas. If I have any extra, I make soup.


  27. says

    This is simply awesome – I’ve only stretched my chicken to 3 or 4 meals. I will definitely look into your recipes above and adjust it according to our usual cooking ingredients here. Thank you for sharing & further explaining. :D


  28. Christine R says

    Even though I am just a lowly nurse with the requisite nutrition classes for my degree, I would like to address the ignorant post from earlier.

    For the lady worried about this not being enough protein for a family:

    Like others have said, this isn’t your only protein for the day!

    Yogurt or cereal with milk for breakfast? 10-20 grams of protein.
    Or have a couple eggs and a piece of toast with peanut butter for another 15-20 grams.

    Bean and cheese burrito for lunch? Another 20-30 grams. Tuna sandwich? 20-25 grams.

    Have a piece of string cheese for a snack and bang- another 10 grams.

    The age group with the highest need for protein is teenage boys- topping out around 55 grams per day. By the time they even get to dinner, If they have eaten properly earlier during the day, they’ve probably met or even surpassed their needs for the day.

    Meat with every meal is not necessary and, some studies have shown can have adverse health effects. Saturated fat has a greater link to cancer than a low protein diet.

    A diet with NO protein leads to thyroid issues, yes, but so does a diet with ONLY animal protein sources. This is why every medical and/or nutritional expert recommends a VARIED diet.

    So, with all due respect to your “ivy league” nutritionist friend- protein comes from all different sources.

    Oh…..also- a serving of tuna IS NOT one whole can- it’s a little less than half of one- 3 oz.


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