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):
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.