When I am really needing to be frugal for a week's worth of groceries one of the items that lands in my cart is a whole chicken. It takes a lot of time spent in the kitchen, but you can make a chicken last for up to 5 (sometimes 6, but that isn't always possible) meals on the cheap. When I am less inclined to take all of the fun out of a succulent roasted chicken my family loves I can make it last 2, or maybe even three meals. Chicken is also a lean meat that is healthy. Most things you can do with a roasted chicken doesn't involve a lot of things like frying it, and whatnot, so you end up with a frugal meal that is good for you, too.
I know many of these steps are what many would consider common knowledge, but I am being very detailed for those reading that don't have a lot of kitchen experience, and especially not a lot of budgeting experience. I remember being 18 on my own, and not having a clue how to stretch my money to last. I wish someone would have laid it out for me step by step.
So, how do I do it?
Roast the chicken. pretty much like you would any other time. Be sure to not drain the juice when it's done.
Step Two: Carve the chicken. It doesn't have to be meticulous. It's okay if there is some (quite a bit of dark meat even) meat left on the bones. Be sure to save the juice.
Step Three: Take the chicken carcass, and boil it in some water. You don't want to use too much water. Enough to barely cover the bird is enough. Sometimes, I don't even use that much.This is where you boil any leftover meat off of the bones while making broth to freeze for later. If you use too much water it will dilute the broth. This might take an hour, or so. I usually pop it straight into a pot as soon as I carve it, so that it can boil while I finish making dinner, and we eat.
Step Four: This is where the two methods take on different paths. If you're going to eat roasted chicken for a meal then this is where you gather the juice to make gravy. You can decide how much chicken you're going to allow your family for dinner, and refrigerate the rest of the chicken.If I leave it all out my family will eat over half of the bird leaving me little for leftovers. I try to divide it up before they start heaping it onto their plates.
Step Five: If you're not going to make meal with roasted chicken as a main course, then take about a cup's worth of the cut up chicken, and refrigerate the rest. Use the juice to make some broth. The broth can be used for a variety of different meals.
I hope to get some of my own recipes added to the blog soon, but until then here are some ideas you can Google to make with the chicken that will stretch it for the most meals.
*Chicken noodles- This can be a really cheap, and nutritious meal if you make your own noodles, which is not as hard as it sounds.
*Chicken tortilla soup- I really love this easy to make soup.
* Chicken, and rice soup.
* Chicken spaghetti
*Any casserole dish that your family would enjoy that only requires about a cup, or so of chicken.
*Also, as a tip... I always add some chicken broth granules to the recipe, whether I am making chicken noodles, or a casserole. Some people feel it is flavored enough without it, but I never have.
Step Six: Divide the broth, and the meat up into at least 2 containers from the boiling water. I usually will use a strainer, because a lot of little tiny bones tend to make it in with the meat if I don't. This is a time consuming job, but it will give you 2 extra meal of soup just by boiling the bones you'd usually throw away. If I made gravy I might divide it into the containers, as well. I don't waste any of it. I find a purpose for everything.
Step Seven: Make a plan about what meals you are going to make the next two nights, and save enough broth, and chicken out for just those two meals. Divide, and freeze the rest. The chicken, and broth will only stay good in your fridge for two days.
There are a lot of people that will heat, and reheat leftovers. I am not one of those people. I consider it dangerous, and so does the FDA. In my opinion, once you reheat any of the broth, or the chicken after it has been frozen, or refrigerated you cannot reheat it again. I have had people argue with me vehemently over this. To each her own, but I would advise one to only make enough chicken noodles, ect from the leftovers as can be eaten at one time. You shouldn't be making a big batch of chicken soup with the leftover broth, and reheating it again to enjoy the next night.
Also, different people feel differently about the neck, and the giblets. I use those in the gravy, and or the broth, as well. Like I said, I waste none of it if at all possible. Not everyone likes to do this, so I didn't add it in the steps.