Guest post by April Swiger
One of the most frugal homemaking practices I’ve adopted is roasting a whole chicken each week. My husband and I live on his tight pastor’s salary, desiring to be good stewards of the money God has given us, while still eating as healthy as possible. This habit has proved very helpful as I’ve sought to find joy in my calling as a homemaker.
As we wait for God to bless us with children through adoption, I’m thankful that I’ve had this season to exercise my gift of creativity in the kitchen. It’s a fun challenge for me to create delicious and nourishing meals, making sure that nothing goes to waste.
I was completely intimidated to cook a whole chicken at first, but once I tried it, I saw how beautifully simple it really is. Since moving back to chilly (and expensive) New England last year, this practice has become even more important than it was in the past.
My favorite roast chicken recipe is simple, absolutely delicious, and can be done in any kitchen (and mine is teeny tiny!). Here are five ways I stretch a whole chicken throughout the week.
1. Roast Chicken
- 1 Whole Chicken (I find Trader Joe's has the best price for organic/free-range chickens)
- 6 Inches of cotton cooking twine
- 2-3 TBLS. Coconut oil, olive oil, or butter
- Half a lemon
- 3 Garlic cloves, still in the peel is fine
- Sea salt and pepper
- Optional - Fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, or any variety of dried herbs. Garlic and onion powder add a nice taste as well. Seasonal vegetables to roast in the bottom of the pan, like potatoes and carrots or parsnips, make this an easy one-pot meal.
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Rinse you chicken in cool water, and pat it dry. Place it in a roasting pan, glass baking dish, or cast iron skillet. I have used all three with success.
- Place the half lemon, and garlic cloves, inside the chicken. This step is optional, and if I don't have lemons on hand, I will skip it with no issue. However, the lemon gives it a delicious flavor, and the scent while cooking is amazing!
- Take your twine, and tie the legs of the chicken together, so the inside cavity is closed up. No fancy trussing needed!
- Sprinkle your chicken with sea salt and pepper, and any variety of herbs you choose.
- Coconut oil is my favorite oil for roasting a chicken. I scoop about 2-3 tablespoons onto the chicken. You could also drizzle it with olive oil, or use a few pads of butter.
- Add any chopped vegetables to the pan. My favorite combination are carrots and potatoes.
- Cook for 60-90 minutes, depending on how large your chicken is. I'll typically check it half way through, and spoon the melted oil back onto the skin so it crisps up nice.
- When it's done (use a meat thermometer to check for a temperature of 180-185F in the thickest part of the thigh), let the chicken sit for 10 minutes. Be sure to indulge in the crispy skin after it sits!
We will typically eat the thighs and legs for dinner that night, with a side of vegetables, or a fresh salad.
I have adapted countless soup recipes by substituting raw chicken for leftover cooked chicken. It cuts the cook time significantly, and we don’t waste any bit of that lovely roast chicken. My favorite chicken soup with herbs is a go-to frugal recipe during the colder months.
3. Chicken Salads
The day after I roast a chicken, we will eat chicken salads for lunch. This is really easy for me to prepare the night before, and we have found eating leftovers to be one of the biggest ways to save money. A bed of lettuce, topped with apples, walnuts, avocado, and shredded chicken breast is a great way to stretch a roast chicken on a tight budget.
4. Curry Dishes
After living in East Asia for a year, I have a deep love for all kinds of Asian food. Couple some leftover chicken with a can of coconut milk, fresh vegetables, a variety of spices, and you have a quick and easy curry dinner.
5. Nourishing Bone Broth
Nourishing bone broth is essential in any frugal, healthy kitchen! After roasting my chicken, I will pick off every bit of meat, store it in glass containers, and freeze the bones and carcass to make nourishing bone broth later that week. My freezer is always stockpiled with containers of broth, ready to use for soups all winter long.
How would you stretch a whole chicken on a tight budget? I would love to hear your creative ideas in the comment section!
April is a follower of Jesus, wife to worship-pastor Adam, and a hopeful adoptive mom, living in New England. She writes about many topics ranging from adoption to homemaking to real food and natural living. Her heart is to put the gospel on display by redeeming the great and high calling of homemaker.
We stretch a whole chicken quite often. The first night is the roasted chicken with veggies as sides. 2. Chicken pot pie night 3. Chicken pastry (you may call it dumplings or slicks) 4. Chicken quesadillas 4. Chicken salad (for sandwiches for lunch). I also use the bones and celery ends to make stock and broth to use in the other recipes. We’ve become creative on our tight budget. We appreciate more, and really don’t even want to eat out anymore. The Lord is good!!
Hi Tiffany! Those are great ideas. I love that you save your celery ends to make stock too. That’s such a good way to use every bit in your kitchen and not waste a thing. It’s fun being creative like that isn’t it?
I keep a bag in the freezer for onion, carrot, garlic, and celery scraps then when it is broth making time I just throw some in the pot.
Leslie Jung Bradley
Chicken pot pie. Cook veggies, add to chicken. Thicken broth with cornstarch. Butter an 8×8 or similar size pan. Make crust from a tube of crescent rolls (1 for bottom, 1 for top). Fill with hot filling and bake till crust is brown. Better than bought!
My husband has been asking for chicken pot pie recently, so this is timely for me. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Leslie!
We often do only a top pastry for pot pie …
Heather in Michigan
Another very frugal way of stretching things is to keep a freezer bag of veggie scraps for that lovely-looking bone broth. Every time you top a carrot or cut the end off an onion, it goes in the bag! In a little while, you’ve got everything you need for soup broth and you don’t need to sacrifice fresh veggies for it!!
Heather, that’s such a great idea! I used to do that regularly, but got away from it. I’m encouraged to start again, especially since I make broth almost every week. This is a very frugal way to save on veggies!
Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie
Chicken tortilla soup using the broth, corn, black beans, rice and salsa is another idea. My secret ingredient is lemon juice – it really enhances all the other flavors and adds a bit of tang.
Sarah, I lOVE lemon juice! It’s such a great addition to many dishes. I never would have thought to put it in tortilla soup. I’m definitely trying it! Thanks for the tip!
I also turn my leftover chicken into pies – with leeks (also from the freezer bag of leftover pieces from previous meals) and peas: http://thebrusselscooker.blogspot.be/2013/04/who-ate-all-pies.html
And any leftover roast veggies from the chicken roast can (and often do) go into traditional pies – and soups! And April seeing that you’re also a fan of Asian cooking (BTW I just looked up your Kimchi recipe – great for that half of white cabbage lurking in my fridge!) I often make an Asian-style chicken salad with whatever “crunchy” vegs I have ie julienned carrots, bell peppers, green onions, cucumber and a simple Thai dressing – lovely and a nice change! AND this can also be turned into “fancy” (but really easy) Vietnamese spring rolls: soften some rice paper rounds (which are really affordable if you buy them in Asian supermarkets), then fill with the shredded chicken and vegs, add a bit of fresh coriander and mint if you have, then roll up tightly – great for a summery meal for two or a buffet/party! (Actually we just had them in the middle of winter…)
Corinna, I love your ideas! I rarely buy cabbage because I never know what to do with it, but this idea of an asian style chicken salad sounds absolutely delicious. And, I have a few leeks in my fridge waiting to be used. Your delicious pies sound like the perfect fit! I’ll be pinning your recipe and trying it for sure!
I do this all the time too! I’ve gotten pretty good at making that chicken last. Our favorite recipes include many of the previous suggestions and I also make chicken stuffed manicotti, chicken enchiladas, chicken ravioli, and shredded chicken lasagna. Sometimes I even throw my chicken on the grill for a different flavor and texture. Great post!
It’s fun seeing how long that chicken will last, isn’t it? I’m so glad you’ve discovered how to make it work for your family too, Amber!
I cook a whole chicken quite often, but there’s never any meat leftover. My family of 6 is just too hungry, although I read these kinds of posts about making a chicken last a week with envy. 🙂 We do make a couple rounds of stock from the carcass, though. Yum!
Stock is a fantastic way to get the most out of your chicken! We definitely don’t get a week out of our chicken, only a couple days worth, so I can imagine that would be extra tough with a family of 6 🙂
The thing that jumped out at me was the purchase of that string to tie the legs, I NEVER do that it works out just fine. Also I like to roast a chicken on a bed of green beans and onions, then make anything else to go with it. My hungry family only lets it make it to two days but hey that works for us. Another money saver would be to roast it in the crockpot. Using less electricity is important too for saving money. thanks for sharing, good conversation about food.
Great tip about using the crockpot, Rebecca! I’ve done that before too, with great results.
We often do only a top pastry for pot pie …
One sometimes-overlooked treasure is the pan drippings from the original roasting! I roast mine in a big cast-iron skillet so that I can easily scrape up the golden broth & oils into a pint jar when I’m cleaning up afterwards… I add spoonfuls of it to various recipes later in the week. It’s delicious and loaded with the nutrients of the chicken (especially the organic birds) as well as whatever you used (coconut oil, butter, etc) to crisp the skin. MmmMmm! 🙂
TJ, you’re absolutely right! That’s one of my favorite parts too. Great idea about saving the drippings for later!
I buy our chicken from a local farmer who raises organic, free-range chickens, so they are a bit more pricey than normally, but they are also nice-sized, around 5 lb. I try to stretch them to 2 – 3 meals for our family of five. I usually cut off the legs, wings, and part of a breast and bake them: bar-b-que, or yogurt coating, or bread-crumb coated. It’s just enough with no left-overs, so I have to make sure that day I have something else for my husband’s lunch. Then I use the other breast in a stir-fry that has a lot of veges so it doesn’t seem to skimpy (I love Chinese stir fry with ginger, etc). I use the carcass and the meat that I get from it in chicken noodle soup, chicken gumbo, or slippery chicken pot pie. This last chicken I had was a bit smaller, so I just did the first bake and then made chicken corn soup with the carcass and meat. It is fun to make meals stretch and they taste great, too (usually. 🙂 )
All of your recipes sound delicious, Tonya! I love adding ginger to my recipes too. It tastes great and has wonderful health benefits as well. Thanks for sharing!
I often cook whole chickens, too, but I usually do it in the crockpot. It lacks the crisp skin that an oven-roasted one has, but I find the mess in the oven not worth it. Am I the only one that has an oven coated with splattered chicken grease every time I roast chicken?!
I don’t roast the chicken, I bring it to a book in a stock pot and simmer for long time until the meat falls off the bone. That way the stock is pre-made and the chicken is so moist! We use every bit and my kids love the chicken. I always freeze half the stock and save it for later. We make a lot of tacos and taquitos and spring rolls. For those dinners everyone chooses what they want on the taco/spring roll, which avoids any “I don’t like x,y,z” comments and I don’t have to hand roll anything – thy do it themselves! So much less work and everyone is happy!.
Katy @ Purposely Frugal
I loved this post! 🙂 I often will cook a whole chicken in my pressure cooker (I used to do it in my slow cooker), with water, seasonings and sometimes veggie scraps too, that way I get a cooked chicken and broth out of it all at once. The skin isn’t nice and crispy doing it this way, but it does save time.
I cook a whole chicken often in the crock pot. Be sure and ball up aluminum foil on the bottom then place chicken on top of foil. That way it comes out a lot like rotisserie. Season with your favorite seasoning before cooking. I usually use a creole seasoning. With leftovers make yummy chicken salad sandwiches, or use to make chicken chef salads. Shred leftovers season with taco seasoning or fajita seasoning for tacos or fajitas.
I always shred some leftover chicken and mix with homemade taco seasoning and we have chicken burritos. That’s our favorite way to use the leftover chicken (besides the chicken soup!) I always roast the chicken in the crock pot.
I also made a great cold pasta salad with cubed chicken lots of veggies and Italian dressing. It lasted for days and I didn’t have to heat up the oven!
What we do if there isn’t much chicken left, is cook rice, and add chicken into the rice. We cook the rice with tomatoe sauce, but im sure it would taste good in brown rice as well, or even steamed rice. Or we cook beans, make burritos with beans and some chicken. We also use different types of meat for the burritos, depending on what we have.
I have a big family also but I try to stretch the meat by using the leftover shredded chicken for burritos with rice and beans (make double the rice) and easy fried rice for another dinner.
I do not use whole chickens at all… buying boneless skinless chicken breasts is cheaper per meal and saves a ton of time! A whole chicken is $5-6 and might last for 1 meal. I pay $2.99/lb. for bulk boneless skinless breasts and can get 2 meals out of a 1 pound package. I rarely use chicken broth, so spending $2 a month on canned or boxed broth is still cheaper than making my own, plus the time saved.
We do “Poor Mans Chicken Strogonoff”
Cream of Chicken Soup
Cook the meat (originally my mom taught me to do ground beef, but we substitute chicken now 🙂 ) while a seperate pot is cooking rice. Put cream of chicken soup & 1/2 can of milk in the meat, toss in a drained can of peas and mix in cooked rice… You can speed it up by tossing shreaded (already cooked) chicken in instead of cooking it at the begining.
Chicken Pot Pie:
Bag of mixed veggies
Can of Cream of Chicken Soup – but not made into soup
Pie shell – homemade or store bought
Also, we do chicken pot pie. With shreaded chicken, a bag of frozen mixed veggies (if I don’t have raw in the fridge), and a can of cream of chicken soup (no extra liquids added, you aren’t making soup, this will be the thickening agent)…all heated and then put into pie shell. We do a second pie shell to top it, but you can top it with mashed potatoes too… 😉
Because of working, I use my crockpot a lot so there’s not a lot of broth. But a after the family has dinner, I take and shred the leftovers and use them for quesadillas, pot pies or soup.
Making broth in the crock pot is super easy and efficient! Just place the bones and veggies in the crock pot, cover with water and cook on low for 24 hours. You will have a rich and flavorful broth for soups, etc.
I add the shredded chicken to whatever pasta we have on hand (bowtie, corkscrew) with Marinara sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top & yum! You can also put that in a casserole dish & bake till cheese is bubbly!
I take one breast and make chicken salad (with mayo, sour cream, grapes, walnuts and apple) for my husband’s lunch for a couple of days. I shred the other one and make fajita quesadillas by adding Mexican spices and sautéing peppers (hubs hates onions but usually those would be included). Add cheese and cook in a tortilla. Option 3, SAMs club sells frozen corn with peppers, onion, and black beans. Add one shredded chicken breast, Mexican spices, make rice with lime and cilantro, the. Make into burritos.
That sounds delicious!
for larger families: bake 2 chickens.
1. first night chicken with veg/potato for dinner
2. 1 leftover breast = chicken fettucini
3. 1 leftover breast = chicken stirfry with fried rice
4. 1 leftover breast = chicken salad for lunches
5. 1 leftover breast = lunch for kids with leftover potato
6. leftover 2 wings + salad = lunch for 1 adult female
7. put each carcass in a separate 1 gallon freezer bag with veg scraps to make 2 pots of chicken noodle soup or chicken and veggie soup the next week. Each pot of soup will feed 3 adults and 2 children at least twice each and possibly 3 helpings for kids.
Love! Thank you!
Don’t forget Chicken and rice casserole – recipes abound. You can even use your bone broth, some flour and some milk instead of canned cream soup.
Here’s a tip very few think of – save your chicken fat! After you’re done roasting your bird, there’s usually a puddle of fat and juices in the roasting pan. Pour them into a heat and cold proof container, and pop it into the fridge overnight. In the morning, pop out the disk of fat, separate the jellied broth (can be used just as broth can), and pop the fat into a container in your freezer. The next time you need to sweat onions and garlic for a chicken dish, or brown rice for rice pilaf, use the frozen fat instead of veggie oil. It’s frugal, and oh, my! The flavor! I save beef, chicken and bacon fat.
That is a great one!! Thank you for sharing, Hazel!
I’ve never tried roasting a whole chicken before but you have definitely inspired me! Thanks for the post! 🙂
Hope you enjoy it!