Monday, March 05, 2012

Expensive Free-Range Chicken Challenge

We were totally excited to discover that our grass-fed beef source was now also offering free-range chickens. I ordered two with my recent beef order to try them out.

These birds are BIG. Of the two I purchased, one was 6 pounds and the other 8 pounds. At $3.00 a pound, this means that these chickens average about $20 each. The health benefits and superior quality are totally worth the price of course, and we feel that making strides towards purchasing as much local grass-fed and free-range meat as possible is important. But still... yikes!

I took the 6 pounder out of the freezer a couple weeks ago and decided to challenge myself to getting at least 6 different meals out of this expensive bird. Six low-grain, healthy meals.

Hmmm... could I do it?

Well, I do love me a good personal challenge! So I cooked up that chicken, and kept notes on a slip of paper hanging on my fridge so I could remember the details of how I used it.

Here are my notes and how this challenge played out. I share this in hopes it will be an encouragement and give some fresh ideas for stretching your grocery budget!

Goal: 6 meals for the 2 of us from one chicken.
Chicken details: 6 pounds; approx. $20.

Meal #1: Rotisserie-style crockpot chicken served with baked sweet potatoes and steamed green beans.
Amount of meat used: Each of us had two moderate portions. Conservative but not stingy. Meaning we were well-fed!

After this meal, I picked every little bit of chicken off the bones and stored it away in the refrigerator. Also drained off the cooking broth and saved that in a jar. The juices from the Rotisserie-style chicken makes the BEST gravy. The bones were also set aside for making homemade chicken broth.

Note: We did not eat all these chicken meals one right after the other. Although it probably wouldn't bother us that much!

Meal #2: Chicken gravy, green bean and rice casserole served with broccoli.
Amount of meat used: A generous cup chopped chicken plus approximately 2 cups pan juices from cooking the chicken.

To make gravy: Melt 1/4 cup butter over low heat and whisk in 3 T. flour. When smooth and bubbly, slowly add broth, stirring constantly and cooking until thickened. Milk can also be added, if desired.

To make casserole: Combine gravy, chopped chicken, cooked green beans(leftover from Meal #1) and approx. 3 cups cooked brown rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread into greased 9 inch square baking dish. Top with a little reserved gravy, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
This casserole made enough for 2 meals. 

Meal #3: Chicken and Broccoli Crustless Quiche served with tomato soup. (Broccoli leftover from Meal #2.)
Amount of meat used: 1 cup.
One meal plus 2 slices leftover. 

Meal #4: Chicken Patties served with sweet potato fries.
I used this recipe for salmon patties substituting chicken for the salmon. I left out bread crumbs and added 2 eggs instead of one. Also added some finely chopped onion and celery.
Amount of meat used: 2 cups finely chopped chicken.
One meal--every bite was gobbled up!

Meal #5: Vegetable stir fry with chicken served with rice.
I used a variety of vegetables I had on hand--broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bell pepper--and seasoned with soy sauce, salt and garlic powder.
Amount of meat used: 1 scant cup.
One meal plus one lunch portion leftover.

Can we make it to 6 different meals? Let's see...I have only 1 1/2 cups of chopped chicken left.

Oh wait... remember those bones we saved? Let's throw those into the crockpot overnight and turn them into chicken broth! Then we can make soup.

Meal #6: Lentil and Chicken Soup served over rice.
Amount of meat used: 1 cup chicken plus 2 quarts broth.
Used lentils, onion, canned tomatoes, celery, 1 quart water, spices.
One pot of soup made enough for 3 meals!

Yay! I made it to 6 meals!

But wait... what's that lurking in the fridge? 

Another 1/2 cup chicken plus 1 cup broth!

What can I make with that?

Meal #7: Baked rice with chicken and veggies added in.
Amount of meat used: 1/2 cup chicken plus 1 cup broth used as part of the liquid.
Made enough for 2 meals-- one shared with friends and enough for another meal for the 2 of us.

Verdict: 11 meals plus several small leftover portions!

Disclaimer: This was for a family of 2 healthy eaters. A family of 4 with smaller appetites may be able to come close to equaling this. Otherwise, tweak to fit your family and individual needs and tastes. A whole chicken is a great way to stretch your grocery dollars as it can usually be made to last several meals!

How do YOU stretch a chicken? 


Rhonda said...

I cook similar to you, those free-range chickens just flat taste better than grocery store chickens too!
have you priced store-bought broth lately? It is almost as expensive as the chicken so I consider any homemade broth as a big bonus.
and I can only imagine what low quality chicken parts the processors use to make that expensive canned broth.

The Working Home Keeper said...

I take the bones from the pastured whole chickens we buy from the farmer's market and make broth.

Mary Ellen
The Working Home Keeper

Wendi said...

Great job, Mary Ann! I will have to pull out a chicken. I haven't made one in a while.

Ermintrude said...

If a bird seems too big to make good use out of all at once, I just cut it in half through the breast and use on half and freeze the other until we're ready for another round of chicken or have company. We order gently raised meats including chicken from Home Grown Cow. My farmer for beef doesn't raise chickens and with Home Grown Cow, I can find what we want.

Abbie Byers said...

Wow, you did great. Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

If you have a Whole Foods nearby, sometimes they have their chicken on sale at a very good price, less than $3.00/lb. Your ideas sound very good and you made your chicken stretch pretty far.