When it comes to cheap proteins, it is really hard to beat beans. But, as an omnivore, sometimes I really just want MEAT. When my budget starts getting squeaky, but I still need some animal protein, I check the whole chickens. They are always going to be less than a dollar a pound, and they will frequently be on sale for 49-77 cents a pound. I usually find 3.5-4 pound chickens, one of which will work for the following meal plan. This meal plan will give you 2 dinners, 1 lunch, and lots of yummy chicken stock for the freezer. If you don’t want to use all of the recipes in one week, put the chicken in the freezer until you are ready for it.
To really maximize your efficiency, roast 2 chickens at the same time. Pick the second chicken clean of meat and pack in one cup portions for the freezer, and pack the second carcass in a gallon sized ziptop bag for another batch of stock.
$2.70 1 whole chicken, about 3.5 pounds
$0.88 1 pound carrots
$1.00 2 onions
$1.36 1 bunch celery
$1.14 1 head iceberg lettuce
$3.79 24 oz. raisins (will have lots left over)
$1.00 1 loaf whole wheat bread
$0.69 1 pound brown rice
Simple Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Rice
4 servings, 1 hour and a half(give or take), $1.03/serving
1 whole chicken (about 3.5 pounds)
2 T. oil
2 T. garlic powder
1 T. oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 c. brown rice
2 c. water
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Clean chicken (remember how?), and put into a large roasting pan. Rub skin with oil, then rub in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
2. Roast at 425F for about an hour and a half. The skin should be brown and crispy, and if you have a meat thermometer, it should reach 165F in the breast.
3. Once the chicken is in the oven, wash and then peel the entire pound of carrots, saving the peels for stock making. Chop about half of the carrots into bite sized pieces (putting the rest of the peeled carrots back in the fridge for later meals). Toss the carrot chunks and onion chunks with 1 T. oil, and salt and pepper in a small baking dish and put in the oven to roast alongside the chicken.
4. Now, start cooking some brown rice. Check your package and use the ratio listed on the package. The rice should finish cooking just before the chicken and carrots. Once you pull the chicken and carrots from the oven, let them cool a few minutes, while you plate the rice. Then carve off 4 portions of the chicken, making sure you are leaving plenty of meat for the rest of the meals. If the amount of food is too small for your family, add a salad using up to 3/4 of the head of lettuce, one stalk of celery, and one carrot.
5. After dinner, pick the carcass CLEAN. Save every scrap. Put one cup in a small container and put in the fridge. The rest in another container and put in the fridge.
Almost Free Chicken Stock
6 quarts, 8 hours+, $0.29/ quart
1 Chicken Carcass
1 onion, roughly choped
2 c. carrot peelings
4 stalks of celery
2 T. salt
2 T. pepper
2 T. garlic powder
1. Take the chicken carcass from the roasted chicken, and immediately after picking it clean, put it in your crockpot. Add vegetables and peels and spices. Pour water over, until the crockpot is full and bones and bits are covered.
2. Turn crockpot on low, and let cook overnight. Yeah, you will wake up to the WEIRDEST smell in your house. But think of it as the smell of free liquid love.
3. Strain liquid, and put into small containers. I have a set of to-go containers from various take-out places which hold 2 and 4 cups. Save 4 cups in the fridge for soup. Freeze the rest, after labeling well.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
4 servings, 20 minutes, $0.51/ serving
1 c. cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 c. raisins
8 slices bread
4 carrots, cut into sticks
1. Combine chicken, mayonnaise, lettuce, celery, raisins, salt, and pepper.
2. Toast bread. Spoon 1/4 of chicken mixture onto half of the slices of toast, top with another slice of toast, and serve with carrot sticks (make sure you have 2 carrots left for the soup).
Chicken Soup with Rice
4 servings, 1 hour, $0.83/serving
leftover cooked chicken
2 quarts chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 c. brown rice
1. Begin heating chicken stock on the stove. Bring it just to a simmer, not a hard boil. While it begins heating, dice the last of the leftover chicken, as well as the veggies.
2. Once the stock is simmering, add chicken, veggies, rice, and seasonings. Put the lid on the pot, and just let it simmer for an hour.
3. Check the rice for doneness and the soup for seasoning.
These recipes might seem a bit spare to you. They are certainly not on the level of many Food Network recipes with 15 different ingredients, or like frugal recipes out of magazines where they assume you have a fully stocked pantry, and only cost the recipe out using the main ingredients. I tend to take the (original) Hillbilly Housewife approach to costing out a recipe. I assume you have a bare pantry, and will have to buy EVERYTHING, so I limit the ingredients to what I think is the bare minimum for a tasty dish. However, your pantry is not likely to be bare, or at least your spice rack isn’t. If I was cooking this using my pantry and spice rack, I would definitely add rosemary and sage to the roast chicken spice rub; I would add a good tablespoon of curry powder to the chicken salad, and an apple if I had one; and I would add thyme to the soup, along with whatever veggies need to be used up.