My first frugality experiment was to see how far I could stretch one large, whole chicken from the grocery store. If you want to skip all of the minute details of the experiment, and just see my total savings breakdown, you can scroll right to the bottom. I have highlighted the savings in a paragraph called THE BREAKDOWN.
OKAY, HERE WE GO…
I purchased a large chicken for $8.00. I avoided the pre-cooked rotisserie birds sold in the deli section. While you could use one of those, I often find that they are smaller birds, and might not yield the same amount.
There are an infinite number of ways to go with this experiment. I went with the best combination of meals for my needs this week.
I cleaned, trussed, lightly seasoned, and baked the chicken in a deep pot on a high heat. Once it was cooked through, I reduced the heat, covered the bird and baked it for an additional half hour until the meat was juicy and nearly falling off the bone. I used two thighs and one breast for dinner. The rest went into the refrigerator, still in the pot with a lid.
What I created was my version of our typical dinner for three from Saffron, my favorite local Thai restaurant. I served the two thighs and one breast on beds of basmati rice with salad. Had we stopped to pick up the same dinner at the restaurant, it would have cost around $20 or so.
The next afternoon I used a portion of the remaining breast to make two generously sized chicken sandwiches for two lunches. Served with a mango strawberry salad made out of fruit brought over by friends the previous weekend. Had my grandfather taken us out to his favorite lunch buffet, he would have spent about $16.
Later in the day, I got the chicken back out of the fridge, (still in the deep pot it was cooked in and sitting in the drippings from the original roasting) and added 14 cups of water until it just covered the carcass. I put a lid on it and let it simmer for an hour. Then I removed the pot from the heat and let it cool for another hour.
I removed the meat and bones and strained the chicken broth through a sieve. That yielded a total of 12 cups of concentrated chicken stock. I packed up most of that to freeze. When I get it out to use later I will thin it out by adding one cup of water to each cup of stock. This means that each cup of my concentrated stock is equal to one 2-cup can or carton of store-bought chicken stock.
I ended up freezing 9 cups of stock, which roughly equals $12. worth of canned goods that I will not have to purchase at the store. And I am looking forward to a lot of deliciously flavored risotto, soups, and sauces in the future!
Next, I separated the rest of the meat from the bones, and discarded the bones and skin. This yielded about 4 cups of shredded roast chicken.
I took one cup of that meat and the remaining 3 cups of unfrozen stock and returned them to the original, now empty, pot. I added 3 cups of water to it, along with one chopped onion, 3 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
This will yield 6 cups (three bowls) of chicken soup for our soup and salad dinner for three tomorrow night. Salad courtesy of my garden. This will save about $5 in canned soup purchase, and will be much more tasty and nutritious as well.
The remaining 3 cups of shredded chicken will go into the freezer until the weekend, when it will be made into 3 giant shredded chicken burritos for Sunday’s dinner, using the remainder of the basmati rice from the beginning of the week and some local produce. Since we will not be running down to El Ranchito for Mexican food that night, our savings will be approximately $12.
What I bought:
One $8 chicken and about $4 worth or rice and produce
What I made:
Three chicken and rice dinners
2 chicken sandwich and fruit lunches
Three soup and salad dinners
Three jumbo shredded chicken burritos
9 cups concentrated chicken stock for later
Total cost if I had bought that food at restaurants/grocery stores: $65
Total savings: $53
Of course this total does not take into account every variable. There is also the gas savings of not driving to go out to eat. Nor does it factor in the costs of beverages and extra things we may have ordered at restaurants, like desserts or side dishes. My roasted chicken meals are also replacing inexpensive take-out food options, rather than more pricy dine-in restaurants. So the savings could be double or more, depending on the price points you are used to!