*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure
Hello Blogosphere! Mrs. iHB here. This post is for the more domestically inclined among us (or not, it will save you money to learn some of the arts of domesticity!) This kitchen tip has got to be the biggest money saving item in my food budget. We only get $300 a month for food and I try to feed our family as wholey and organically as possible. I believe that food is medicine and while it may cost a little more to eat this way, it is sure cheaper than cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc!
Anyway, here’s the tip: Buy whole chickens on sale, cut them up, freeze the pieces, make stock from the carcass and organs, save $$$$.
What you will need:
- Your chicken(s)
- A big enough cutting board to not spread juices (gross I know) everywhere (I use a 12”x15” bamboo board, bamboo or plastic would be a good option to cut chicken on OXO Good Grips 12-by-16-Inch Large Bamboo Cutting Board)
- A SHARP knife! (this will not be fun with a dull knife, and you will have a greater chance of cutting yourself) (this knife gets rave reviews all over the place, it’s my personal favorite, and AFFORDABLE!!)
- Bowls or other containers to hold the individual pieces. I line up 5 bowls, one for breasts, legs, thighs, wings and carcasses
- Also, get a garbage can easily accessible so you don’t have to touch anything with chicken-ey hands
You want me to do WHAT with a chicken?!
Hack it apart! 😉 (maybe apron should have been in that list?)
Start with the wings. You need to cut in-between the bone joints. You don’t want to dull your knife or waste time trying to saw through the bone. If you pull the wing back to the side you will see where it joins the body, cut there. You should be able to get pretty close and try and slice as much meat with it as you can. Plop those wings in a bowl, let’s move on!
Legs are next, this joint is also easily recognizable, straighten and bend the leg as you need to cut your way to the joint. Cut in between the joint and you’re good to go! Now the thighs, this one can be trickier to tell what meat to cut. Just know that whatever meat you leave on the carcass will just go to stock. You would much rather eat it so cut as much as you can, you can always cut it off the thigh if you think it’s too much or a weird shape later. Find that joint again and go at it. Now you have 2 wings, 2 legs and 2 thighs, it’s time get the breasts. This is probably the hardest part as a beginner. The breasts obviously have no joint, so you will have to follow the ribcage. A chicken’s ribcage is fairly thin and delicate so don’t use too much force, this part is more about finesse….well, the whole thing is really more about finesse than force.
Ok, so now you have your pieces all cut up, if you would like, you can skin your chicken breasts. I prefer to leave the skin on so that they are more moist when I cook them, but feel free to do it however. I usually put 1 breast per sandwich size baggie then put multiple baggies in one large freezer bag (be sure to label the part and the date). For the legs I put 4 in a sandwich baggie then into a freezer bag, wings I do 6 at a time in a freezer baggie with a marinade. Thighs are two at a time in a sandwich baggie then into a freezer bag. This is the marinade I use, it’s really easy and I usually have all the ingredients on hand at any given time.
This is enough marinade for 12 wings (2 baggies of 6 wings each):
a little over ½ a cup extra virgin olive oil
a little over a ¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-1/4 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh parsley
Now what to do with the carcass?
Is this seriously good for anything? And the liver, neck, assorted organs? Yuck!!
Organ meat is extremely beneficial. Check out some of the health benefits (and more ways to cook it if you so desire here. Stock is also extremely healthy and pretty much zero fat. Here is a look at why it’s so beneficial as well as another take on how to make it.
I use soup socks (Regency Soup Sock *Triple Pack*) to make my stock, makes clean-up SOOO much faster. So the chicken carcass, neck and organ meats go in the sock, along with some onion pieces, celery, carrots and a couple bay leaves. Don’t get too scientific about this part, use what you have, if you’re out of something, no biggie, you can even make it without the mirepoix (French for carrots, onions and celery) but it will just not be as flavorful. Once you’ve got all your goodies in there, tie up the sock and put it in a large stock-pot filled with cold water and a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps leach the nutrients from the bones. Turn your burner on low and let it simmer for 6 – 24 hours. The longer the better.
When your stock is done simmering, take out the sock and throw it away (you could try and get the tiny bits of meat out to use for casseroles, etc, if you wanted). Strain your stock through a fine sieve. Poor into containers (large pyrex bowls work great for me) and cool it in the refrigerator. Once it’s cool you’ll see a fat layer on top, take a large spoon and scrape that off, throw it away. Your stock should be the consistency of jello.
We’re almost done! PROMISE!
Get your 1 cup measurer out and start scooping. Put one cup of stock into sandwich baggies, squeeze the air out and seal. Once you’re done scooping, take your stock baggies and freeze them lying down. This takes up the least amount of space and then you’re ready whenever you need some for a soup or sauce. Once they’re frozen you’ll want to transfer them to a gallon freezer baggie to preserve them longer.
SO THAT’S IT!! Seems like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of it it’s really not bad at all (kind of enjoyable even??)
Now, this is a budget blog, so….LETS BREAK IT DOWN!
I bought six chickens on sale for .89c/lb, this cost me $25.24 at my local QFC (already a savings of $22.69 off the regular price.) However, the savings doesn’t end there!! Let’s say you get 10 cups of stock per carcass (at least!!).
If bought individually this is what it would cost:
12 drumsticks = $11.22 at $3.74/lb
12 breasts = $33.71 at $7.49/lb
12 thighs = $11.22 at $3.64/lb
12 wings = $4.35 at $2.49/lb
5 – 32oz cartons of chicken broth = $18.45 at 3.69/box
If each item was purchased individually/per recipe you would pay $78.95!!
Cutting it up yourself and making stock will save you about $50 bucks every time. I would say I do this about every 2-3 months and it feeds the two of us, that’s a $200 – $300 savings per year. For a family of four, that would be $400 – $500 a year, and a family of six would save $600 – $700 a year, just from this one tip!
(p.s. if this is all a little much for you and you feel like waiting around at the store, some butchers in the meat department will cut up your chicken for free. Always remember to ask for the carcass for your stock and keep in mind that they leave the bone on the breast and it’s much harder to cut the breast off the bone without having the whole chicken to hang on to.)
Mr. iHB’s Thoughts:
This is pretty much why I’m not allowed to touch anything in the kitchen. My wife is a brilliant cook and I can barely figure out all the settings on the microwave (srsly, why so many defrost options?!). It’s pretty awesome that we can save a ton of money, always have chicken on hand and she makes the best soup I’ve ever had with homemade stock! Three cheers for Mrs. iHB!!!
Comments: Have you ever cut up a whole chicken? Does just the thought totally gross you out? What is your biggest money-saving tip in the kitchen? Does anyone else think that Ryan is just totally not right for Emily on the Bachelorette? I’m totally wanting her to pick Arie or Jef!
35 thoughts on “Mrs. iHB: Saving Money in the Kitchen – Chicken”
I’ve tried cutting up a whole chicken before, but it was really hard (maybe I’m just super weak). It was just too much for me! However, it’s so much cheaper so maybe I should try again.
Michelle, definitely try it again! You may need to invest in a better knife! The one I linked to above is WONDERFUL! I’ve found that when I go to a friends house and use their knives I have a hard time even cutting through an onion or apple! The value of a good knife is really underestimated 🙂 I believe you have the strength 🙂 remember, it’s more about finesse than force!
True that! You can break down a cow if you have the right knife 🙂 Props on breaking down those chickens and making stock yourself. You can do the same thing for beef stock and get demi glace .. mmmmmmmm 🙂
We’ve cut up a chicken once but it didn’t go very well. We enjoy cooking but it just seemed like a really big pain in the arss. However, if one is on sale we typically will buy it because it can save you a ton of money!
Our biggest money saving tip for food is (1) to create a menu and a grocery list accordingly and (2) buy off-brands at the stores. A lot of people do the couponing but we don’t go overboard on that much.
Jason, I agree, meal planning is SO important! I will do a post on that later. Without a plan we always spend at least twice as much as we would with a plan, it’s kind of scary! Check on the side-bar link to emeals.com, they meal plan for you based on sales in your area and send you the plan (with instructions, always super easy too) and a shopping list! You could always have the butcher at your local grocery store cut up the chicken for you, then you still get all the benefits of the savings and being able to make stock 🙂 Great way to get all the benefit without nearly the work!
I think maybe I’ve cut up a whole chicken once. With your inspiration, I may try it again! I regularly though cook a whole chicken, either in the oven (when weather is poor) or on the grill. Cooked, it’s a lot easier to sort of tear it apart and eat what you want over the course of a few days. But I do waste the carcass this way. I suspect after cooking it’s not much good for making stock, no?
Kurt, that’s a great way to cook chicken! You can definitely still use the carcass for stock. It will be more like broth because stock means it’s gelatinous from cooking the bones and using cooked chicken bones means they’ve lost some of the gelatin content already. Either way, still really good for you and using a pre-cooked chicken carcass just means more flavor from the spices you’ve already cooked it in!
I’ve done this a few time but am guilty of buying the individual pieces as well. Just as an additional point if you break the bones (be careful using a big heavy knife) before you put them in the stock pot it releases some of the marrow in the bone where there’s tones of flavour!!!
Good tip on breaking the bones! Marrow is SO good for you! Life-giving 🙂
As somebody who was a vegetarian from the age of 3, I really can’t handle cutting up a chicken. It grosses me out to no degree. If I do it, I have to go for a really long time without eating it again. I started eating chicken when I was a teen, but I can’t actually prepare the chicken I eat myelf because it creates an aversion for me.
But it’s definitely a frugal approach!
Daisy, when I was pregnant I couldn’t eat the chicken that I prepared myself 🙂 lol! No problem if I was out or someone else prepared it, and Mr. iHB loved it so I know it wasn’t gross, just something about doing it myself! So I can empathize 🙂 At least now you can share the money saving tip with your carnivorous friends! ;D
I do this as well. You can make chicken go really far too, so we use it a lot and homemade stock is so much better than powdered or store bought stock.
Kylie, I SO agree! No need to worry about buying “low sodium” or “low fat” either because you know it’s both of those and can control every little piece of it. For me it is SO satisfying to make a soup and know that I literally made the whole thing, nothing from a can or a box! 🙂
A lot of places, like Target, will discount their meat the day before the “sell by” date, so you can get an even better deal. Since whole chickens don’t move too quick, they are usually on sale for a great price!
Robert, that’s a good tip! Do you know if it’s less than .89c/lb? I also like to know about the farms I get my chickens from. Some of them just look awful when you do a little research! We are in the PNW and buy Draper Valley Chicken. I’ll have to check that out for some pork cuts.
Great way to save money on food. I’ve been a bit lazy and just get a big pack of chicken drumsticks when they are cheap. I guess I was a bit intimidated by cutting up the carcass properly. It would be nice to make a good soup with the bones though. Plus it would add more variety other than just drumsticks. Thank you for the inspiration to give this a try.
You are welcome for the inspiration 🙂 I hope your chicken-cutting experience goes well! It is nice to have some chicken breasts instead of just drumsticks, I know that if I didn’t do this we would never have them because they are so expensive!
Where do you guys live?! I think we need to hang out as couples because you are that awesome! I love the way you write about each other. It’s tough finding couple friends that actually like each other! I digress….no, I don’t ever cut up the entire chicken. Maybe I should try it as I’m sure it would save some dough. I actually am a dietetics major and so I know all about how cooking foods from scratch saves you sooo much money when you look at the “cost per.”
BTW, Jeff and I also watch the Bachelorette/Bachelor and I think Ryan is so hilarious! Obviously, he’s a huge douchebag (sorry buddy…but you are) who’s completely wrong for her, but he adds so much comedy to the show with his quirky comments and the douchey way he wears his hair. I <3 him….I just hope she doesn't fall for him! Do you remember when he told the guy w/ the ponytail "Hey if this doesn't work out, I'm thinkin bout contactin the media folks and makin this a 'Bachelor Ryan' kinda thing…know whatta mean? Turn this into somethin good!" What a TOOL!!!! hahaha. Who talks like that??
Michelle, I guess great “Michelle”s think alike! That’s my name too 🙂
We’re in the Seattle area, and yes, it is sometimes hard to find couple friends! I wish I had paid more attention in my nutrition class in college, now I am just soaking it all up! Have you heard of the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0967089735/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=iheart03-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0967089735 )? This is seriously the most amazing book/cookbook! I highly recommend it! Whole foods is definitely the way to go for savings and for health!
I swore I wasn’t going to watch the Bachelor or Bachelorette anymore but I couldn’t help myself, it’s Emily!! lol
Hmm normally when I buy the whole chicken I just roast it but I might have to try this! I love cooking things from scratch and making “restaurant food” at home. I find they just taste more yummy when we make them. I haven’t made stock before and it does intrigue me….
and I agree-I love how you guys actually like each other. I’ve had couple friends that we would hang out with 1 or the other because they didn’t really like each other so it made it weird to hang out with them together.
p.s. you’re security question must mean I am not a human! I have answered it wrong before.
I agree, making food at home tastes so much better! I think you will like making stock too, it’s SO easy for the amount of money it saves and nutrition it provides!
It really is so sad there are so many couples who don’t like each other….I think Mr. iHB is pretty freakin’ awesome ;D
We have a family of six so I look for whole chickens to go on sale also. However, I usually cook them whole. I have a roaster pan that will hold three good-sized chickens. Once they are roasted, I pull the meat off and freeze it in smaller portions for casseroles and other dinners. I also freeze the liquid in 1 cup portions to use for soups and gravy.
That’s a great idea too Pam! Next time you could use those carcasses to make some stock along with your drippings and get even more for your money!
I really dislike handling raw meat, so I have a serious mental block over cutting up a raw chicken. THat said, I do buy whole chickens, roast them, use all the meat for meals, casseroles, and more, then make the BEST stock with the carcass. I do the same with turkey too.
I’m working to cut down on the amount of meat we eat as a way to stretch our grocery budget, but oddly, milk and peanut butter are our two budget busters! (Teenage boys….)
That’s a great way to do it too. I like to do at least one meatless meal a week, Mr. iHB is pretty carnivorous though so I’m not sure if I could get away with it much more than that. 🙂 Peanut Butter is getting expensive!! I can imagine how that would be a large expense!
I just did something similar tonight and currently have broth cooking in my crock pot! $300 is really good, especially for using mostly “real” food. I would definitely be interested in more posts like this. Do you buy organic chickens? I try to buy all organic meat/poultry and it is so expensive!
I unfortunately don’t buy organic poultry. We buy 1/4 cow from my Aunt and Uncle when they butcher their grass-fed, drug-free, organic cows (for a great price), so beef is covered. For poultry I buy Draper Valley, for my area that seems to be the best quality chicken (humanely raised, etc.) and we don’t really eat pork except bacon and sausage and I just buy Hormmel Natural for that….
One day we will buy all organic! Maybe once this blog starts rackin’ in the dough ;D lol
Your how to make chicken stock suggestions are great! I never knew about using apple cider vinegar – thanks. I’ll be returning to this post next time i make stock.
Glad I could help 🙂 Best thing is that you can’t taste the vinegar! Will you try using a soup sock? It’s the only way I do it anymore!
I’m not a huge fan of cutting up a whole chicken. To save money on chicken, I go to Costco. I can get breasts there for about $2/lb. I buy a bunch and just freeze them until I need them.
$2/lb. ain’t bad at all. Sometimes when the whole chickens go on sale for $0.89/lb., you can pick a few out and have the local deli cut it up for you.
I have been reading your guys blogs! I love it! haha really good information and I am def going to try this cuz I did not even think about doing this stuff to save money! Thank you 🙂
Glad to see you here Heather! Definitely fight a bit for your money. Bills aren’t the end all, and you can usually get them lowered, all you have to do is ask!
I like to use kitchen shears to cut the chicken up, it is easier for me.
If I am going to freeze the chicken pieces rather than roasting them fresh, I also take the skin off, cut it into small pieces, and make schmaltz with it (like lard, but chicken fat instead of pig fat.) You can use this in place of oil when cooking (thus saving $3/quart when you compare it to store brand canola oil) and it gives a wonderful hearty flavor to otherwise meatless bean and vegetable dishes.