One way I can really stretch our grocery budget is to make a whole chicken in the crock pot and use it for several meals. Many of you have asked how you can get more than one meal out of a whole chicken, so I wanted to show you how I do it.
A whole chicken can usually be purchased for under a $1 a pound (more if you are buying an organic, free range chicken) but it is still cheaper than buying chicken breast. I try to get a 4-5 pound chicken.
First cook your whole chicken. You can find a step-by-step tutorial for cooking a whole chicken here.
When your chicken is done you’ll want to remove all the meat from the chicken. Don’t throw the bones away!
Chances are you won’t get all the meat off the bones. Throw them back into the crock pot, add some water, and let them simmer overnight.
Not only will you find more meat floating around in the broth the next morning, you will have several cups of broth you can use in soups, pot pie, or to cook rice.
Don’t throw away the fat from the broth. The fat can be saved and used to cook veggies in lieu of bacon grease or oil.
Once you have all your chicken off the bone, shred it and divide it into four equal sections. This will be the meat for your meals. You should have a little over a cup of chicken in each bag if you buy a 4 to 5 pound chicken.
I store the shredded chicken in Ziploc bags, and usually freeze two and put two in the fridge for the week.
The key to making the chicken stretch for four meals is to not serve the chicken by itself as your main dish. If everyone eats a large piece of chicken you can’t make one chicken last for more than a meal or two, but when you mix it with other foods, it is easier to stretch.
While we eat meatless meals once or twice a week, my family prefers to have some meat in their meal (well the little girls don’t care) and it seems to keep them fuller longer, even the meat is mixed in and not served by itself.
Each of these main dishes serve four people with leftovers.
Meal #1: Chicken and corn chowder
This delicious recipe uses chicken broth so don’t forget to save the broth from your whole chicken for this recipe. The recipe calls for two cups of cooked chicken but you can definitely make it stretch with a cup and a half.
Meal #2: Chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie is a family favorite and a great way to use up the broth. I use about one cup of chicken in my pie and double up on the veggies and potatoes. My kids eat pie for the crust so they don’t even notice how much chicken is in the pie.
Meal #3: Chicken and Bean Burritos
This is actually a bean burrito recipe, but my family really likes meat with their dinner so I add about a cup of shredded chicken to this recipe. This is a great quick recipe for busy nights and also freezes well.
Meal #4: Chicken Tetrazzini
This recipe calls for chopped chicken breasts, but I often make it with shredded chicken. This recipe came from my dear friend Blair and it is a favorite of my kids! In fact for years we ate it at least once a week, sometimes more.
If you are gluten free you can make this with spaghetti squash or gluten free noodles, of course.
You don’t need to use these recipes to stretch a whole chicken. Any recipe that calls for shredded chicken can be made with meat from a whole chicken.
To make stretch the meat and the budget, look for recipes like soups, casseroles, and pasta. These recipes usually supplement with rice or beans and you’ll can use less meat in your main dish to save money.
Here are a few additional recipes that call for shredded/ chunk chicken.
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken Tetrazinni
- Mexican Chicken Skillet (family favorite)
- Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Chicken Tortellini Soup