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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.
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!