1 Chicken, 4 Meals: How I Justify a $25 Broiler

roast chicken

Each week, usually on Sundays, I roast a chicken.  It’s a habit I enjoy: trussing the bird, seasoning its skin with ample salt and herbs, and lining the roasting dish with which ever vegetables happen to be in season and easily had.  This week I lined the roasting pan with new potatoes, garlic and Preserved Lemons.  Last week, I lined it with summer squash and eggplant.

This month, and for the next several months, we’re tightening our budget, and cutting food costs where possible.  But, I’m not about to give up my weekly roast chicken, and here’s why.  In my area, a nice pasture-raised broiler fetches between $4 and $5 / lb, and the whole chicken usually hovers in price between $20 and $25.     I’m thankful it’s this low, considering that, in some areas, the price may be 30% more than what we pay locally.

While it may be easy to balk at paying upwards of $25 for a single broiler when a bird purchased from the grocery store can come in at $3.99 (not per pound, but for the whole bird), it’s a cost that’s well-justified.   That single, good-quality bird can provide up to four meals for an average family of mindful eaters.   You see, a pasture-raised bird – expensive as it might seem – provides more nutrients than a conventional bird.   Pasture-raised broilers, allowed to access a natural diet, are richer in beta carotene, retinol and omega-3 fatty acids than their factory-farmed, $3.99 counterparts. A good quality, pastured bird goes a long, long way.

Meal #1: Roast Chicken with Vegetables

Start it simple; prepare a good roast chicken.   It’s a classic one-dish meal, impossibly easy to prepare and profoundly comforting. If you’re planning to make this bird last all week long, take care to carve it well and serve small, but satisfactory portions.   Two moderate slices of breast meat and two chicken legs should be enough to feed a family of four, provided you include plenty of vegetables.  The back meat, the remaining breast meat, the tenders and the thighs can be saved for sandwiches, chicken salad, soup or chili.

Need a little more inspiration? Check out my favorite recipe: Easy Roast Chicken.

Meal #2: Chicken Salad

The next day,  pick the chicken clean of any remaining meat, and set it aside.  You can use about 2 cups, loosely packed meat to prepare a simple chicken salad.  Fresh apples, celery, raisins, grapes, onion and walnuts can help to extend the chicken meat.   You can prepare chicken salad sandwiches with homemade sprouted wheat bread,  And don’t forget to tuck that chicken frame into your slowcooker for perpetual broth – it’ll keep your family in mineral-rich broth for a week.

Need a little more inspiration? Check out my favorite recipe: Chicken Salad for Saturday Apple Picking.

Meal #3: White Chili

White beans and broth can extend any remaining chicken meat for a simple White Bean and Chicken Chili.  It’s one of my family’s favorite dishes, served with a slice of homemade cornbread or Masa Cranberry Muffins.  So, you’ve had that perpetual broth simmering away in your slowcooker, now’s the time to put it to use.  Green chilies, white beans, oregano, broth and leftover chicken make an excellent meal.  Dark meat and back meat are particularly well-suited to White Chili.

Need a little more inspiration? Check out this recipe: White Bean and Chicken Chili.

Meal #4 (or more): Soup, Soup, and More Soup

Lastly, when the meat is spent, you still have the blessing of a slowcooker full of bone broth.  Use this broth to prepare soups and sauces all week long.  And don’t forget to check out the benefits of broth here.

Need a little more inspiration? Check out these recipes: Lentil Stew with Winter Vegetables, Kale and White Bean Soup, Lovage Soup.

 

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What people are saying

  1. Laura says

    i thought paying 3.69/lb. for a pastured chicken was high. but really, i would definitely pay whatever the price was. you cant put a price on good nutrition! great ideas, especially the chili which i hadnt thought of! thanks =)

  2. says

    plus good, pastured chicken makes beautiful, mouth watering meals whencompared with the taste ofa grocery store bird! here in MN I can get pastured chickens for about 3.50/lb, vs. 2.50/lb for local “free range” chicken.

  3. lynn byrd says

    Jenny, I love the chicken post. I rolled out the Frugal Shopper Challenge to my clients in January 2009. This exercise taught people they could actually buy whole (and some organic or beyond) food while staying within the US maximum food stamp allotment. At that time, the maximum allotment for an individual was around $40.62 / week…a family of 4 received about $137 / week. For a sample grocery list, recipes and nutritional values, visit http://www.stanlywellness.org. Look under archived classes for the video class, and under documents for printable support materials. I’m no longer employed by the hospital, but they still use my stuff. You can also find the Frugal Shopper Challenge in Hawthorn University’s archived teleclasses (I’m a student there). Thanks for the great site!

  4. says

    It’s true — quality often carries with it a price tag. But, that $30 goes further if you’re really using every last part of the chicken. I always giggle with delight when I can buy pastured chickens on sale through our local co-op for $2.99/lb. That brings down the cost considerably, so we stock up on birds and freeze them for later.

  5. says

    What a great post! I just posted my recipe for Roast Chicken yesterday and talked about all the things I did to stretch it into several meals (made chicken stock, soup, enchiladas, etc). I’m still working my way up to buying the pastured chickens. I know it is the best option, and your post definitely makes a good case for it! Hopefully I can purchase a few at my local farmer’s market next weekend. Love your blog!

  6. Jenny says

    Cara  -

    I just saw that roast chicken recipe on your site – KILLER!  I love it. We live off roast chickens, I swear.  So good and they last so long.  I really think that the flavor of pastured chicken is much better than that of conventional chicken and so is the texture.  It’s definitely worth the extra $.

    - Jenny

  7. Jenny says

    Lynn -

    That’s fantastic about your class!  On my first (now defunct) food blog (La Cucina Povera) which was kind of a precursor to Nourished Kitchen in 2005, I did the exact same thing.  Challenge myself to stick to a foodstamp budget and still make high quality, wholesome meals.  In fact, it’s not all that hard.  I’m actually planning to revive that challenge next month complete with shopping lists, meal plans and the works.

    - Jenny

  8. Jenny says

    Emily  -

    I completely agree.  The flavor and texture of pasture-fed birds is so, so much better.  The conventional stuff as the texture of mush and no flavor by comparison. Seriously, if I’m going to bother to put time, love and energy into cooking you better damn well bet I want it to taste as good as it can.

    - Jenny

  9. says

    The comments crack me up! Our family of six budgets $150 a week for both groceries and gas (and you know with six of us we do not have a little economy car.) I have found that eating a whole food diet costs quite a bit less than processed foods.

  10. says

    I learned this when I started meal budgeting. Though we don’t have access to pastured birds (though working on having our own come next Spring) I do buy the best we have available and get at least 2/3 meals out of one small fryer. I’ll have to try the white chili. I’ve never done that one before. We like a chicken burrito too after the roasted chicken and veggies.

  11. Jenny says

    Allison -

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful encouragement!  I’m glad you like the post and there’s loads more ways you can stretch a chicken.

    - Jenny

  12. Local Nourishment says

    We feed seven of us at least three meals on a frying chicken. That initial sticker shock is difficult, but those three meals are wonderful! I credit the homemade chicken stock I get into my diet daily as being one of the major reasons I no longer walk with a cane.

    My mom says I pinch pennies so hard they scream for mercy. This post is right up my alley!

  13. says

    Wow. I thought I was paying a lot for the broiler chickens I pick up at a local, family run farm. I pay $14-$15 for a broiler chicken of the same size. I will not tell the farm family that they could be getting oh so much more for them! I like that I see them running around on the farm and the next week one of those may be our dinner!

    I, too, stretch that chicken. I make a roast (mostly in the crock pot). Then, I use left over for a thai curry dish. Then, broth, etc. I know I get my money’s worth and I take great pride in how far that chicken goes! Great post.

  14. Jenny says

    Natalie -

    Thanks for your comment!  We love using leftover roast chicken in curry too.  I made a killer Vietnamese sweet curry the other day that was out of this world good – and so easy to make.  Leftover rice, leftover chicken, some onion, chilies and basil and plenty of coconut milk and curry.  It’s great to see how far you can stretch a single bird, you know?

     

    Take Care -

    Jenny

  15. Shara says

    I would like to try and find pastured chickens, but get confused by all the marketing claims. If a chicken is pastured, does this mean that they only eat grass and nothing else? Is it okay for chickens to be feed any grains? I want to make sure I’m buying a chicken is actually nutritional and worth my money. If you could offer any insight, I would appreciate it!

    • Kelly says

      Pastured Poultry is birds that are allowed to eat all the bugs and grass they want, and live out on pasture. They must be supplemented with grains….in fact, it takes more grain for pastured poultry than confinement birds, maybe because of all the excersize they get! Some breeds take longer to raise also, the birds I raise take 3-5 months (depending on breed) vs. 6-8 weeks in confinement industry. That alone makes the cost more. Even at these prices that are hard to pay, the farmer is giving away a lot of labor…..many farmers I know only make 25-40 cents per bird, which I think is a great deal for customers.

  16. says

    I get more pushback on chicken prices at the markets than anything else (the ones I sell are $4.25/lb). While I can understand the reluctance, that’s simply what it costs to grow them and process them. Those customers who do take the plunge almost always come back,though.

  17. says

    Great post! I could never stretch one chicken for 5 meals in my house; with 2 teenagers, a husband that does physical labor and a nursing mom, we’re lucky if we have any leftover meat when I make a roast chicken, even with a LOT of vegetable sides. Using the back meat for chili is a really good idea, though. We usually just have the roast chicken and stock, and maybe one person’s lunch if we are lucky.

    • says

      It doesn’t work when you have 7 kids a husband a nursing mom and two teenagers either. The pastured chickens I’ve bought were scrawny and tough. :-(

  18. says

    I love how you spread this one bird into five meals. I usually start with stock and then use that meat for meals throughout the week. However, I can’t roast a small chicken or my hubby will polish it all off in one setting, lol!

    This subject has really been tugging at my heart lately. the high prices of good quality, pasture raised meat. I definitely know that it has to be higher because of the way they are raising them, I have backyard chickens, have my own organic gardens and farmers as friends so I know the labor that goes into it, but I’m starting to wonder how many producers out there are deliberately raising their prices beyond reasonable measures because it’s “pasture raised”. I am so blessed to be from Iowa but I was raised in California and although I know prices of living are higher in larger area’s, some of the prices I’ve seen are outrageous. This is just me being me, lol, but I would love to be able to really find out what cost of feed is, maintaining pastures, etc.. and what kind of profit some producers are making by say charging $20 a gallon for raw milk. Being a minority and involved in the Latino community, it’s difficult to see some people without the option of providing nourishing food for their families and children. Sorry Jenny, a subject I’ve been really interested in lately, didn’t mean to hog our space ;) As always, great post!

  19. says

    We live in North Central Wi. And raise Grass-fed Angus beef. We also raise pastured poultry, we sell them for $2.00 lb. professionly processed & shrink wrapped. We currently have cornish game hens(aprox. 2 lbs each). It sad to see the store prices, how can this encourage people to eat healthier…

    • Lily says

      Omg wish we lived where you are! We actually stopped eating most meat and dairy here in the NW corner of WA because i almost passed out from the cost of CONVENTIONAL food when we moved here! Ironically organic veggies can be had for a song if you eat seasonally!

  20. Devon Hernandez says

    Ohhh how I love this post! I, too, love stretching whole chickens! I grew up on chicken breasts because of the low-fat craze (blech) and when I started buying nourishing foods as an adult, specific to this post, pastured chicken, I couldn’t believe the huuuuuge difference in price for skinless/boneless chicken breasts from a pastured chicken (around here in PA, about 8 or 9 dollars per pound). I initially started buying whole chickens simply to save money, but as I immersed myself in The Ways of WAPF (lol), I found that I preferred them because they are so versatile. I’ve always liked things like whole milk and dark meat, even though they were preached to me as “no-no’s” growing up. Eating those two things rekindled something inside of me. Right now it’s only me and my hubby, so typically I buy 4 or 5 pound birds, which run me usually anywhere from 10 to 13 bucks per bird depending on the weight, and I can get about 3 ish meals (sometimes 4) out of one. Two nights ago, I made a lovely roast chicken with herbes de Provence, rice, gravy made from the pan drippings, and an arugula salad with balsamic vinegar, EVOO, and parm cheese (I only used a leg/thigh for each of us). YUM! Last night, I tore the breast and back meat apart and made sandwiches on homemade bread, and I dressed them with a pesto I made with salad leftovers: a small baggie of leftover arugula, walnuts, and a small hunk of leftover parm, and EVOO. Delicious! I had one more sandwich for myself today for lunch, as I work at home, and I love leftovers more than my hubby does lol. I stuck the bones in the freezer for this weekend to make stock, and I saved the rind from my parm cheese as well – it will go in the stock to flavor it, as I plan on making a big pot of Zuppa Toscana (sp?).

    It’s so satisfying to me to be able to get so much versatility and varied meals from one lovely animal :)

  21. says

    Hi Jenny –

    I did a similar comparison of my chicken and several other meals for cost with all organic or natural ingredients. We are a family of three, and the cost per person per meal was about $3.79 with our final total for 7 meals (three people eating each meal) was $79.79, which I think is a fantastic deal. Here’s the post:

    http://www.agriculturesociety.com/?p=2523

    The chicken cost around $21, and is pasture-raised, but still not cheap. I have a friend who has six people in her family and always reminds me that they could not eat for that cheap – of course, you’d have to double that cost for three more people. They don’t buy much organic, typically buy the most economical food to save money, don’t shop through farmers or go to the market. She truly believes her family can’t afford to eat the way we do. I’ve tried to think of ways to convince her that they could eat healthier, but she just doesn’t think so.

    But it’s great to have comparisons like this to give people hope that they can eat healthy if they are willing to be creative and try things they haven’t before. I know we eat really well, but we are always extremely tight on money and do without pretty much everything except paying our bills. We are just starting a new solar and green IT business as of last year, so we have to watch every penny we spend. Thanks Jenny!

  22. Jenny says

    Brandon -

    I’m so with you – there’s nothing like a well-brined, pasture-raised chicken.  It really helps with the flavor and tenderness of the bird.

    - Jenny

  23. Elizabeth says

    “Two good slices of breast meat and two chicken legs should be enough to feed a family of four, provided you include plenty of vegetables.”

    This is where the four (or even five) meals from one chicken always fails me. We eat 3 or 4 slices of breast meat and a leg each from our roast chicken….we are lucky to get 3 meals out of a chicken…so we don’t get them very often.

  24. greenmama says

    this may work for a small family, but my family of 5 is lucky to get two meals out of a chicken (ex: roasted the first day, made into stock and coup the second day). Nothing goes to waste, but it’s just not feasible for one chicken to feed all of us for a week – and I suspect that by the time my boys become teenagers, it will take 2-3 chickens to give us those two meals. I was lucky enough to find a good local source for pastured chickens who will give me a discount when I buy in bulk, but chicken is still the most expensive meal we have nowadays, so we do not eat near as much of it as my kids would like. We get a lot more for our money from our pastured side of beef.

    • says

      I think as my teenagers start eating more and more, it’s even more vital to feed them well. So what we’ve gone to is raising our own chickens and even more recently, turkeys. Turkeys are easy to add with a few layers and are great foragers. They also will provide MANY meals. Get over the squeamish part and have the teens help process. Once not so long ago, this was standard practice.
      Also, hunting wild game drastically will cut your food cost and create family memories. :)

  25. says

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  26. says

    I struggle to make one chicken provide enough meat for more than 2 meals, but I suspect that this is because there are 6 of us in my family… more mouths means that the meat does not go as far. Having said that, the one time I managed to get a MONSTER sized pasture raised chicken (this thing was almost the size of a turkey!) it fed us all for nearly a week! I guess it all depends on the size of the bird.

    Aside from that, I do pretty much everything you suggest from serving moderate portions to picking the carcass clean and then using it for broth.

  27. jmr says

    I pay $30-35 for a pastured soy free chicken. I buy one a month and I stretch that thing out. The trick is not to put the whole roast chicken on the table. Serve each person a small side of meat and then let them eat to their heart’s content of all the other dishes on the table. The meat is more of a side dish, not the main event. I spend right at the top of the USDA’s frugal budget amount each month on food and I still manage to eat organic, local, pastured, etc in a very HCOLA.

  28. Jess says

    Do you get the organs packed with your chicken? If so, do you throw those with the frame into your broth, use them to add to another meal, or possibly save up the organs and do something with a pound of say, chicken livers (yum, pate!) when you have enough? Just looking at extending that dollar a little further!

    • Jenny says

      Nope. No organs come with my chicken! I have to buy the feet/organs separately. That said, I wouldn’t add them to the broth as it might muddy the flavor. Also, so much of the benefit of the organs rests in its vitamin content and those can be destroyed with prolonged cooking as required in broth making.

  29. Cecilia Long says

    I l;like the ideals… But the idea ONE chicken will feed a family four times realistically? In my family of four that one chicken would be mostly gone after the roasting, even with all the vegetables…

      • Hazel says

        I think the previous comment about not putting the chicken on the table is the key.
        My family (5 of us) would demolish an entire chicken in one meal if I let them. If I dish the carved meat up (and give free access to veg, as jmr suggested) and tell them that I have plans for the other meat, there’ll be a bit of moaning but nobody will leave the table hungry.

  30. Susan E says

    This is fantastic, I can add a 5th way to use the chicken. After I make the broth and strain it from the bones – I mash the unused veges and bones – which are soft as mush by now – and feed it to my dogs. They love it, and not one smidgen of the bird is wasted.

    • Patti Drier says

      Susan, I thought I was the only one mushing up chicken bones for the dogs! Excellent addition to the canine diet.

      For those of you that have not had the time/place/ability (all good reasons) to raise your own chickens for meat or eggs. It was very expensive for me. By the time you buy the chicks, pay for the equipment, extra electricity for heat lamps for the chicks, (needed in Michigan). And you do need to buy some grain products. I spent a lot of time devising ways to get my birds out on grass/pasture. The layers were not a problem, open the door in the am, they pretty much went back to the coop at night fall and I would close the door to keep out the varmints. No use of pesticides at our house. So I spent a tremendous amount of time pulling weeds, looking for different types of grasses in the hay fields to cut and bring back to my free range meat birds. I loved putting in the time and effort, hubby thought I was crazy. But he enjoyed the meat and eggs. For me the most difficult part was processing the meat birds. We did everything by hand and it is exhausting work. Your farmers deserve every penny that they charge for home grown birds. If you counted up all of my costs, and paid me for my time, my chickens would have gone for at least $10/lb. LOL it was a labor of love!
      Also no matter how how carefully you care for chickens, some times they just die. And I had 80 beautiful pullets, lovingly hand raised, ready to start laying and a great horned owl some how squeezed into the enclosure. Killed about 20, just pulled off their heads. I was devastated. I would just like you to know a few of the things that can go wrong. Pay your farmer with a smile and a thank you, they deserve it.

  31. Jessica says

    Thank you Jenny!! I loved reading this, as I’m about as tight (I like to say wise) with money as they come. :-)
    I am unable to buy a soy free bird :-( but I plan on having fun seeing how far my organic store bought bird can go.

  32. Allison says

    Thank you so much for this post. I was starting to think all bloggers have infinitely deep pockets. Our family is on a budget and trying to eat in a nourishing, organic, whole food way isn’t cheap. I usually get 3 meals out of an organic, pastured broiler (that I pay about $25 for) but it’s usually only chicken and soup and re-heated soup :). It’s very refreshing to know that other homesteaders need to stretch their food dollar too, without compromising quality of nourishment. I really loved this article and look forward to reading about some more ways to make the food dollar go a little further!

  33. melanie says

    great idea for small families. i have 6 kids, not even teens yet, they’re all 10 and under, but one pastured chicken doesn’t even get us through one meal. thankfully in my area, i can get 2 packages of legs & thighs for around $25. i think that’s probably about 4 chickens. that get’s us through one meal.
    lately we’ve been having lots of meat sauce with quinoa or spaghetti squash or noodles. i take a pound of ground pastured beef or sausage and brown it up then start adding ground up veggies: carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, kale, pepper, tomatoes and whatever is at hand. this is much more economical for us. chicken is becoming a bi-weekly treat here. one way i can get a meal from one chicken is to make it in the crock pot and then use the broth to cook rice. clean the bones & add the meat and shredded veggies to the rice, but it’s much more rice than meat or veggies thanks!

  34. Michelle says

    This is a great post. I really need to get better about using up my pastured chickens all week long. Some people think I’m crazy for spending so much on them, but I also feel they are worth it. I have a question though… can you give a more specific recipe for roasting the chicken? I feel like mine never turn out quite right… I’d love to know what seasonings you use, do you cover it in a roasting pan, and how long/what temperature? Thanks so much!

  35. says

    One of the most important kitchen tricks I’ve picked up is how to quarter a whole chicken. It’s so easy and we save money doing it ourselves… especially since my husband likes white meat but I prefer dark.

  36. says

    Wow, what an excellent post, you are so smart. I’m going to look up all of your recipes. I’ve always walked away empty-handed when I’ve asked locals how much they wanted for their birds ($10-$14 per whole chicken) thinking that was CRAZY, but now I see it was really a bargain. We eat a lot of meat here (WAY too much) and a whole chicken is almost completely gobbled (no pun intended) (well, maybe a little bit) up in just one meal for our family of 4. We have been adding a LOT more veggies to our meals lately and I have been considering that we could eat far less meat and still be satisfied because of the veggies. You have inspired me! Big changes are on the horizon in our family.Thank you for this great post! ♥

  37. says

    Good, local pasture raised chickens cost about the same here, in Northern California. When we buy one, I treat it almost exactly the same. roasted whole, picked off for the next meal, soups. Or, as its just my husband and I, I’ll piece it out and we’ll have the legs one meal, stretch the breasts out for 2 meals, I’ll toss the wings in the freezer until I’ve accumulated enough, then make soup or stock with the back and the bones. The past year, most of our chicken has come from ones we’ve butchered ourselves, so we make sure to use every last bit.

  38. says

    After we get done roasting a chicken or a turkey we take the scraps and mix it with some mayo. Throw it all in the food processor and we have a yummy sandwich spread to use on our bread. We can normally get a relatively large bowl out of your standard chicken or turkey. It gets especially good around thanksgiving and it’s really convenient since being a college kid I have that chronic laziness.

  39. Angela says

    Thanks for your blog! We are on day four of our perpetual broth, and just finished enjoying chicken tortilla soup. I’m enjoying your cookbook, too.

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