You know how much I like experimenting for the sake of frugality. So I went on a mission to stretch a whole chicken through five meals to create a relatively healthy and inexpensive meal plan.
Note: I’m feeding a household of two adults. If you have a larger family, you’ll likely need to purchase an additional whole chicken.
First up, I prepared my shopping list and meal plan. I started off my shopping at Target and quickly realized I’d have to make an extra trip to Walmart because Target only has teensy whole chickens. So off to Walmart I went, with the mission of finding the largest whole chicken they had in stock, which happened to be just over 8 pounds.
|Total Cost:||$46 (Approx.)|
|Whole Chicken||Fresh Green Beans||Salad Greens|
|Head of Cauliflower||Carrots||White Onions|
|(2) Lemons||(2) Cucumbers||Celery|
|Frozen Mixed Vegetables||Egg Noodles||Flour Tortillas|
|Fresh Parmesan Cheese||Plain Greek Yogurt||Croutons|
|Salsa||Cream of Celery Soup|
Shopping List Notes:
- The cream of onion soup was supposed to be cream of celery. I mistakenly picked up the onion soup.
- The plain Greek yogurt is our healthy alternative to sour cream.
- The Parmesan cheese was used shredded over salads, in the salsa chicken wraps and in the Parmesan garlic green beans (recipe here).
I roasted the chicken in the crockpot. This was the first time I attempted this cooking method and let’s just say it had its complications. An 8-lb chicken in a 4.5 quart crockpot is an incredibly tight fit!
Once the chicken was cooked, I sliced the breast meat and shredded the dark meat by hand. I also took the carcass/bones from the chicken and stored them in order to make crockpot chicken stock to be used in the chicken noodle soup later on in the week (tutorial here).
The Meal Plan:
|Sliced Chicken Breast||Garlic Mashed Cauliflower + Side Salad|
|Salsa Chicken Wraps||Side Salad|
|Sliced Chicken Breast||Parmesan Garlic Green Beans|
|Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup||N/A|
|Chicken Pot Pie||Side Salad|
The chicken pot pie was the only failed meal from the entire week. Because this was one of the last meals I created for the week, we were running low on chicken. So this really was more of a vegetable pot pie with the addition of shredded chicken. Also there was too much crust; I created a bottom crust and a lattice top crust and it just didn’t work.
We had plenty of chicken noodle soup leftover – enough for at least another week of meals.
Lessening the Cost
If you’d like to do this meal plan on a bare-minimum budget I’d recommend nixing the following things from your shopping list:
- fresh Parmesan cheese
- organic salad greens (in favor of iceberg lettuce)
- flour tortillas (in favor of more affordable corn tortillas)
I also recommend purchasing fewer onions since one or two will do for the crockpot chicken stock and the homemade chicken noodle soup. These changes alone will lower the cost of the meal plan from the original $46 to the $30+ range.
I’ve done less expensive and more complete meal plans in the past. Strictly from a frugality standpoint, I think I did well, but not as well as I could have. All in all, one whole chicken was used to make 5 dinners in addition to homemade chicken stock. If I were to do this again, I’d definitely pick up a larger chicken because the chicken pot pie had very little shredded chicken in it.
This was the first time I’ve made a whole chicken work so hard, so I’d love for you to share your whole-chicken-stretching secrets in the comments below.