Thrifty Chicken

One common argument I often hear against buying local or buying organic is that it just plain costs too much. Recently I decided to stop buying chicken from the big-time, industrial-style chicken processors and instead buy from the smaller companies raising poultry naturally without hormones, antibiotics and chemicals. Of course, chicken raised this way is more expensive but it can still be quite economical to use.

Last week I bought a whole chicken from Coastal Range Organics. Weighing 4.22 pounds and priced at $1.99/lb. this bird cost me $8.40. By comparison, the cheapest no-brand whole chicken was selling for $1.09/lb for a total of $4.60 and I would have saved $3.80 by choosing it. Had I been planning to feed my family only once with this chicken, although my food budget is ample, the cost difference might have been enough to sway me toward the cheaper brand. However, I am resolved to buy what I feel is a healthier product, and I like the challenge of planning ahead and making the most of my purchase. I knew I could get at least three meals out of this one chicken. Here's how it worked out:

The day I bought the chicken I washed it and stuffed it with a quartered lemon, fresh rosemary, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted the whole thing for dinner. I made a tangy sauce with the juices and served the meat sliced with brown rice and mixed vegetables.

After dinner I quickly pulled off the remaining breast meat and any easy-to-get dark meat from the legs and thighs. I didn't try to get every last morsel from the back and wings--I had plans for that later in the week. This yielded about 2 cups of chopped meat. I added some finely diced celery, stirred in some seasonings and mayonnaise and tucked it away in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend. Over the next several days we used this at lunch for four good-sized chicken salad sandwiches. The carcass, along with all the herbs and seasonings went into a ziploc bag and into the frig. (It could just as easily have gone into the freezer to be used in the next couple of months if I didn't think I would have time to use it within a week.)

Finally, several days later (and having eaten lots of things besides poultry in between) I put the carcass in my crockpot with a sliced carrot, some onion, a couple stalks of celery and some peppercorns, covered it with water and let it stew all day. At dinner time, I strained the broth and put it on the stove to simmer and concentrate while I picked the chicken bones clean of any little pieces of meat. I added this meat back to the broth along with some frozen peas and some homemade whole wheat egg noodles I had left from making Turkey & Noodles after Christmas. I thickened it with a bit of flour and voila--Chicken & Noodles--another main dish!

One chicken=three meals. Waste nothing is my motto!

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