A while ago, I decided that I wanted to develop better skills for working with whole food products. Even though I had been cooking for years, I had never broken down a whole chicken before it was cooked! Also, we were spending way too much money on food...
Most food products can be acquired in a less processed form, but the easiest thing to tackle seemed to be chickens. By tackle I mean cut up, because it would be silly for me to actually chase chickens around and tackle them (unless we then proceded to eat them). At that time, we were buying bags of boneless, skinless, Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) chicken breasts from Sam's Club -- which is a convenient, but very expensive way to buy chicken.
So the plan was to buy and use two whole chickens a week. Prices increase during the winter, but for most of the year whole chickens cost about 99 cents a pound at our local supermarket -- so two chickens are about $10.
The chickens get broken down, and the wing tips, back, neck, and keel bones are frozen for stock. The leg quarters and wings are used immediately to cook-ahead some meals for the week. If I'm on the ball, the cooked chicken is pulled while it's still hot and the roasted bones go into a different bag in the freezer for stock. The breasts get deboned, vacuum sealed and frozen for future use.
That's 8 chickens, or $40, per month. From that, my family gets:
- 16-18 meal portions, depending on the application (leg quarters and wings)
- 2-3 gallons of home-made chicken stock (all of the bones)
- Equivalent of 1.5 bags of IQF chicken breasts (deboned breasts)
That makes the leg quarters about $2.25 per meal. Now thats not the best food cost, but it's so much less than we were paying before... and that doesn't even take into account the $60 worth of chicken breasts and stock!
So far the favorite applications for pulled chicken seem to be:
- Just eating it (usually the first day)
- Chicken noodle soup (with homemade stock)