How to cook 1 chicken and make 5 meals for 2

by Madeleine Kolb

Does  it seem that nothing is as simple as it used to be? That even eating isn’t as simple as it was when you were a kid?

Now you’re supposed to eat healthy, eat local, and eat less meat or none at all.

I try to do the right thing. I’m not a vegetarian, and there’s no particular name for what I eat or don’t, but over the years I’ve given up eating all these things:

  • Beef
  • Pork—except very thin pork chops with the fat hacked off
  • Dairy products—other than low-fat or no-fat, except for cheese—because a life without real cheese is not worth living
  • Processed food with more than 5 or 6 ingredients
  • Processed food with lots of sugar in various forms
  • And just about anything fried

I do honor Meatless Monday—with the proviso that canned anchovy fillets do not constitute “meat.” But when I do eat meat, more often than not it’s chicken.

Recently, I bought a seven-pound bird and challenged myself to see how many meals I could make from it for myself and my BF. I got 5 meals for the 2 of us from that one chicken. Here’s how:

Day 1:  Buy a roasting chicken

Day 2:  Roast the chicken and carve it. 

For years, I made a huge mess out of carving a chicken. I figured it was a guy thing, but it turns out that most guys didn’t know how to do it any better than I did. But this guy absolutely knows what he’s doing.

For Meal 1, serve beautifully-carved roast chicken with rice and veggies or salad. After dinner, put the chicken carcass and any remaining cooked chicken in a good-sized plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator.

Day 3: Make chicken broth

Remove the chicken carcass from the plastic bag, and pull off as much of the remaining meat as you can. Add it to the  rest of  the cooked chicken in the plastic bag, and put the bag back in the refrigerator.   

Put the carcass in a sizable pot with water, celery, onion, carrots, parsley, peppercorns, cloves, and other herbs and simmer for several hours. Remove the carcass and vegetables and discard them. Boil down the broth to concentrate its flavor.

Day 4: Freeze chicken pieces in 4 containers for 4 more meals 

Cut up the cooked chicken from the plastic bag into small pieces, and put about  2 cups of chicken pieces into each of four plastic freezer containers. They should be Ziploc-type containers which hold about 3 cups and are stackable.

Pour in broth to cover the chicken, put on the container lids, label lids with the contents and the date, and put them in the freezer. If you have any broth left over, you can freeze that too.

FOOD SAFETY NOTES

Freezing the chicken ‘n broth

The containers should be spread out—not stacked—in the freezer compartment so that the contents freeze quickly. If you have a very small freezer compartment, you may have to freeze two containers full at a time. 

Leave the other two in the frig for several hours, then put them in the freezer. The idea is to freeze the chicken ‘n broth quickly to prevent growth of bacteria.

Thawing the chicken ‘n broth 

Put one container in the refrigerator to thaw the day before you use it (never, ever out on the counter). Or thaw it gently in the microwave right before you use it.  

If you get overwhelmed by life for a few days and forget the cooked chicken in that bag in the frig and more than 4 days or so go by, pitch it out.

I hate to waste food, but I hate food poisoning even more. When it comes to food—my mantra is when in doubt, throw it out.

8 meals for 2, pick 4  

  • Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • Chicken Curry over Rice
  • Stir-fried Chicken with Zucchini
  • Chicken Tetrazzini
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Spanish Rice with Chicken

Four fabulous benefits

  1. You’ll save time if you spread the total time over 5 meals (and roasting the chicken and simmering the broth don’t require your constant attention).
  2. You’ll save money. If whole chicken is $1.29 per pound and you buy a 7-pound bird for $9 and pennies, then the meat for each of 10 meals comes to about 90 cents.
  3. You’ll have four delicious, nutritious meals which are quick and easy to prepare.
  4. And since those 4 meals can be spread out over weeks or even several months, officially, you are not eating left-overs.

Have you ever done anything like this? How did it turn out? Please share any suggestions, recommendations, and similar experiences good or bad.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela Artemis August 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Wow! That was wonderful and so informative. I really learned a lot.
Thank you Madeleine.
.-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..For Spiritual Growth – Keep it Simple =-.

Reply

2 Madeleine Kolb August 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Angela, This approach really dones work well, and I think that the dishes like Chicken Curry over Rice or Sweet and Sour Chicken are even tastier than roast chicken.

Reply

3 Denise August 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Madeleine, I roast an organic chicken once a week. (Makes the house smell so heavenly!) We eat a meal from it the first night, then I usually pick on it and make salads with it for a couple days. (I’ve been known to eat cold chicken for breakfast.)

But then I throw the carcass away! For some reason, I thought it wouldn’t make a good soup because there’s so little meat left on it. Apparently I was wrong. I’ll make a broth with my next chicken and let you know how it turns out. :)
.-= Denise´s last blog ..How to Raise a Free-Range Kid =-.

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4 Madeleine Kolb August 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Denise, The great thing about doing it this way is that you don’t have to eat up the cooked chicken so quickly. I love chicken salad, though, so sometimes I use some of the cooked chicken for that.

When I make chicken soup, I use some cooked chicken (which can have been frozen or not) along with the broth and other ingredients. Another possibility is to leave a bit more meat on the carcass if you plan to make broth.

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5 Adena Atkins August 6, 2010 at 4:10 am

Great idea–I often struggle to use up large portions of fresh food.
.-= Adena Atkins´s last blog ..First Thing In The Morning =-.

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6 Meg August 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

A post after my own heart :) A basic roast bird is the start of many wonderful things. I do this with the Thanksgiving turkey, too.
.-= Meg´s last blog ..Fish Baked in Parchment- Minimalist Gourmet =-.

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7 Madeleine Kolb August 6, 2010 at 9:30 am

Adena, I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I never really kept track before of how many meals I could prepare from a single chicken. Sometimes, I buy a small turkey ham (which is pretty tasty, by the way) and slice it up and freeze individual slices to cook later. It’s a great way to use up large amounts of fresh good without waste and without having to eat the same thing day after day.

Reply

8 Madeleine Kolb August 6, 2010 at 9:34 am

Meg, Thank you so much. Yes I do it with turkey too, a smallish turkey if I’m cooking for two. I really need to check out your blog–fish baked in parchment sounds wonderful. I’m starting to feel hungry, and I just ate breakfast.

Reply

9 the Success Ladder August 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

Thank you very much for sharing this. Please keep up the good work.

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10 Di August 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I loved your ideas with chicken. I have always thought that a chicken can provide several meals and often freeze some of the meat to use later in stews or just thaw out for use with salad. I always try to get three or four meals from a chicken and now I can see how I could get far more than that so I shall use your ideas.
Another idea I have is to make a bolognese with a large jar of sauce and a pack of mince and all the vegetables especially from our allotment. I then use it for visitors one day and freeze as many portions as I can with the rest. Do try this and let me know how you get on.
Please drop by my blog and ‘like’ it if you do

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11 Madeleine Kolb August 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Di, I’m glad this was helpful. Chicken is so tasty and versatile and inexpensive, especially compared to beef.

I like your idea about making bolognese and will certainly give it a try. It sounds good and solves the problem of having a jar of purchased sauce go moldy in the frig (as happens to me from time to time.

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