One Chicken: Five Meals
We've all heard those claims, where someone says something like, "I made 3 meals from one piece of meat," or something to that effect. I have seen it done on some of the cooking shows on t.v., but it usually involves some grocery shopping for "special" foods... just for your recipes. I've yet to see this done with items I already have on hand. Until now.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to put this experiment of mine into practice. I was at the grocery store, doing my normal shopping for the month, and I happened upon some whole chickens that were on sale. I knew, with the price of other meat as high as it was, I couldn't dismiss the value of the price of the chicken. So... I got several, took them home and popped them in the freezer.
Next, I wanted to make a plan for what dishes I'd cook with the chickens. I thought about foods we enjoy... chicken pot-pie, chicken and noodles, homemade chicken-noodle soup, broccoli/chicken casserole and chicken and cheese quesadillas.
I made sure I had all the ingredients on-hand, for the recipes. Once I did that, I made sure I marked down what day I had to take the frozen chicken out of the freezer. On that day, the chicken was taken out of the freezer (that morning) and put into the refrigerator. In two more days, that chicken was completely thawed out, and ready to cook.
I cooked the chicken (adding the seasonings/sauce we like), then allowed it to cool. Once the chicken was cool, I could then pick the meat off the bones... making sure I tore it into small pieces as I did. Then, I set aside the amount of chicken I would need for that night's dinner. With the rest of the meat, I separated it, into ziploc baggies, based on the recipes for the remainder of the chicken. That was placed in the freezer door, and would be taken out the morning of each night's meal.
Once all the meat was removed, I carefully disected the chicken carcass... or, bones. Then, I put all the bones into a stockpot, on the stove, to which I'd added water (about twice as much water as the level of bones). Then, I added veggie peels/scraps I had leftover from another meal and turned the heat to medium-high. When the mix came to a boil, I added a lid to the pot. I turned the heat down, so as not to cause the pot to boil over. Once the bones had broken down and all the remaining meat on the bones had fallen off, I then turned the heat off and placed the pot on the back burner... to cool.
Once the pot was cool (or warm enough to handle), I strained the liquid from the bones/veggie scraps. The liquid was set aside, while the bones/scraps were disposed of. I separated the broth into resealable containers, setting aside what I needed for the night's meal. The rest of the containers went into the freezer.
This night's meal was going to be homemade chicken-noodle soup and bread or sandwich. So... into the pot went the broth. I added the chicken I previously set aside and some cut-up carrots, celery and any other veggies I had on hand. I cooked the noodles separately, then added them to the pot... once the veggies were cooked through. At about the same time I added the noodles, I added seasonings/spices, as well. Cook for about 10 mins., and that's it. Dinner is done!
As for the following nights/dishes, I simply planned those out the same way I did on this night. Once you get the hang of it, the rest is history. I would have to say... the most important part of it, all, is making sure you have a properly-stocked pantry. If you have basics and staples on hand, you'll never have to run to the store before dinner again. You'll have it right where you need it.
It is definitely possible to cook and prepare food in such a manner, that you will see a reduction in time, stress and certainly money. Now, if every meal could only be this simple;)