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How to Feed a Family of Four Three Meals, Using One Chicken
Feeding a family of four can be quite an expensive exercise if you don't watch out. However, if you want to give your kids a variety of healthy meals, how do you maximise the ingredients that you have?
One key staple in our household (and I would imagine many others) is chicken, but there is a fine line to get the best "bang for your buck". I used to always buy in chicken breasts and in many ways there is nothing wrong with this as they are convenient. However, with prepared meat costing 2-3 times per kg as much as a full bird, if you can use all of the meat then it is much more cost effective to buy a whole chicken. Having done a knife skills course about a year ago where I learnt to fully dissect a chicken, I now regularly buy a whole chicken on a Sunday and then use it for at least three meals during the week. I have read several blogs etc. where people make the bird last even longer but I still think three meals for a family of four from one chicken is a good return.
Read on to see one weeks worth of meals and I hope that you too can save some money.
Cut Up Your Chicken
Having bought your chicken, the first job to do is to break it down. As with many things in life practice makes perfect but follow the step by step guide here to follow how I break down the chicken. The images are numbered in line with the steps for reference.
- Firstly ensure that your knife is nice and sharp. The advice I was given was to spend good money on a single chef's knife rather than an entire set. Once set, remove the Bishop's Nose (circled) and dispose. Then turn the chicken on to its back and remove the oysters.
- Next score the skin between the legs and the breasts and separate from the main carcass. Try to get you knife between the bones in the joint.
- Between the thighs and the legs there is a thin line that shows if you line your knife up along then you can cut down and easily separate the legs. Again, aim to get your knife within the joint to avoid having to cut through the bone.
- Next work your way along the breast fillet and cut away from the main carcass. Remove the wings at the same time. You will have to break through the wishbone to get away fully.
- Finally remove the wings from the breast fillet and you now have the constitute parts of your meals for the week. Don't throw anything away at this stage as you will be using it all.
A great accompaniment to any roast dinner is Yorkshire puddings. Check out my hub on how to make them with Gluten Free flour.
Chicken and Veg
Who doesn't like a Sunday Roast dinner? In the introduction to this hub I mentioned that I usually will buy a whole chicken on a Sunday and this means that the first meal of the week that I cook for the family is a Sunday roast.
I will cook up both breast fillets, eating one with this meal and saving the other for risotto later in the week. Because the chicken that I have buy is large, the meat easily does for all four of us although that may start to change as the kids grow up! When roasting the chicken I use a great method known as "Dry Poaching" that has yet to serve me wrong in producing succulent breasts. It may seem like an anomaly of terms but the method is so simple.
- Pre-Heat your oven to 200oC
- Grease an over proof dish and place your breast fillets in the dish
- Season as you wish, I usually use some salt, pepper, thyme and lemon juice
- Grease a piece of baking paper on one side and cover the chicken breasts
- Make sure the paper is well tucked in and then cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear
Meanwhile prepare your potato and vegetables but whatever you do, don't dispose of the peelings and tops/stalks of your veg because you will be using these as well.
Make a Stock
I have mentioned a couple of times in the hub so far about not throwing away your chicken carcass and vegetable scraps and this is why. These ingredients will make a delicious stock that can be used in a variety of soups and sauces although in the context of this week, we will use for the chicken risotto.
I had never previously thought of making my own stock but it is so simple. Just put your carcass and vegetables a large pan, cover with water and then simmer away. You can use any vegetables but I have found things like carrot and celery to be particularly good. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper and just skim off any fat deposits on a regular basis. After you have been simmering for a long time then you can drain through a sieve, keeping the liquid and finally dispose of your scraps. The stock freezes really well as well so there isn't the immediate need to use it although it will quite happily go in the fridge for a couple of days as well.
Not only are you getting the full usage of the chicken, you are also saving money on shop bought stocks and, importantly when you have young kids, you can minimise the salt content as a lot of shop bought stocks are quite high in salt.
Another staple in our families repetoir is a delicious chicken risotto. Relatively easy to make and quite healthy if made in the right way, it enabled you to use up more of your single chicken.
The recipe that I use and the kids love is a mushroom and chicken risotto from this Hairy Bikers book. As such I can't put the actual recipe in this hub. However, you will find yourself using the second chicken breast cooked on Sunday for the meat, and the delicious stock that you made will be used to cook your risotto rice in, giving a really rich flavour that you would have to pay good money for to buy from the shops.
If you don't know who the Hairy Bikers are, they area couple of TV chefs here in the UK who travel around on their motorbikes. They have historically both been on the larger size and this book was the first of their Hairy Dieters series that gives healthy versions of family favourites and we use them quite a bit. If you are UK based like me then find the book at this link instead to go to Amazon UK.
Chicken Nuggets and Chips
My kids love chicken nuggets. If we didn't cook a more rounded menu I think my son in particular would have them daily. As such, when I have the extra meat from the chicken still to cook, breaded chicken is another go to.
Making your own breaded chicken is extremely simple and for some time I used to cut up the legs, thighs and wings that I have still to use and bread the chicken to make goujons. These have always been very tasty but as you probably know, finding enough meat on a wing for example to make a decent sized goujon is quite difficult.
As such I now try a slightly different approach. Cut off the meat from the bones and place it in your food processor. Then you can get all the small pieces of meat and scrape these from the bone as well to get every last scrap of usage. Put it all in and blend until you have a quite sticky chicken paste. Shape this into equally sized balls, I have found you can make about 20 good sized nuggets from the meat of the thighs, legs and wings. Now, coat all the balls in flour. I have found this helps dry out the paste just enough to roll in to perfect balls.
Then dip the balls in beaten egg and finally roll in bread or rice crumbs. As my wife has coeliac disease we can't use normal breadcrumbs and Gluten Free bread is quite expensive so we tend to use rice crumbs. For ease you can just buy the crumbs but if you want to save even more money, buy a pack of value rice cakes and blitz through your food processor until they are fine. Once all of your nuggets have been coated heat up some oil in a large frying pan and then bring back down to a low/medium heat. Place all of your nuggets in the oil for about 10 minutes, turning and rolling all of the time. Finally transfer to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes at 200oC to make them nice and crispy and cooked all of the way through.
Obviously you can't really eat nuggets just on their own, they need some good chips but it is so easy to make your own that are delicious. Chop up a couple of very large potatoes. Mix in a bowl with a some vegetable oil, a teaspoon of paprika and some salt and pepper. Mix up and then bake alongside the nuggets for 20-30mins until nice and crispy.
What Does It All Cost?
Hopefully you will have found these meals delicious sounding and a good idea when feeding your family. However, one question that might still be remaining is how much does it all cost? I've laid out below the items I have used during the meals and whilst there may be the assumption of some staples in the house like salt/pepper, these should help make the whole menu (prices based on tesco.com in Oct 2015 as a guide). Where the ingredient can be re-used again, I've worked out the price on this menu.
- Bag Carrots - £0.60
- Broccoli - £0.49
- Bag Potatoes - £2.00
- Cauliflower - £1.00
- 150g Arbiro Rice - £0.30
- Chesnut Mushrooms - £0.89
- Onion - £0.15
- Garlic - £0.30
- Parmesan - £1.30
- Eggs - £0.30
- Gluten Free Flour - £1.70
- Rice Crumbs - £0.75
- And of Course a Large Chicken - £5.25
That's only just over £15 for all of the ingredients or just £1.25 per person, per meal, definitely a cheap week.
Obviously there are many other meals that you could add to your weekly repertoire and on other weeks I have also cooked curries, enchiladas, chicken cordon bleu and many others. I'd love to hear any of your other suggestions.