Saving money by buying whole chickens

I’m on rather an economy drive lately, but I like to eat well.

I’ve discovered a way to save a whole bunch of money on meat.  In my area, a boneless, skinless chicken breast runs over three bucks a pound when not on sale.  Even on sale you’ll never see it for less than about $1.99/lb.

I can pretty much count on one of the area grocery stores having a sale on whole chickens for between $0.89 and $0.99/lb most weeks.  Now, you might say that you get sick of a whole roast chicken all the time, and fair enough.  Sure, I do the thing where I roast a chicken, save some of the leftover meat for chicken salad, then make Garbage Soup out of what’s left every now and then, but it’s not all you can do with a whole chicken.

One thing I’d never done was cut up a whole chicken into its various parts.  If I was going to use the parts, I bought the chicken cut up.  Noticing how much cheaper the whole chicken often is, I decided I needed to learn to cut up my own.

I tried it yesterday, just because, well, I like learning new things.[1] I watched a video on Youtube about it, then on my very first try it took me something fewer than five minutes.  It might not be as cool or as pretty as a professional can do it, but it’s a large enough money savings, I’m all good doing this.  Yeah, it’s a little yucky, but I feel like if I’m willing to eat meat at all, I need to suck it up on the yucky anyway and get real that I’m eating an animal.

Now, not everything I make uses chicken with bones in.  In fact, a lot of it doesn’t.  Next time I find a good sale on chickens, I’m going to learn to debone the chicken.  I’ve been given to understand it’s fairly quick and easy.  I think Elliot Yan claims to be able to do it in 18 seconds, so I’m sure I can do it in a couple of minutes.  The next time I buy a chicken, I’ll debone it and possibly even portion it out already cut up for stir fries.[2]

I’ve seen people talk about the waste involved.  We don’t eat the bones! Who eats the wings?

No we don’t eat the bones, but I cook with chicken stock a whole bunch, and not just soups.   Rice made with chicken stock is delicious.  Beans and rice, jambalaya and many other dishes that use water have a richer flaver, and are more nutritious[3] with the stock anyway.  Bones and chicken backs make fine, tasty stock.  So, no, it’s not wasted.  I just save them in a bag in the freezer for the next time I’m going to make stock.

As far as the wings?  Don’t you ever have parties?  Buffalo wings, and variations thereof are pretty popular ‘round here.  I’m saving mine for the next party I throw.

It does take some time to cut up and repackage a whole chicken, but it doesn’t take that much and it’s not even hard.  If you’re looking for a way to save money on meat, I have to encourage you to give this a try.

[1] And next week, it might be a new programming language.  C’mon guys, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was my job to learn stuff then talk about it.


[2] Which will make my son happy for the nights he cooks.  He detests cutting up chicken.

[3] If you’re worried about calcium intake and are not big on dairy, this is another great way to get your calcium. When you make homemade stock, it leeches from the bones.

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