There is nothing I love more in my frugal kitchen than to make several meals from one meat purchase. I have several tricks up my sleeve because, well meat is one of the most expensive part of the meal. So if you can figure out ways to stretch the meat while filling tummies and making healthy meals too, then life will be good.
My favorite thing to stumble upon are the markdown organic whole chickens – they end up being about the same cost as the conventional whole chickens after markdown. It also means that they have to be eaten quick – which is no problem. I just use my no-food waste menu planner and we are set for five meals for the next two days.
I have also created these meals from a whole rotisserie chicken as well. They are $5 at Costco and Sam’s Club everyday…that means $1 of meat per meal. And for us…we are feeding a family of 7. Granted most of my kids are little and so perhaps in the future when I am feeding all teens (because they will be teens at the same time) then maybe I will get 2-3 meals out of one chicken following the same ideas that I am sharing below. But for now, everyone is happy and satisfied with the servings they are getting.
How I Turn One Chicken into Five Meals for My Family of Seven
What I want to show you is how I can turn one chicken into 5 meals by stretching the protein with other non-meat proteins and combining with a tummy filler so everyone is full and satisfied. The other twist I like to add is to try and have a variety of styles of dishes. So I will show you how I add variety too!
Here’s how you can turn one chicken into five meals.
- Cook a chicken. You can either make a roast chicken or a rotisserie chicken. You can buy a rotisserie chicken which saves you the most time. Once it is fully cooked and cooled strip the chicken of all of the of the meat that you can and reserve this for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next couple of days. I generally divide it out into 5 groups so I know which container has the chicken for which meal. The chicken salad meal usually requires the most and in the cubed form. Save the bones too. I generally like to have most of it in a shredded form and cube the breast meat into small cubes for the rest of the meals. Depending on your family size, the first meal could be to start off eating the legs and wings, as there is more you can do with breast or thigh meat later. Pair with whatever sides you have on hand. The BEST options are potatoes of some kind as you can make a gravy from the drippings with the SOS mix recipe we share. I actually like roasted potatoes with a gravy drizzle and steamed veggies and a healthy bread side. The potatoes are like the “tummy filler” instead of gorging on chicken. For our family, we use to make this the first meal, but since there are so many of us now, the wings and legs are not enough to serve as the signature dish for the meal. So my 5 meal breakdown today is below.
- Have an Asian Themed food night: The first night, a great meal is an Asian Themed meal. For us, this will be a stif-fry that is heavy on the veggies and just a one fifth of the chicken that you divided out and make a stir-fry, served over a protein-rich rice. The other item I often make is Spicy Asian Soup. I make an Asian style soup with Asian noodles and I add cabbage, bok choy, carrots, celery onion and spicy sriracha sauce plus the chicken. I will often serve with bread and fruit. It’s a light, but filling and satisfying dinner. Another Asian themed meal that is more like a lunch is Asian Chicken Salad or Asian Slaw. Both of which are a great item on their own or with bread and fruit.
- Make a chicken bone broth-based soup. Start your bone broth in your crock pot or Instant Pot right after your chicken has cooked as this takes a day (or less if using an Instant Pot) so you can make a soup the next day. You can add some of the breast or thigh meat. Then add veggies of all kinds (celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, kale are all yummy) and another tummy filler like rice or noodles or potatoes to stay with all veggies. This makes for a filling and hearty soup. I also like to make a creamy wild rice chicken soup by mixing the bone broth with some of the homemade SOS mix. SO DELISH and satisfying! And wild rices also have additional protein, stretching that protein even further.
- Have a Mexican food night. Use shredded chicken breast meat to make tacos or burritos or quesadillas. To make it a satisfying, full meal that stretches…make the meat mixture that of chicken and beans mixed with homemade taco seasoning (or a wild rice or quinoa with high protein count). Then add some lettuce, tomato, corn, sour cream, and salsa. Another option is to make fajitas or enchiladas with some leftover chicken and bean mixture.
- Make chicken salad. Whip up some of your leftover breast and thigh meat with some mayonnaise. I stretch this by adding lots of celery, pickles, carrots, grapes or apples or dried cranberries (which I have on hand) and also add walnuts or pecans to give a bit more protein and stretch the protein. Then I will serve on a sandwich with lots of lettuce or on a small amount on a bed of lettuce – the bread and lettuce is the tummy filler so you don’t need so much chicken.
- Make a chicken omelet. Pair some leftover chicken with your favorite cheese. Add in some vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers or spinach for a country-style omelet. The more veggies the better and more filling and the eggs are your protein stretcher so you don’t need as much meat.
These are just some of the many things you can do with your chicken leftovers! All it takes is a little creativity to turn one chicken into five meals.
I love this because it means I save money, we get to enjoy the taste and benefit of many proteins (meat, beans, rices, nuts and eggs) and save sanity and time too! In the end, we end up with two dinners, two lunches and one hearty, hot breakfast! It is also super easy to adjust this plan to make it completely gluten-free as well and still get the heartiness and satisfaction too.
I wanted to share one last meal idea with you that is not as frugal, but requires very little chicken and it is delicious – Hawaiian Haystacks. This are still frugal compared to most meals, but not as frugal as above. 🙂 Enjoy this meal too! However, I will say that this meal is a GREAT ONE for the end of the week to use the rest of your whole chicken as well as the fresh produce in your fridge.
Other meat-stretching meal ideas: Just click on the picture to be taken to the articles. These are just a handful of ideas we have shared over the years. Free free to explore our Frugal Living category
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I just love the Chicken Salad on a Croissant idea! Can’t wait to make this for my family! What a great post! Thanks!