Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Couponing 101: Saving on Chicken + a Frugal Recipe

There's something therapeutic about cooking a homemade meal. It's also therapy for your wallet when you're not spending a fortune on all of the ingredients. Meat is a staple in meals for a majority of folks, so we're going to cover saving on meat and frugal home cookin' all in one tonight!

Let's talk about meat - we all (most of us) eat it, and coupons are few and far between. So what do you do? The key here is why KIND of meat you buy. You're still going to have to pay out of pocket most of the time for meat, so the trick is to expand your horizons on cuts of meat and what to do with them. There are so many types of meat, so this post is going to encompass all things chicken and include an awesome recipe. Then stay tuned for the next series installment on beef, pork and seafood.


Now I HATE chicken on the bone. Unless I'm eating fried chicken, give me that boneless skinless. But let's face it, boneless skinless chicken breast aint cheap. A low price for it is $1.99/lb! So, we have a couple of options:

  • Buy in bulk. I did this recently. You have a few options with this. There is a company called Zaycon Foods. They offer boneless skinless chicken breast, lean ground beef and bacon. How this company works is they pack that meat fresh from the plant and sell it in bulk for low low prices. I've only purchased chicken from them recently. They sell the chicken in 40lb boxes for $60, which equals $1.50/lb. That's a lot of chicken, so I went in with three other people. The result - 10lbs of chicken for $15. It wasn't pretty. It's not trimmed or prepackaged, so you just have to be willing to trim a little bit of fat off and package in your own Ziploc bags. I put my new $10 Foodsaver to great use and vacuum packed it all. It took me all of 30 minutes to trim and pack my chicken, and I got it for 50¢ lower than my rock bottom price! Check out their site and see when they'll be in your area. You can also search for chicken plants around you, a lot of them have a similar deal.

  • My next fave tip is - buy the cheap chicken! I'm talking about split chicken breast when they're 99¢/lb, whole fryers when they're 59¢/lb or chicken thighs when they're 79¢/lb. Then slow cook the crap out of it! Why? Well, you know all of those recipes that call for shredded chicken? Quesadillas, tacos, enchilladas, pot pies, casseroles, etc. Stop buying canned chicken and make your own. Use the recipe at the bottom of this post, let it simmer in the crockpot and it practically shreds itself - plus you can strain the juices and make your own broth. Then you can bag into usable portions and stick in the freezer. Pull a bag out in the morning for that night's dinner, and you've already slashed your cooking time. I did this with bone-in chicken breasts over the weekend, and I almost didn't have any chicken left because this recipe creates so much flavor that the chicken is delicious on its own. Two birds, one stone.

  • And finally: check out your local markets. A lot of urban areas have international grocery stores, and they offer supercheap meat and produce prices. Their normal prices are normally comparable to the sale prices at your normal grocery store, but when they have meat sales you can get a steal.
Also, here's a list of rock bottom chicken prices so you can stock up:
  • Boneless skinless chicken breast: $1.99/lb
  • Split chicken breast: 99¢/lb
  • Whole fryers: $59-69¢/lb
  • Legs/thighs: 79¢/lb
Now, prices vary by region. You might find prices a little cheaper, or a little higher depending on where you are. The trick is to be aware of the fluctuating prices and shop accordingly.

Now let's have a couple of recipes.

First, I'm gonna teach you how to make your own shredded, precooked chicken. Then I'll give you a recipe to try it in.

Crockpot Chicken for Shredding/Freezing
Now this one is easy. Start with as much chicken as you'd like, as long as it'll fit in the crockpot.
Then add:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Then let it cook. I say at least 8-9 hours on low, but when I made it, I thought I had turned off the crockpot but was wrong, so mine cooked for about 12 hours total. It was the happiest mistake I could have made, because it made the chicken just fall apart so it was wonderful. I just had to poke at the pieces with my fork on a cutting board to shred a little smaller and make sure I got the little bones out. I started my crockpot before bed and most of the cooking was done overnight. The best part - when you're done, strain the juices from the crockpot and you've got homemade chicken broth! You can use right away in a recipe, or freeze in ice cube trays for later.

If you have chicken breasts or tenderloins, you can also boil them if you're short on time and then just shred in a food processor.

Now, here's a fast, frugal chicken recipe - and the best part - all of these ingredients are part of your stockpile! I'll note the rock bottom stock up prices in (quotations) after each ingredient.

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1-2 cups shredded chicken (see above for prices)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (use your homemade, otherwise I'd say under 50¢ at most)
  • 1-lb bag frozen mixed veggies (88¢ at most, usually even cheaper)
  • 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (60¢ or less)
  • 1 can crescent rolls (60¢ or less)
Cook frozen vegetables in chicken broth until almost tender; stir in chicken and soup. Cook until heated through (about 15 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour ingredients into a casserole dish and top with a layer of crescent roll dough. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubbly (about 15 minutes). You can use spray butter on the crescent rolls before sticking in the oven to make it rich and golden brown. And you've got a homemade meal in 30 minutes for under $4!

Now it's time for me to go enjoy dinner! Happy savings :)

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