Shout-out to anyone on a budget because of your job/student loans/expensive rent/life:
We may eat cheap, but that doesn't mean we can't make some bitchin' food.
To share some of the best food budget hacks I know, I'll be attempting a semi-regular blog featuring affordable recipes and meal-planning tips, which will mostly consist of sharing whatever weird food habit I'm in that month or week. My tastes might not align with yours, or the season, but I'm totally open to suggestions if you've got 'em (hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas or questions).
Most of the time I'll try to make meals that cost $2 or less per serving, with an eye on making meals you can reheat for lunch or dinner. Making the meals ahead will also save on cooking time during the week.
For this first installment, I'm going to brag on one of my all-time favorite ways to make your dollar go further: the rotisserie chicken.
THE MIGHTY ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
Most grocery stores have these babies hot and ready by the time you get off work, and while they're delicious right out of the container, there are a few things you can do to get even more out of that tasty bird.
The one I got this week ran me about $7 at Safeway. With a few other pantry staples (mayo, pepper, seasonings) and fresh veggies, here's how I make several meals from the same chicken:
HOT 'N FRESH
After hangry shopping at the store on Thursday night, I just dug right into those tasty drumsticks
fresh out of the package. I made some instant mashed potatoes
on the side (yeah, I even kind of judged myself for this one... but here's the thing: I didn't have enough fresh potatoes at home to make fresh mashed potatoes AND the soup below, and some of the instant pouch mixes aren't half bad. They only run you about a dollar for several servings and are ready in, like, 5 minutes).
You could easily pair this with corn or other veggies
. Personally, when I'm hangry, I kind of defer to the very base desires of "protein! carbs!"
Remember to save the bones in the container with the rest of the chicken and keep it in the fridge.
Total estimated cost: $1.50 (counting one serving of the instant potatoes)
Depending on how hungry you are, as a single person, I can make the meat of a rotisserie chicken last about 3 or 4 additional meals by making chicken salad.
After that first hot meal, tear all the remaining meat
off the bones (this should be pretty easy), mix in some mayonnaise
and other seasonings
to taste, and slice up red or black grapes
to make a tasty chicken salad for lunches for the week. I like to eat this plain, but you could easily slap it on some bread to make a hearty sandwich.
If you feel like it: add celery
for additional crunch and nutrition.
Total estimated cost per lunch: $1.50 to $2
Now for the real reason I love rotisserie chickens in the fall: fresh broth.
If you throw away the carcass of a rotisserie chicken without making broth, you are literally throwing away the most delicious part, and the money you spend to buy broth at the store. Make this delicious stuff at home. It will taste SO MUCH BETTER.
To do so: Take all the bones and meat scraps and any gelatinous juice in the tray the chicken came in, put it all in a large pot, and cover with water nearly to the brim.
NOTE: MAKE SURE YOU REMOVE THE STRING FIRST!
Add half a yellow onion chopped into chunks
, several sprigs of parsley
, several full cloves of garlic
and salt to taste
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour or two, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as you like.
When that's done, drain through a mesh strainer into another large pot or bowl, and set aside for:
POTATO, BACON & LEEK SOUP
In the same pot you made the broth in, start to brown some bacon
, sliced into small pieces.
Once the bacon fat starts to render, add the other half of the yellow onion, diced
Add the rest of the parsley
leaves from the bunch you bought to make the stock, and add two sliced leeks
, and a few cloves of minced garlic
After a few minutes, ladle in broth
until the veggies and meat are covered.
Add in a few diced Yukon gold potatoes
, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Total estimated cost per bowl of soup: $1.50 (will depend on type of bacon and how much you use)
There should be about two quarts of broth left over, depending on how big your original pot was, and how much you used for the soup. Store leftovers in jars in the fridge for up to a week while you wait to make more soup, or keep them in the freezer to last longer.
Use this in any recipe that calls for chicken broth. In an upcoming post, I'll show you how to make another fall soup you can use this broth with: Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Sausage
Leftover homemade chicken broth, ready to be used for another soup.