How To Stretch Roast Chicken Dinner
It takes longer to write out how to stretch a roast chicken than it is to actually do it. In this week’s Meal Plan Monday, I mentioned we would be turning our roasted chicken into a “rubber chicken” to get our money’s worth in meals. A member of our Frugal Crew community, Noelle (Hi Noelle!), mentioned she wasn’t sure what size bird to get because she usually only gets 2 meals and a lunch out of her “rubber chicken.”
The size of the bird is more important when it comes to the time it takes to cook it ( I try to stick to 6 pounds), but the real magic trick is to allot the right amount of meat to each meal. Today, I’m going to share how to stretch roast chicken into 7 meals.
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Roast Chicken Dinner Into 7 Meals
Day 1 dinner: Roast Chicken with roasted potatoes, and an easy veggie
The best way to make sure you get enough chicken this first night, without depriving your next meals of meat, is to carve only half of the chicken. I carve off one breast, one leg, one wing and whatever tidbits fall off on that side of the chicken. I lay them all on a platter, and slice the breast right before serving. By slicing the breast, you prevent your biggest “meat eater” from grabbing the whole breast and going to town. If they have to take pieces of it, they are more likely to only grab a few pieces. Plus, they can see that there are other parts of the chicken to choose from, so they may not want to chow down on just white meat.
If you place cut up potatoes under the chicken while it’s roasting, you automatically get a flavored starch that will be done when your protein is done. I cheat with the veggies and just microwave some frozen ones or I buy a few carrots and roast them right under the chicken. If you can, save one small carrot for a task you’re going to do later. Doing this with the carrots and potatoes tend to pay off later in the week to make another great meal.
Work After Day 1
Once dinner is done after day one, cut off the other breast and get ready to get your hands dirty! The best way to get off the rest of the meat on the chicken is to pick it all off with your hands. Don’t forget to get under the chicken as well; there’s valuable meat located under there. Place your leftover carrots in a small tupperware and your leftover potatoes in another.
Once you pick all of the meat off of your roast chicken, put the carcass into your slow cooker with:
- A handful of whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- a cut onion
- a celery stalk (optional)
- cut up carrot saved from yesterday
Place on low and let simmer for the rest of the night. When you get up in the morning, you’ll have the easiest chicken stock ever made! Strain the stock, and place in a tupperware before getting ready for your day. Once you are ready to leave for the day, it will be cool enough to put in the fridge. When you get home, you can freeze in ice cube trays, in smaller tupperware containers, or use it in the meal for Day 2.
Day 2: Soup and crackers or rolls
The best part about the meal in day 2 is that if you want to add chicken to the soup, you can, or you can decide to do without and still have a hearty meal since you are making it with homemade chicken stock. I have a few soups I can choose from, like mexican chicken and corn soup. I also use the roasted potatoes for the tator soup, just to get even more flavor in the meal.
If I have time, I’ll put together a dough for homemade rolls, but if I don’t, we’ll eat the soup with crackers. Easy yeast pan bread is a great quick bread to make if you have about 20 minutes to spare. Only use half of your stock for this meal; you’ll need the other half later in the week. While the soup is simmering, cook some white or brown rice to use for tomorrow’s meal.
Day 3: Chicken Fried Rice
Now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my fried rice tutorial has not only gotten me out of sticky situations, but so many others have used it and realize how easy it is once you know the steps to making it the right way. Fried rice is usually a mainstay on “rubber chicken” week since I don’t have to use much meat. Keep in mind that the healthy amount of meat per person is about the size of the palm of their hand. That’s all. I know, doesn’t seem like a lot, and it isn’t, but we Americans tend to eat too much meat in the first place. I digress, though. I like to use a cup of cubed white meat per person and half a cup of meat per child. This is still a bit too much, but we’re trying to yield some leftovers here. Use the rice made yesterday, along with the rest of the goodies listed on the fried rice recipe, and follow the steps. Dinner will be done in 20 minutes, tops!
Day 4: chicken casserole
Whether you decide to do a baked casserole, or a stove top one, this is yet another easy meal that you can make in minutes. This is when I use most of the dark meat because you want the chicken flavor to infuse in all of the bland parts of the casseroles, and white meat just doesn’t cut it. Plus, if you are worried about calories and fat, you don’t need to use as much meat in these dishes, so a small amount of dark meat will be perfect.
If I have some potatoes left over, I take a bit of white meat and a bit of dark meat, chop the potatoes even smaller, add a chopped onion, and make a chicken hash right on top of the stove. To make it even more decadent, I fill small bowls with hash and top each one with a fried egg. This is also the time to bring in a Mexican dinner. Tacos would be really easy, or even some chicken burritos. An enchilada bake would be great to have. You can prep it at the end of Day 3, then pop it into the oven when you come home.
Day 5: Pizza night!
There should be a little bit of white meat left to use in another meal. Whether you make your own pizza or buy a frozen pizza from the store, adding that last bit of chicken to the top with a bit more shredded cheese (if you have it) will stretch that pizza even more!
Day 6: Meatless soup night
Bet you forgot all about those leftover veggies from day one, huh? Well, you could have placed them in the soup from day 2, or in the casserole from day 4, but why not make them the star in their own soup on day 6? The best is using the roasted carrots for this.
My cream of carrot soup recipe is killer for this day, because it can be made in the blender and the addition of sour cream can be done or omitted (if you don’t have it in the house).
Make this your “leftovers day” and take a break. You should have a good amount of leftovers by this day to let everyone fend for themselves. If you want to make it a bit more special, you can at least make a dessert, but it’s not necessary. You’ve done enough.
If you are dying to make a real meal this night, I highly suggest a large tray of nachos. We love to do nacho night as our last night, because everything that’s in the fridge, excluding any leftover soup, can be placed on top of the chips and baked.
Bonus Tips To Stretch Your Roast Chicken Dinner
If you need lunch meat, use half of the second chicken breast and slice thin after day 1. That should yield you lunch meat for one person for the rest of the week.
If you like more of a salad for lunch, take that same half of the breast, cube or shred it. It will make a great topping to your garden salads for the week.
When making the stock, put in a splash of vinegar into the slow cooker. The vinegar helps to bring out the calcium in the bones and makes your stock a great source of calcium for the week!
That’s how to stretch roast chicken when you’re on a tight budget. Still not convinced? Try this routine with 2 roasted chickens instead of 1. Eventually, you’ll get down to only 1 roast chicken once you see how to strategically use the meat.
Other great meals for your chicken: spaghetti with chicken as the main protein, chicken and pasta bake (mix cubed chicken and pasta together with spaghetti sauce, place in casserole dish and top with cheese), Italian tomato soup with chicken, or black bean soup with shredded chicken.
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