Frugal Living 

Turn One Chicken into Five Meals

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Last year, I wrote about how cheap it was to butcher your own chicken. When you buy a chicken at $0.99 a pound, you get about a 50% return on all the cuts you get, not including the leftover bones you can turn into chicken stock. For the last few months, I would just turn the entire chicken into a big chicken noodle soup but now that winter is almost over, we won’t be eating quite as much chicken soup.

So, I got to thinking, why not just schedule a week of chicken meals based around one chicken? We already make each one of these dishes individually, why not just schedule them in a row and just buy a chicken at a time? There is no why not, here’s a perfect five day schedule of meals based on what you can do with one whole chicken. A quick word of advice, my “recipes” are based on memory and hardly have any quantity figures. Ask my wife, I cook like this; I sort of just wing it until it tastes and looks about right. If you don’t like cooking without exact measurements, just take the names of the dishes and use a site like AllRecipes to find a suitable recipe. 🙂

1. Chicken Noodle Soup

Winter is winding down but chicken noodle soup is always a fan favorite. The basics are simple, take some cold water, put in the chicken bones, skin, and fat, (I’d chop off the smallest segment of the wing and put it in there too) then add a quartered onion, a whole mess of celery and carrots, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Boil for three hours. Finito. When the stock is nice and ready, give it a taste and add salt to bring out the flavors. Take out all the “stuff,” taking care to pull off any meat you missed butchering the chicken, and toss it. Siphon off the oil and toss that too. Then chop up some more carrots and celery and boil for another hour to get them nice and soft. Separately boil up some pasta, drop it in, and enjoy some chicken noodle soup! I usually just let the stock boil for three hours in the afternoon, filling the house up with the smell of chicken soup, and then have it for dinner.

2. Chicken Parm

Who doesn’t like a nice delicious plate of chicken parm? The recipe is so simple too. My tip is to take the fillet the chicken breasts, so you’re left with two breasts the size of your hand but half the thickness. Some places tell you to pound the chicken into a certain thickness, but I prefer to just fillet them and get two different meals out of it. Whisk together some egg and milk, dip the chicken in the mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs. Fry it in the skillet with some oil and it should cook up in less than five minutes. Then slap on some mozzarella, pour on some sauce, and pop it in the over at 350 for maybe 20 minutes, or until it looks right. Separate boil up some pasta, put on the chicken parm, and eat.

3. Chicken Marsala

Another fan favorite in the house is Chicken Marsala. For the longest time I thought “Marsala” meant “mushrooms” in Italian, because Chicken Marsala had mushrooms in it. No, Marsala is a type of wine and the basis for the sauce that makes up chicken marsala. The Chicken Parm and Chicken Marsala are two solid choices because they both are served with pasta, are two separate flavors, and both call for the chicken to be pounded to a certain thickness (which we’ve replaced with filleting the chicken breast). This recipe is a lot easier, just coat the chicken in flour, salt, pepper, and some oregano and brown in some olive oil. You then use the juices to sautĂ© your mushrooms and shallots. Then, pour in some water, marsala wine and cooking sherry; simmer for ten minutes or until cooked. Serve over pasta… mmmm…

4. Basil/Three-Cup Chicken

After two Italian inspired dishes, let’s go to the East with this next one you can make with the drumsticks. This is a dish my mom makes that I absolutely love, the three “cups” refer to soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil (though we always go light on the oil). Sometimes people call it basil chicken because you use basil and it adds a lot of the flavor to the dish. The recipe is a cinch too, just heat up some sesame oil and fry up garlic, ginger, and some hot peppers. After a few minutes, put in the chicken. I like to take the drumsticks and wings and chop them up otherwise two drumsticks and two wings look kind of sad. After the chicken has cooked a bit, so that it’s white instead of pink, pour in a third of a cup of soy and rice wine plus a couple tablespoons of sugar. Let it cook until the chicken has cooked through, then add some basic and scallions to give it the little extra fragrance. I always serve this with rice and the sauce is delicious.

5. Fried Chicken

For those keeping score at home, all we have left now are the sides. If you didn’t put them in with the Basil Chicken, you can always fry them up with some fried chicken! The secret to fried chicken is in the breading. I would look up some breading recipes and pick the one you think works the best for you. I like to take some breadcrumbs, flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning (which is dried basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme). To be honest, I use Italian seasoning because we have a huge container of it and because it’s green, I can’t really taste it. 🙂 Dredge the chicken in some whisked egg, coat with the breading mixture, and fry (we bake it in the oven on 350 until we think it’s cooked, then broil it for a minute on each side to get it crispy).

There you have it, five meals out of one chicken!

(Photo: hddod, silkegb, mhaithaca, jozjozjozclkao, arthurohm)

{ 20 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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20 Responses to “Turn One Chicken into Five Meals”

  1. Eric N. says:

    I know what I’m having for dinner…chicken parm! But when you say “pour on the sauce,” what sauce are we talking about? Cooking ignorant, I fully admit.

  2. Miss M says:

    I cook without recipes too, makes it a pain when I try to actually write one down. Wouldn’t you get sick of chicken after a few days?

  3. MissMartha says:

    I just use a jar of tomato sauce. I like the tomato/basil versions however anything pretty plain (not cheese or vodka based) should work well. All Recipe always has great recipes, here is one for make some tomato sauce: “World’s Best Pasta Sauce” (

    Happy Cooking!

  4. John says:

    I use recipezaar for my recipes. I just do a search for chicken dishes and look at the best rated ones. Hasn’t failed me yet.

  5. Susanne says:

    My favorites using a pound of boneless, skinless thighs, which I poach, cut up and freeze in three portions.
    1. chicken/ stuffing casserole
    2. fajitas
    3. soft tacos (add a can of black beans and taco seasoning pack)

  6. mapgirl says:

    My take is a little different because I buy the smallest chicken I can find and my boyfriend doesn’t eat a lot of meat.

    1. Roast chicken (for 2 people)
    2. Chicken noodle soup (for 2-3 servings)
    3. Chicken salad (for 2 lunches)
    4. Chicken/macaroni & cheese (for 2 servings)

    High-quality leftover meat goes to the dog as a treat.

  7. Not familiar with your site but I have to conclude you’re cooking for 2?

    For years, I cooked 2 chickens at a time and there were no leftovers, especially if it was fried chicken night 🙂 But that was still mighty cheap eats around our place.

  8. Patrick says:

    I try to avoid the fried chicken, but making it yourself is definitely healthier than buying it at a fast food chain. Great idea though to use a single chicken throughout the week and save money while you are at it.

  9. VM says:

    This is great! More than once I have sat in the Costco parking lot and counted out my $5.41 for a rotissiere Costco chicken that fed me all week! I have to add one more meal, a baked chicken sandwich, Veganaise, salt and pepper on two slices of “Wonderful” bread (Full O’ Life Health Food Market, Buena Vista and Magnolia,Burbank), with a few chips and spicy, hot dill spears!
    Yum! Yum!

    • saladdin says:

      I have one of those “As seen on TV” rotissiere cookers. Best thing ever made since the wonder bra.


  10. My personal favorite chicken meal is definitely the General. Buy a bottle of General sauce, cook up a little rice with broccoli and carrots, and you’re golden.

  11. Modder says:

    Every weekend I make a large chicken soup first by making stock using the whole, cleaned chicken and then plucking off the meat of the cooked chicken and adding it back to filtered, de-oiled stock.

    After that, the sky is the limit, but I usually end up adding some type of starch (noodles, barley, rice etc) and a lot of veggies (spinach leaves, peas, corn, beans, seaweed etc). Adding some tofu or a couple of chorizo sausages stretches the meal further and in the case of the latter adds a lot of flavor.

    Finally, if I want to stretch the soup (usually because I added too many veggies), I add some water but make up the flavor dilution by mixing in some miso paste.

    This way I can usually get 4-5 meals for 2 people using 1 chicken. I freeze the majority of the output in portion sizes so that any week day I open the freezer I have a wide variety of chicken soups to choose from:

    Chicken & noodle soup

    Chicken & barley soup

    Pasta e Fagioli (Chicken soup with tomato, pasta & white beans)

    Chicken & spinach soup

  12. Dave M. says:

    “I sort of just wing it…”
    That’s funny. 🙂

  13. katy says:

    Great recipes!

    We do the roast chicken; then use chicken for burritos and finally tetrazini:

    Cut up leftover chicken, boil a pot of pasta shapes al dente, Lightly heat up heavy cream/milk, grate cheese, cut up softened butter pieces and boil peas. Mix everything together and put in a pan except butter and cheese. Put pieces of butter on top of sauced pasta mixture and cover with cheese. Bake. Enjoy.

  14. Paige says:

    You could always freeze the meat if you didn’t want to eat chicken every day for a week. 🙂 We wouldn’t mind, since we eat more chicken than anything else.

  15. cdiver says:

    Great idea. This may work for a single person family but I may need a chicken a day.

  16. Sue says:

    Meal #1-You are wasting vegetables. Keep tubs in the freezer with vegetable peelings (washed) and onion skins. This, along with the broken carcass (more calcium that way), fat and skin with any home grown herbs and spices you choose will make the cheapest and tasty stock. It is also a good idea to saw ham bones in half for this. Sue

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