So I recently read about this thing called a “rubber chicken.” Think it’s one of those ridiculous items from a 1970s comedy routine? Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s the best thing I’ve learned about in ages, and it’s not just frugal, it’s delicious. So today I’m going to share with you my rubber chicken strategies.
What the heck does a rubber chicken have to do with frugality?
When I heard about the rubber chicken, I immediately thought it was one of these ridiculous things from 1970s comedy routines:
When I mentioned it to my dad, he thought I meant bad convention food (which was awesome and hilarious, in and of itself).
A “rubber chicken” is a chicken that you can stretch out to make a number of meals in a single week. You typically start with roasting the chicken, then you pretty much disassemble it, make a number of dishes from the meat and make a stock that you can also make a number of dishes from.
My First Rubber Chicken
I wanted to roast a chicken. That’s actually all I wanted to do. Somehow I felt like, if I learned how to roast a chicken, then I’d be able to say, “I can, officially, cook.” Well, I made a beer can chicken that a guy at Trader Joe’s told me about, and let me tell you that I’ll never do that again. First of all, you have to do some really inappropriate things with a beer can and a chicken that you’ll never be able to forget. Second, I’m not sure the beer really does anything useful (many internet articles suggest that it’s completely pointless). But once I made that beer can chicken, I needed to do something with all the leftover meat, once we’d had our first dinner. I searched Google and happened across this blog post, “1 Chicken, 17 Healthy Meals, $26 Bucks, No Mayo” from the Cheap Healthy Good blog. And that’s actually how I learned about the concept of the rubber chicken.
The first time I did the Rubber Chicken, I only made a handful of meals from some of Kristen’s recipes at Cheap Healthy Good and other places. But I was determined to improve my ability to make some amazing meals for my husband and myself. So here’s how I did the second time around.
The Second Rubber Chicken
Day Three: We had leftover White Chili for lunch (2 plates). For dinner I made a version of Chicken Picadillo (2 plates).
Day Four: We had leftover Chicken Picadillo for lunch (2 plates). For dinner I made this Udon Noodle Soup (2 plates).
Day Five: For lunch I had leftover Udon Noodle Soup (1 plate), the hubster had a chicken sandwich (1 plate) . For dinner, I made a chicken curry (2 plates).
The last day, I had just enough broth left over to make another bowl of Udon Noodle Soup for myself, and we were done.
That’s 21 plates, my friends, from just one chicken. I feel pretty darned good.
What I Learned in the Making:
- Buy generous chickens and look for an awesome deal. I buy chicken when I find it on sale, when it’s cheap, and I keep a few whole chickens in our freezer at all times. Or you could just buy baby chicks for a couple of dollars apiece, raise them on your own, enjoy more fresh eggs than you know what to do with, and then when they stop producing eggs, eat them. But once I’d named my hens, I just couldn’t bear to eat them…and then the fox did it for me. Boooo.
- I believe in eating as healthily as possible, and that means avoiding chickens that have been given hormones and chickens that have been treated badly. But you really pay a lot for that health. Look for sales and discounts. So far, the best prices I’ve found have been at Aldi and Costco.
- When you remove the meat from your chicken carcass, be aggressive. I don’t like to leave much of anything behind. I throw the skin away and anything else that’s meaty, I keep. By the time the chicken hits the broth pot, it’s picked clean.
- Be stingy with your chicken when you use it in recipes and it will go farther. One recipe I used called for a pound of chicken meat. That seemed like a lot to me, so I used about two thirds of a pound instead and it was just fine.
- If you Google “rubber chicken” or “stretch chicken” you can find a dazzling array of recipes designed to fit into a rubber chicken plan. And if you’re stuck with a ton of broth at the end of the week and want to try something new, just Google, “I have chicken broth” (that’s literally what I did) and you’ll be amazed at just how much you can make out of it.
- If you’re doing the rubber chicken, shop as frugally for your ingredients as you do for your chicken. I keep a lot of staples in our pantry and freezer, and it makes a world of difference. But I think you will need to stock your pantry well when you start out.
- Use that broth! Don’t just toss your chicken carcass in the trash when you get the meat off hte bone. Make the broth. It will change your life. I’m not even kidding. 6 Ways to Turn Chicken Broth Into Dinner. You’re welcome.