Guiltless Gourmet: Save Money, Savor Flavor

   By ChefErin  Aug 22, 2009

Looking for ways to stretch your food budget without compromising quality?  Here are a few simple suggestions for you to try.


Buy Whole Chickens

There is a saying in the restaurant industry that you can make a $100 on one chicken.  You won’t get that kind of return at home but you will be amazed what you can get from one chicken.  If you buy chicken whole not only will you save money but you can stretch one chicken into three meals for four people. 


You will need to cut the chicken up yourself.  First, remove the breasts by trimming carefully along the ribs.  You can use these to make a stir-fry or cube them and skewer with fresh vegetables for kabobs.  Next, remove the thighs and legs. Bone them and use the dark meat for a delicious simmered Thai or Indian Curry.  If you like chicken wings as a snack you can freeze them until you have enough for an appetizer later.  Finally, use the carcass to make stock for soup or risotto. 


You’ve just gotten three meals and a snack from one chicken!




Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Making your own salad dressing is a simple way to give your family fresh, preservative-free flavor while saving money.  The average price of homemade vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil is about $.35 an ounce. 


Simply mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, add a little chopped shallot, fresh minced herbs like basil or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  If you want a dressing that doesn’t separate as quickly, mix in a little Dijon mustard. 


Your homemade vinaigrette will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.  On day 5 use it to marinate chicken breasts for tasty kabobs.



Plant an Herb Garden

I love fresh herbs but I cringe each time I purchase a tiny package of fresh basil leaves for $2.50 to $2.99.  Still, when tomatoes are in season I just can’t resist.  I probably purchase fresh basil a minimum of 6 times over the summer.  I also use a lot of cilantro and fresh parsley.  When you add up the cost of a few fresh herbs, you will quickly see the benefit of growing your own. 


You don’t need a garden to benefit from growing fresh herbs; all you need is a sunny window sill.  Stop by your local nursery or hardware store and pick up a rectangular planter, some organic potting soil and a few seeds or seedlings and you’ll have fresh herbs in no time.  Don’t be afraid to snip off what you need, the more you snip the more they grow.


Imagine sitting down to dinner of chicken kabobs marinated in homemade salad dressing using herbs you’ve grown yourself.


Do you have creative ways to save money while serving your family high-quality foods? Join the Foodie's discussion on economical recipes!




Make a Comment

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Nov 10, 2009

Marylynnf - What an interesting idea. I've seen upright roasters but hadn't thought of using a bundt pan. Very creative. I assume you would set the bundt pan on a sheet pan to catch the juices from the chicken? Growing up in the Midwest, I remember people roasting "Beer Can Chicken." The chicken is placed legs down over an open beer can and roasted that way. Supposed to be very moist. - Erin

marylynnf by marylynnf | Three Rivers, MI
Nov 05, 2009

You can also bake a chicken in a bundt pan - I like the clay ones but the metal ones work too. Legs down, pour a little liquid - OJ and lemonade are wonderful but stock, veggie juice are good too. The chicken bastes itself and it is so juicy and never dry. Fat drains down into the liquid and is easily drained away. Juicy with less fat.

joy9281 by joy9281 | TOLEDO, OH
Nov 01, 2009

These are some great ideas for all of us thanks for adding it.

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Oct 31, 2009

I've been growing basil in pots for several years. Got tired of paying the price since I love pesto so much. It's super easy and grows quickly if you pinch it back I love making my own dressings too, no fillers, artifical flavors, colors, or other chemicals. I like taking all the leftovers at the end of 2 or 3 days, from all of the above, and make a giant pot of soup.

pjclayton57 by pjclayton57 | Oceanport, NJ
Oct 30, 2009

I buy whole chickens all the time. I use them to boil down to make stock and then use the meat for so many things. I make a great chicken pot pie, make chicken soups, chicken salad, chicken tacos or just plain old chicken sandwiches. The possibilities are endless! When I roast them, I stuff fresh herbs under the skin to give the chicken a wonderful flavor. Plus I love how the house smells when there's a chicken roasting!

aynatal2000 by aynatal2000 | JAMAICA, NY
Oct 29, 2009

I am amazed at how we have gotten to the point that we buy chicken parts to save time and not the whole bird.I have for many years shopped at outlets like Western Beef where you can buy a case of chickens(40lbs.) when they have a sale.My cousin or a neighbor or a girlfriend share in the cost and we take it home clean them cut them up bag them and let her rip!!!!.Many times when money was tight we resorted to this...but we didn't buy parts that often anyway.I will say that when they had a sale on the drumsticks or whole legs or breasts we bought several 15 - 20 lb bags and split it between us .Do not let convenience hamstring you where you can least afford the injury - your pocketbook!

edie817 by edie817 | Gibsonia, PA
Oct 27, 2009

My family loves chicken. I love buying whole chickens and making two or three meals out of it. I also can't wait to see more recipes.

hypnicjerk by hypnicjerk | Seattle, WA
Oct 26, 2009

Great article! Thanks for the ideas. Can't wait to try 'em! :-)

Brenda121 by Brenda121 | VANCEBURG, KY
Oct 22, 2009

While I only like white meat, I do love a good chicken. Nice article.

chaves1919 by chaves1919 | Ashburn, VA
Oct 14, 2009

This is great and would like to see more recipes and suggestions.

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Oct 13, 2009

More suggestions coming your way soon!

mindfull by mindfull | Marion, IN
Oct 13, 2009

Wow what great ideas ,I use alot of chicken not only for health reasons but its a great way to curb a fast growing food budget, and I love that the bloggers give great ideas also This is a great web- site.

Jen7145 by Jen7145 | CONNEAUT, OH
Oct 07, 2009

We need more suggestions and ideas throughout the months,

nickandsamsmom by nickandsamsmom | Fort Worth, TX
Sep 30, 2009

Love the article,, never thought of freezinf the wings until I have enough for a snack !

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Sep 30, 2009

SunshineLeane - you'll be surprised how much spinach you can grow in a relatively small space. It is amazing how quickly it grows back after you cut it. Gook luck!