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6 Easy Chicken Dinner Recipe Ideas on a Budget

By Myscha Theriault

chicken dinner drumsticks plateFew things say comfort food, and satisfy the whole family, like chicken.

The trouble is, poultry prices fluctuate so much that you’ll quickly be uncomfortable with the effect chicken has on your budget.

With these six tips for the budget-conscious home cook, you and your family can get better value out of chicken meals.

How to Save Money on Chicken

1. Rethink Boneless
Sure, boneless chicken is easier to work with, but you pay a serious premium for that convenience. You’ll always save money with bone-in poultry, even if you lose a little time.

If cooking and cutting apart an entire bird is overwhelming, consider buying leg quarters and cutting them into thighs and drumsticks. You can also pick up bone-in chicken breast, since breasts are not only healthier, but also much simpler to de-bone before cooking.

Prepare your chicken using the butterfly technique (cut out the backbone and flatten it), and you’ll save cooking time because your chicken will stay flat in the oven. If you get a whole chicken, you can slice the entire bird down the middle and only roast one half at a time.

2. Hot Legs
Rod Stewart lyrics aside, chicken leg quarters consistently offer value even when they’re not on sale. Cook a bunch up at once and de-bone them, and you’ll be prepared for plenty of affordable chicken dinner ideas, like taco night, hot wing pizza, chicken pot pie, fried rice, and homemade soup.

I’ve seen bags of chicken leg quarters for as little as 29 cents per pound. Though you won’t always see a deal like that, use 59 cents per pound as a rule, and you’re still getting a great price.

3. Buy in Bulk
Those chicken leg quarters, which come in ten-pound bags at most grocery stores, are just one example of  the many options for buying chicken in bulk. Family packs of breasts, wings, and drumsticks are also opportunities to get a great deal without sacrificing quality. Break these large packages up into family or individual-sized portions and freeze them for long lasting meal options.

Drumsticks and wings are particularly great quantity steals, since you can make hot wings or go with breaded drummies for a party or family night fun food (e.g. Super Bowl party food ideas). With popular party foods, you always want to get the lowest price possible, and buying in bulk is your best strategy.

4. Waste Nothing
Many chicken dinners require you to use chicken stock. Buying bone-in meat doesn’t just save you cash at the grocery store – you’ll also have more to work with. Save the bones that you remove from the meat, and simmer them with tidbits still attached to make your own stock. Freeze the result to use in sauces, soups, gravies, and casseroles.

Another way to make the most of your poultry purchase is to stretch it into as many meals as possible. If you splurge on convenience like a prepared rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for a sit-down dinner on Monday, use the leftovers for sliced sandwiches for school on Tuesday, chicken salad for lunch on Wednesday, and a budget-stretching casserole on Thursday. Bonus? Leftover chicken also makes for great affordable pet treats.

5. Stretch It
Cutting up chicken to use as a flavor accent, rather than as the main event, is a great way to serve a more nutritious meal and get the value of poultry without boring your family at the dinner table. Chicken adds to stylish meal options without blowing your food budget. For affordable family dinner menus, think calzones, low-fat pasta sauces, chicken puffs, fajitas, and stir fry dishes.

If handling raw chicken creeps you out, pick up some fun, breaded cutlets or tenders. They may be a bit more pricey, but if you chop them  up and throw in that mixed green salad you were planning for dinner, you can easily feed twice as many people.

6. Watch the Calendar
If clipping discount grocery coupons isn’t your thing, you can still get a good deal by just glancing at your local store’s flyers each week. When the price dips down to something seriously cheap (often in the middle of the week), jump on it. You can get the most out of a bargain by purchasing plenty of poultry and freezing your surplus until the next major sale comes along. Use this strategy with all forms of chicken to keep your meat pantry stocked on everything from boneless breasts to full roasters and thrifty chicken thighs.

Final Word

When it comes to chicken dinner ideas there’s no shortage of ways to keep them affordable and make your poultry purchases last. With a little planning, effort and creativity, you can serve up some comfort food without stepping away from your budget comfort zone.

Have you found more ways to save money on your favorite chicken recipes? Please share your tips and tricks below!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Myscha Theriault
Myscha Theriault is a syndicated columnist with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, best-selling author and professional blogger whose work has appeared on such web sites as Forbes, MSN, the Los Angeles Times and AOL. Print interviews include Better Homes and Gardens, the New York Times, Women’s World and All You magazine. She is the founder of Trek Hound, a site for independent travelers, We Be Sharin', a home living web site, and The Lesson Machine, a site for teachers both Stateside and abroad.

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  • http://nonfinancepro.info/2012 Smart Money Manager

    Wow! these tips on buying chicken is really helpful. I just wish that allergies won’t strike though. LOL

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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