Does Buying a Whole Chicken Really Save Money?

by Merissa on May 8, 2012

in Frugal Living Tips

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I posted a few weeks back on Facebook about some whole chickens that I purchased from our local Hutterite colony. For the last couple years I've only boughten whole chicken from them and chicken breasts from Zaycon. Before Zaycon came along though I just purchased whole chickens from the Hutterites. I buy them from them to stay away from any chemicals, preservatives, or hormones in store bought chickens.

When people hear about buying whole chickens they think:

1. Aren't they alot of work to cook?
2. Do they really save you money?

Ok, let's work this out....

1. Aren't they alot of work to cook?
Yes and no. Yes, they are more work then maybe just cooking up some wings or thighs. And no, they aren't really hard to cook even though they do take some extra time!
First of all, I cook my chickens whole in the crockpot. It takes all of 5 minutes for me to put the chicken into the crockpot, cover with water and set on high for 8 hours. I made a more detailed post about it in my Cheap Chicken post. (Note that the post was done when I was still buying from the store!)
But not only do you get all the chicken off when you cook it this way you also get the best broth ever! And usually after you strip the chicken for the first time you can put the carcass back into the crockpot, fill with water and cook for another couple hours to get a whole other crockpot full of soup! Then to store my beautiful broth I make Broth Cubes!

On to the next one...

2. Do they really save you money?
I think buying a whole chicken does save you money. I'll add it up here with what I pay:

Whole Chicken = $6 (From this I generally get 3 meals worth of chicken and at least a gallon of broth.)

Store Chicken = $1 per pound for the cheap stuff when it's on sale, figure $1 per person per meal = $6 for 3 meals. But generally no broth (depending on how it's cooked) and not as healthy.

Now even though these come out to about the same amount, I don't really feel like they are comparable. For my $6 I get a fresh, all natural chicken straight from the farm. Or I could spend the same $6 and get not as healthy chicken that's been shipped and sitting at the grocery store for who knows how long.

I'll take my fresh chicken with a little more work thank you very much. :)

What about you? Do you buy whole chickens?

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Letia Arrington Johnson May 8, 2012 at 11:07 am

I bought my first whole.

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2 Amanda Murphy May 8, 2012 at 11:09 am

Ummm no…. I’m terrified I’ll cook it wrong and either wind up with something gross or that makes my family sick…..

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3 dixie April 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm

If I get a whole chicken I will thaw it out and then freeze the individual pieces. I want to make fried chicken but no one knows how to make it without putting crumbs or making it crispy. I also don’t want to cook it forever.

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4 Kristi Tibbs May 8, 2012 at 11:13 am

I get whole either whole chickens or leg quarters from a local farmer. If I’m buying at the store I’ll get organic thighs.

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5 Tasiyagnunpa Livermont May 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

I have, and I agree that its a good thing. If I had a local source of chickens, I would do it more now that I’m home-based.

FYI, though, if you do need to cut up a whole chicken (treating oneself with breasts for strips and using the rest for soups, casseroles and broth), I have shot some video on how to do it–its part of a backyard chicken butchering series. http://youtu.be/Rju4UI9zHxo

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6 Piper May 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm

My family likes roasted chicken so I season it and cook it dry in the crock pot on low–works great and I toss the bones back in, fill with water and cook overnight to get broth the next day to make soup. Two uses of my crock before I have to clean it LOL I also treat my crock with a little olive oil before I put the chicken in so clean up is incredibly easy once my batch of soup is done and out :)

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7 Lana May 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

When I got married 34 years ago buying chicken that was cut up already was considered a luxury and it was expensive. I have always bought whole chickens but now I do buy breasts, too. When I buy whole chickens (on sale) I take them out of all of the packaging and remove everything from the cavity. I repackage in a gallon size ziploc bag, label with the weight and date, and freeze. This way a whole chicken can go from the freezer and straight into the crockpot simply by peeling off the bag. You will need to add to the cooking time but wow, this makes it easier than having to thaw everytime.

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8 julie May 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm

That’s a great idea! One of the reason that I hate using whole chickens is because I never allow enough thawing time and then can’t get the stuff out of the cavity. I will have to try this next time. Thanks!

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9 julie May 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I’ve been buying store broth but would love to make my own. I don’t need to add anything else to it, just use the water that I cooked the chicken in?

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10 Merissa May 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm

You could add carrots, spices, or salt if you’d like, but you don’t have to:)

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11 Jen August 24, 2012 at 6:07 am

I am late to the conversation. I found this from Frugally Sustainable. I make broth every week. My son has severe allergies. To add protein to his diet I add homemade broth to recipes that require just water (like rice).

Anyway- I add the washed skin of two onions, the two onions, I sauté garlic and remove it from the oil. If you add celery and carrots, it become more chicken soup like in my opinion. If I feel like he needs more vitamin A I add the carrots and strain them out before freezing the broth.

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12 Dee Johnson January 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm

If you add a little vinegar to it (white or ACV), it will draw out more of the nutrients from the bones to make Bone Broth. Very healthy. :)

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13 MARSHA May 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

I have avoided cooking a whole chicken because it seems intimidating. Perhaps with your direction I will attempt this… I like the idea of roasting it first. How long would it take on low? Great post!

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14 Merissa May 9, 2012 at 8:25 am

I’m not sure time wise but if you use a thermometer a chicken is done when the internal temp is 165F.

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15 Angie May 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

I do buy whole chickens, but for organic free-range chickens, the price is close to $4 per pound, which ends up being around $17 – $18 for a whole chicken. It still saves money over buying the breasts from the same chicken at $9+ per pound, though, and we get all the good broth! I roast my chicken in the oven so I can eat the crispy skin and use the drippings in making gravies &/or casseroles. After I pull the meat off the bones, I put the carcass in water in the crock pot for 24 hours to make the broth.

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16 Edith August 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I have always cooked whole chickens in the crock pot. The meat falls right off the bone that way. However, I have never thought about making homemade broth from the left over bits and bones. I am so mad at myself for letting all of that homemade broth go to waste. Especially, with how expensive the store bought broth is becoming. Thanks for this post! I can’t wait to buy some whole chickens. I can use that broth in all the soups I will be making this fall/winter!

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17 Brita October 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I started buying whole poultry last year when turkeys were so cheap around thanksgiving. I just threw it in the oven until it was done, bagged all the meat up and then simmered the carcass overnight and froze the broth. I spent eight or nine dollars on the Turkey and had at least 6 or 7 soups worth of broth as well as ~10 two person servings of meat. I’ve been doing the same things to chickens recently, but there’s just no beating the Turkey broth. It was much more hearty than what I get from doing chicken. This year I’m going to buy several Turkeys when they go on sale and then can the broth to save room in the freezer.

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18 Dee Johnson January 10, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I do like to buy whole chickens or turkeys on sale. I roast them in my 20 qt electric roaster (1 turkey or 2 chickens at a time). I debone them, store the meat and crock pot the bones with a little vinegar to make Bone Broth. The vinegar draws out more nutrients from the bones to make a super healthy broth. And it tastes better too (can’t taste the vinegar either)! I have a large family (7 children at home, plus hubby and me), so I have to be frugal, lol. Great blog, I’m loving it!

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19 Pat Benson January 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Would you give a few details as to your method for roasting chickens in your 20 qt electric roaster please?

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20 shirley March 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

My family loves fried chicken, so for this I usually just buy thighs, legs and an extra breast for my husband. Then I buy whole chickens on sale, cook them almost done and pressure can the meat and also can the good rich broth it makes.

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21 Nikki March 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm

One of my favorite things to make is whole chicken in the crockpot! I stuff mine (thawed, not frozen) with an onion, season it & cook on low for 8 hours (or more, depending on how my day goes). I have always wondered about making broth from all of the liquid it releases!

Thanks for sharing!

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22 Alex June 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

“Boughten”? Lol and a lot is two words.

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23 Merissa June 23, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Sorry, we have our own little language here where I’m at so not all my words may be “normal grammar” for everyone!

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24 Stephanie October 19, 2013 at 7:02 am

Merissa-

“Boughten” is pretty common here as well… I think it’s a PA Dutch thing. ;)

Love this post- have been doing chickens and turkeys this way for years, as did my mom. My family loves turkey and black bean enchiladas- always made from frozen turkey meat and broth from an “on sale” bird cooked to get the most out of it.

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25 Merissa October 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

PA Dutch would have German influence right? I’m almost 100% German so maybe that’s where we get it from!

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26 Lshx1 August 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

How rude and arrogant to critique language and grammar when someone is taking the time and effort to share valuable information with readers! Your post was over a year ago “Alex”, but I’d still like to point out that “lol” isn’t a word either.

Merissa, thank for sharing your information with readers. It is greatly appreciated.

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27 Alexandra August 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

Save some money and go Vegetarian! It’s better for your health, better for the planet, better for your wallet, and better for the chicken!

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28 Diane September 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I just discovered your website and it’s really nice. Whole chickens are what I usually buy since I can get several meals from one small purchase. I live in an area where grocery stores compete against each other, so whole chickens are frequently buy one and get one free. I pay about $5 for 2 chickens that weigh 3-4 pounds each.

The first night, I cook a chicken in a dutch oven to get lots of yummy broth. I serve it with stuffing and cranberries.

After dinner, I remove the meat from the carcass and freeze it. If you take the time to break the bones before putting them in a pot of water, you will get a more nutritious broth. I add celery, carrot and poultry seasoning to the water. I freeze the broth in canning jars, leaving some room for expansion.

The following week I make chicken stew with dumplings using the leftover meat. About once a week I will thaw a jar of broth to make potato soup. I put extra potatoes in the soup so I can mash some for thickening the broth.

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29 Gail October 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm

You can also boil/steam or roast the whole chicken and when its done, debone and skin, then can it up. May seem like alot of work, but i like to have different meats canned up, partly for the convience of just opening up a jar , vs. thawing the meat. But I like to know that I don’t have to worry if the power goes out indefinetly, like to do some frozen and some canned!

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30 Mary White October 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

After we eat the chicken off of the bones, I put the bones and whatever meat is left in the pressure cooker until the bones can be mashed with my fingers. I then cut everything up into small pieces and put it into my mix for my homemade dog food. The broth from the pressure is what I use to cook the rice that also goes into the dog food. I get two meals for us plus almost a month’s supply of dog food from one whole chicken!!

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31 Michaelann Dahlman October 19, 2013 at 1:22 am

I buy whole chickens, have been for over 30 years. My mother taught me know to cut up a chicken when I was a teenager. Growing up in a small town, the butcher would cut it up for us with no extra charge; but you don’t get service like that nowadays. When I was a young new wife, I used to buy chicken backs, they were 29cents/lb, compared to a whole chicken at 99cents. Long time ago.
My kids are grown, it’s me & my husband now. 1 whole chicken makes 2 meals & about 2 days worth (4 servings) of home-made soup, plus a little extra broth for the freezer.
I alternate between making roast chicken & 1/2 a chicken with Shake n Bake (actually a cheaper alternative from Dollarama). Love them both.

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32 jenn October 19, 2013 at 4:07 am

I tried pressure canning this year for the first time, but was not happy with the processor, not sure about the pressure being correct. Do you have any tips on pressure canning meat?

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33 Merissa October 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

Here’s my post on Pressure Canning Chicken.

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34 Liz October 19, 2013 at 4:30 am

How long can the broth be stored for? And how can you store it. My husband isn’t a fan of soup so I couldn’t use it for that but I regularly have recipes that call for small amounts of broth.

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35 Merissa October 19, 2013 at 7:04 am

I put it in jars and stick it in the freezer for months. Or you can make Chicken Broth Cubes which are great for smaller recipes!

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36 Sharon October 19, 2013 at 6:47 am

I buy whole chickens, sometimes I cut them up and repackage for meals. Love to cook a whole chicken using the meat for a meal such as eggrolls and then the broth for soup.

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37 J. L. Huey October 19, 2013 at 7:44 am

I just started cooking a whole chicken once a week in my crockpot. The meat is so tender and I get TONS of broth. I haven’t found a local farmer to buy mine from at a comparable price but that’s my next hurdle. I let mine cook overnight then cool and when I put my kids down for a nap that’s when I pick the meat then put the carcass back on for the rest of the day. The great thing is I have already cooked meat for the rest if the week’s meals. So easy!

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38 Mary October 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

Yes…I pay a lot but I get a non GMO, humanely raised chicken and that’s so important to me. I do exactly what you do. Cook in crock pot (SO EASY!) and toss everything but the meat back in to make broth! YEA!

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39 Tara November 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I buy local, pastured chickens for $4.95 per pound. I know that sounds like a lot, but this is Northern California, and that’s a DEAL here. Boneless/skinless breasts…$15.99/pound! I buy them 6 at a time. I watched a YouTube video on how to cut them up! I cut them up, stick them in a gallon freezer bag with marinade, then roast them in the oven. For the three of us, it’s usually a solid 2 meals.

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40 Gary October 23, 2014 at 11:25 am

I would love to get farm raised local chicken,But i can’t find any for less than $5.00 a lb making a whole bird at around $20 to $30 ???
I buy whole birds when they go on sale for less than $1.00 lb
making them $5 to $6 a bird.
how much a lb do you pay for farm raised birds??
thanks Gary

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41 Merissa October 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I usually pay around $6 to $7 from our local Hutterite Colony that raises the birds.

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