Does Buying a Whole Chicken Really Save Money?

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

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. 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?

      1. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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?

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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

  26. I grew up learning how to Cut-Up whole chickens to fry or how ever else we cooked them. But after moving from home, I began buying cut-up chicken pieces – Unfortunately, the chickens now in stores are very questionable & I lost my taste for them years ago. Even though I did purchase now & then – I usually had to slather with barbeque sauce so they would taste better.
    Now after learning about the ‘good’ farm chickens, I’ve wanted to buy whole chickens again but just haven’t wanted to have to ‘cut-up’ the chicken again.
    That said – Because of your recipe(s) above I can cook a Whole Chicken & get all the meat off the bones with no problems AND make a great broth. Now I just need to find a good place to buy a ‘good for me’ whole chicken.

    So thank you for this great information.

  27. It all depends on how you use it and what your family will eat. While I will buy whole chickens, I tend to do so only when I’m stocking up for a major broth canning project. My husband will very rarely eat dark meat, so I have to be careful how I buy. What I do though is for whole chicken, roast the first day, strip off the leftover meat for chicken fried rice the second day, and freeze the bones till I have enough for a several gallon batch of broth. If I have the freezer space, I save onion skins, carrot peelings and tomato odds and ends the same way to add to the broth.

  28. I roast a whole chicken once or twice a month. We can feed 4 easily that way but then also we use the chicken bones and left over meat to make broth and chicken soup, respectively. If it is just my husband and I eating dinner, we always have enough left over chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches the next day. I rarely buy “parts”; having a whole cooked chicken is such a great way to start a weekend.