Have you ever considered buying a whole chicken because it’s a lower price than other cuts but have wondered what you do with it or even how you cook it? Today I’m sharing all about cooking a whole chicken and how we use it to stretch our grocery budget.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken
Chicken breast, thighs, and other cuts can get expensive. In fact, it’s often on my do-not-buy-because-we-can-not-afford list right now. Even on sale it still runs high. So instead of buying chicken breast for meals, I buy the “cheap chicken”. Cheaper cuts like wings, drumsticks, and even whole chickens are usually much less expensive.
My buying price for whole chickens is anything less than $1.49 a pound and I will usually buy other cuts of chicken for under $1.99 a pound. For the last couple of years, I’ve only bought whole chickens from the local Hutterite colony. I buy chickens from them to stay away from any chemicals, preservatives, or hormones in store-bought chickens. My buy price on these is $6 a chicken.
When I can find chicken for my buy price or less, I like to buy a bunch and just stick it right in the freezer when I get home. Now, you could cut up the whole chicken if you like to use the individual cuts for various meals. But I find that too time-consuming I like to cook the whole chicken instead. Not only do you get all the chicken off the bone when you cook it, but this way you also get the best broth ever too!
–Here are some Fast and Easy Dinner Ideas with Chicken.
Cooking a Whole Chicken
To cook a chicken, I take the whole chicken out of the freezer and stick the entire thing in the crockpot. I cover it all the way with water and turn the crockpot on high. The chicken will cook in the crockpot most of the day until it’s falling apart. I like to put my chicken in the slow cooker early in the morning and I do not take it out until at least suppertime or about 10 hours later.
When the chicken is done and I’m ready to do something with it, I use large spoons to carefully lift it out of the slow cooker and place it in a bowl to cool slightly. Then I use a fork to clean all the chicken meat off of the bones.
I put some of the chicken in a container and stick it in the fridge for a meal tomorrow, or I use it for supper that night. Otherwise, I stick it in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer for future meals.
Preserving Chicken Broth
Now it’s time to work on the broth. You can use the broth you have in the crockpot right now or you can strip the meat and put the carcass back into the crockpot, fill it with water and cook for another couple hours to get a whole other crockpot full of broth or soup!
Once your broth is ready and the crockpot has been turned off, let the broth cool for about an hour before putting it away. If you don’t wait, there is a much greater chance of burning yourself with hot broth that splashes out or having your glass jars break.
I prefer to store my broth in the freezer. To do this, I simply use my canning funnel and ladle to put the broth in jars and stick it in the freezer. If you do this, you must do 2 things before placing the jars in the freezer.
- Do not fill the jars full of broth. Fill them about 3/4 of the way (stay under the shoulder of the jar) because the broth will expand.
- Do not place them in the freezer while they are still hot. Let the broth cool, then place the jars in the fridge overnight before placing them in the freezer the next day.
If you don’t do these things, your jars can and will break in the freezer.
IF you don’t want to place your chicken broth in jars OR if you normally only use small amounts of broth at a time, you might want to look into making these Chicken Broth Cubes. They are so handy!
If you are feeling really ambitious, you can use the broth and the meat to Can Chicken. This way you get a shelf-stable product that you can easily pullout for future meals. You can also Can Chicken Broth if you’d rather use the meat separately. If you are looking for another shelf-stable option, you can also Dehydrate Chicken Broth.
Using a Whole Chicken
This method of cooking and using a whole chicken so easy because I can just stick it in the crockpot and not think about it all day, then I get so many meals from that one round of cooking. When you use chicken in this form it’s juicy and fresh more so than if you would cook it in boiling water or in the oven. So you can buy the cheap chicken without feeling like you are missing out. Plus it’s easy for a busy life!
Here are some recipes that you can make using these various parts of the whole chicken including the shredded meat or the broth:
Does Cooking a Whole Chicken Save you Money?
One of the biggest questions I get about cooking a whole chicken is “Does it 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-Bought Chicken = $1.49 per pound for the cheap stuff when it’s on sale, figure $1.49 per person per meal = just under $9 for 3 meals. But generally, that doesn’t include any broth (depending on how it’s cooked) and is not as healthy.
Now even though this isn’t a huge savings, I don’t really feel like it is very comparable. For my $6 I get a fresh, all-natural chicken straight from the farm. Or I could spend around the same or a little more (depending on sales) and get a chicken that is not as healthy and 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. 🙂
Trying to plan better, more frugal meals for your family so that you always have a warm meal on the table and aren’t wasting money at the grocery store? You’ve got to check out my ebook Meal Planning Made Simple. Even if you thought meal planning didn’t work for your family, this ebook will help you find the perfect fit for your family’s style.
Looking for some more money-saving meal ideas? Check these out:
Do you buy “cheap whole chicken” or do you splurge for chicken breasts?
Is this the same method you use to cook a whole chicken?
This blog post about How to Cook a Whole Chicken was originally published on Little House Living in December 2010. It has been updated as of March 2020.