Frugal Food for Large Families

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on December 21, 2008

Toni, from The Happy Housewife, has graciously agreed to share with us all just how she feeds her family of 8 (soon to be 9!) on a budget. She has mastered this fine art and shares a bit of her wisdom with us today!

One way to make frugal meals for large families is to use meat as a side rather than a main dish. Cheaper cuts of meat taste great cooked over a period of time or mixed in with other things. A whole chicken is an excellent idea for stretching your food budget. Instead of cooking the chicken and serving it as a main course, take the cooked meat off the bone and use it in a variety of meals. Whole chickens run about a dollar a pound which is much cheaper than using canned chicken or chicken breasts.

I like to cook my chickens in the crock pot. Spray the crock pot with nonstick spray and then sprinkle the chicken with your favorite spices. I usually use garlic, salt and pepper since that allows me to use the cooked chicken in a variety of different meals. Set the crock pot on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours depending on the size of your chicken. When the chicken is done it will fall off the bone.

Pick off all the meat from the cooked chicken. Some people prefer to do this while the chicken is warm, but I usually put it in the fridge overnight before taking the meat off.

When you take the chicken out of the pot your pot will be filled with broth. Do not throw this away! This is the same stuff you purchase in the store from anywhere between fifty cents and a dollar a can but without all the preservatives. When the broth has cooled pour it into a container and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning there will be a layer of fat on the top, scrape it off and throw away. This chicken broth can be stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for long term storage. After you have taken all the meat off the bones simmer the bones in water for about 30 minutes. Discard the bones and save the liquid, this provides you even more broth to use in future recipes.

From one cooked chicken, you have a plate full of chicken (about 4 or 5 cups) and a freezer full of broth. A three to four pound chicken can be stretched to make three meals for our family of eight.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Crusts for two pies ($1)
4 T. Butter ($.50)
1/4 cup Flour ($.02)
1 tsp. salt ($.05)
1/2 tsp. thyme ($.05)
1/2 tsp. pepper ($.05)
2 c. chicken broth (free)
1/2 c. milk ($.07)
2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed ($2)
3 large potatoes diced and boiled for about 10 minutes ($1)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1)

Preheat oven to 400. Line 2 pie plates with crust. Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat and stir in flour, and seasonings. Cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in chicken and veggies. Pour half of each mixture into each pie crust. Top with the second pie crust. Bake on cookie sheet 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Price for two large pies $5.74, serves 8
We usually serve our pot pies with a large salad.


Chicken Noodle Soup

1 tablespoon butter ($.10)
2/3 cup chopped onion ($.25)
2/3 cup chopped celery ($.25)
3 cups chicken broth (free)
2 cups chopped chicken ($2)
3 cups egg noodles ($.30)
1-1/3 cups sliced carrots ($.40)
1 teaspoon dried basil ($.05)
1 teaspoon dried oregano ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes. Pour in broth and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add water until all the ingredients are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Total cost for soup $3.45, serves 8

Mexican Skillet

1/2 cup chopped onion ($.20)
1 TBS olive oil ($.25)
1 TBS minced garlic ($.10)
Chopped chicken breast (I would use whatever I had leftover from the whole chicken)
1 can corn, drained ($.50)
1 can black beans, drained ($.50)
3 cups cooked brown or white rice (when making your rice decrease the amount of water by about 1/2 cup and add 1 cup of salsa) ($.50)

Coat large frying pan with olive oil. Saute onions and garlic. Add chicken, beans and corn. When everything has been heated through add the cooked rice. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream, or serve with shredded jack cheese on a tortilla.

Total cost for Mexican Skillet $2.05, serves 6 to 8

You CAN make healthy delicious meals for large families without breaking the budget. For more frugal ideas for large families visit Toni at her blog, The Happy Housewife.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoebe December 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I’ve just within the past few months realized the benefit of a whole chicken! I’m generally a bonless/skinless gal (I have issues with meat and bones. Thank you for these recipes.


Rachelle December 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Oh my. I have been throwing out that stock all this time. No more!! I’ll be freezing it for now on. BUT…you didn’t mention if you put water in with the chicken before cooking it??


Emily December 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Great post! I’ve never cooked a whole chicken before, and hadn’t thought of using a crockpot! Will be checking out Toni’s blog for sure. :)


~Deidra~ December 21, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Thanks for sharing the tips and recipes from Toni. These look like dishes my family will love.


The Happy Housewife December 22, 2008 at 8:09 am

Hi Rachelle-
I do not put any water in the chicken before cooking it. Just spray your crock pot with nonstick before putting the chicken in.
aka The Happy Housewife


Jehan December 22, 2008 at 8:48 am

don’t toss that fat that collects at the top over night. that’s high quality cooking fat!
fry your eggs in it, brown your onions. use it in place of butter when you’re making the crust for those pot pies!


Anonymous December 22, 2008 at 10:22 am

if you want to make chopped liver like you pay a lot for at a deli, having the chicken fat (schmaltz) is like having the missing piece.


Christine December 22, 2008 at 10:24 am

Thanks for the ideas! I also have made chicken tetrazzini with the cubed chicken, spaghetti, cream, chicken broth and mushrooms. A whole chicken really goes a long way!


Joanna December 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

Wow, I love the Mexican Skillet – I have a turkey and 2 hams at home, I’ll have to try some mods on these… Thanks!


Lawanda December 22, 2008 at 12:25 pm

I always save my chicken broth too! :) But I don’t throw away the fat! LOL I guess I like fat! hehehe

I love that mexican dish… it is one of my all time faves ;)


Rona's Home Page December 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for sharing these tips for larger families. I remember my mother doing something similar for our family of 7.


Judy December 22, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I never thought of using a whole chicken in this way. I will be on the lookout for one to go on sale.
I love Toni’s blog. Can you see why : )


momstheword December 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Toni, thanks for sharing these recipes. I like to cook whole chickens in the crockpot too. I also like use leftovers to make broccoli and chicken casserole too.


4ddintx December 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

If you add a bit of vinegar to the chicken bones when you make the “extra” broth, it extracts more calcium and such from the bones, making the whole thing even healthier. The broth is much richer if you crock the bones on low for about 12 hours, too–rich enough to make a great veggie soup with no added meat and stretch that chicken even further!

Mom to 6 girls


Shan December 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I nominated you for an award on my blog! :)


The Babbling Housewife December 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Chicken and Dumplings! We like it with the flat, rolled dumplings. I use 2 cups self-rising flour, and mix in just a little bit of liquid to make a dry dough that sticks together. You’ll need about 4 – 6 cups of stock, depending on your preference.


Judith December 22, 2008 at 11:31 pm

I’ve done whole chickens in the crockpot for years, and like you, I use the chicken in all kinds of casseroles and potpies and tetrazzinis…….
I discovered that you can put a FROZEN WHOLE CHICKEN in the crockpot in the morning on low, and it’s cooked-to-falling-off-the-bones by suppertime (8 to 10 hours). Can you guess why I had to try that? LOL
By the way, that also means you can chuck the frozen bird in the crockpot overnight and thus have the meat to put in the fridge until needed……. I’m a working mom of 4 who has done this more than once!


Martha A. December 24, 2008 at 1:37 am

We do the same thing here! But we usually get whole chickens for under $1 a pound, like .69 a pound generally, so it makes it really cheap!


Ruth December 27, 2008 at 9:37 am

My grandaughter loves pototoes, thank for the wonderful information. Ruth


Lilith Silvermane January 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm

This was wonderful! I am a single mom of six kids and I’m always looking for recipes that will feed us all!

I made a whole chicken in the crockpot yesterday while I went to the museum with my kids and some friends.

Then when I got home, I took the meat off the bone, and fed three of my kids chicken and broccoli and bagged up the rest of the chicken.

Then I made homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight, adding the leftover broccoli and using a smaller noodle.

It made enough for 5 of us, and lunch for two adults tomorrow!
(along with grilled cheese sandwiches!)

Wonderful idea for a large family!


thriftycoupons January 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

This is great. I love this blog and the dinners are wonderful!


Christina June 3, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Don’t forget to make your own stock/broth from the bones as well!! Throw the left over bones and whatever is attached to them into a pot with a tbs of vinegar. Slowly bring to a low boil. Skim off the froth as it heats up. Let it simmer for 12 hours (over night os so). Then freeze or can! You’ve got your won healthy calcium full stock to use on the next few meals! Add water for soup, or for extra flavor leave out the water!


Sheri January 19, 2010 at 11:49 am

I like your website, I just added it to my favorites, thanks for the tips. I’ve been using whole chickens for years but I didn’t keep the broth, but now I am.


Suzi July 29, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I have never made a whole chicken before and I’m interested in trying it. I’m a frozen/boneless/skinless kinda girl so I’m very nervous…..are their parts to remove from the inner cavity like there is in turkey?


Christine Reynier June 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Hi there!

My name is Christine. I am 25 years old and in my first year of marriage. I have never cooked a whole chicken before, and tonight is the night! I have been looking for a cost efficient way to feed my husband! He’s 6’3″ and would eat an entire dinner prepared for 8 people if I let him! I love this blog, and I’m going to try all three recipes this week! This may seem silly, but we are just starting out and honestly have not yet accumulated all of the spices used in so many dishes….Not to sound too frugal, but spices are pricey! I love that these recipes are simple, with basic ingredients, and perfect for a beginner cook as well!

Thanks a bunch!

I hope you post more!!!


TO, Ontario


Kathy October 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Nice ideas! I’m feeding alot of people and these are very helpful.


Colleen January 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I have 10 adults to feed on a very limited budget where can i get more bang for the buck seems like each day food costs me around $50.00 and we can not afford this anymore.


Laura February 8, 2013 at 6:49 pm

A whole chicken costs about $12.00 here. Making your own chicken healthy chicken broth is becoming a luxury. The precooked roasted chicken from the grocery store is about $8.00, but, its so small (I’m lucky of I get 2 cups of meat). A tray of Foster Farms chicken thighs runs about $9-12 dollars. Any suggestions?


Amy April 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

Thank you, I’m always looking for more ways to use chicken.

@Laura- if you have a walmart near you, you can get 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters for about 7.80


Amy April 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

Thank you, I’m always looking for more ways to use chicken.

@Laura- if you have a walmart near you, you can get 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters for about 7.80


Linda October 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I agree this is the best way to say money on meat. My personal rule is try not to spend more than $1.50 per pound on meat. People always ask me how this is possible but they just have to readjust their thinking. I am always getting chicken leg quarters 10 pound for .69 cents/pound or less. I got pork roast all summer for under $1.49 and once for .88 cents/pound (I bought 4 roast at that price and would have bought more if I had the freezer space. Thanks for spreading the frugal ideology that I love so much.


homemade pasta December 13, 2013 at 7:26 am

Hi, Neat post. There is a problem together with your web site in web explorer, would test this? IE still is the market chief and a huge portion of folks will pass over your fantastic writing due to this problem.


natalie soldano January 19, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I am on a new tight budget for the new year, this is exactly what I was looking for.


Jessica C September 30, 2014 at 12:54 pm

this is awesome!! Even more so for me because we have chickens that we raise for meat so we don’t have that cost!!


Leave a Comment

{ 8 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: