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 $3.45, serves 8
1/2 cup chopped onion ($.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.