With the right skills, one chicken can be a seriously frugal purchase for one person.
I live alone most of the time these days. My only child is an adult and my roommates are cats. Let the stereotype sink in before I tell you how I spend very little on groceries by being strategic and making the most of every little bit. A whole chicken is cheap and it can be made in a variety of ways to keep the taste buds intrigued for a week! For around $5, a chicken can be utilized for many meals for one (or two!).
When I bring home a chicken, I like to immediately put it in a brine. The whole thing. I like the classic buttermilk and hot sauce marinade, but for a single person, buttermilk can be expensive and wasteful. This is why I keep a container of powdered buttermilk on hand. For $6 a can, I can make it last for a lot longer than a $6 carton of buttermilk, so, economical for the win.
I also like a brine of salt, sugar and water. I put about a cup of really hot water into a bowl with a few tablespoons of salt and sugar and stir until it’s dissolved. Then top it off with cold water and submerge the raw chicken. For an hour to overnight. The longer the brine, the more gummy the meat becomes, FYI.
When the meat has brined, I start the grill with charcoal and start breaking down the chicken. The biggest tip I have for making the most of a chicken is removing the backbone and saving it in the freezer for stock.
I keep all my veg peelings in a large freezer bag for stock. The addition of a chicken back makes the stock very rich.
The chicken is then seasoned well in preparation for the grill. Because I plan to make several meals from this one chicken, I like to grill it with just salt and pepper after a brine, that way I’m not stuck with a flavor profile.
My favorite part of the chicken is the wing. So, when I am preparing a chicken, I cook those first. That is my dinner.
The coals are moved to one side of the grill, and soaked wood chips are added, if I’m smoking the bird. I live in the city, and I rent, so I have improvised a smoker by using a metal bucket as a lid on my Lodge grill.
The bird, minus the wings and spine, is then placed on the cool side of the grill and covered with the metal bucket. Have a glass of wine and reflect on the joy of a simple life.
When the thickest part of the thigh temps at 165F (about an hour), take the chicken off the grill and snack on the best parts -crispy skin. The breast is usually chopped up for lunch sandwiches that will last for 2 days (as chicken salad or just chicken with mayo and salt on bread). The next day, I usually have a thigh and leg with BBQ sauce for dinner with a veg.
I mentioned earlier my freezer bag, where I keep all my veg scraps. This includes the skin of onions, potatoes and garlic! All of these peelings are packed with delicious essential oils and flavors that can be infused into soup. When they are steeped in water, it becomes a tea -or stock, right?- of vegetables. Some to the compost, and some for me.
When the plastic freezer bag is full of scraps, make soup! Simmer the veg scraps with the chicken backs for a couple days in the slow cooker, or on the stove, to make stock. This can be made into small batch soups (because no singleton wants to eat the same soup ad nauseum) that can be frozen and taken for work lunches.
One thing is for sure, I use the heck outta that chicken. It is an economical grocery buy for a single or couple and can be used in a number of ways, with a little planning. Saving on groceries deserves a participation trophy!