One of my goals this summer is to find efficiencies in food. As such, I have been tracking how much it costs to produce the food I eat. I've discovered that in general, my daily food costs between $7.00 and $11.00 in ingredients. This is interesting to know and lets me know that there is no way in hell I can keep eating the way I do and reasonably have a monthly food budget of $150.00. Which I knew, but I didn't really know, know, if you know what I mean.
So far, the best efficiency I have discovered (which again, I knew, knew, but this really brought it home) is to break down your own chicken. It's so much cheaper! Do you want to pay $2.52 per chicken breast* rather than $5.99 per pound? Buy the whole chicken, divide it up and package. Voila! Much cheaper.
Here's what I do. I line the toaster oven roasting pan with aluminum foil and oil that. I set out a plate, a plastic bag from the produce section, a cutting board and a container for the freezer. I also make sure the dishwasher is empty and hope the cats are fast asleep.
The plastic bag is for holding the bag that the chicken comes in and the pad that is with the chicken to absorb moisture.
I pop the legs off first and separate the drumstick from the thighbone. I sort of knew how to do this anyway, but I watched a few YouTube videos to refresh my memory. Drumsticks go into the roasting pan, Thighs go on the plate. You can debone, but I leave bone in.
I cut off the wings (still a bit tricky) and put them on the roasting pan. Then I slice into the breast and pull out the wishbone (which is incredibly fun, my favorite part) and cut down the back which gives me the breasts still joined. The back goes into the container for making stock.
I cut the breasts down the middle and sometimes debone them, sometimes not. They go on the plate too.
Then rinse off the cutting board (and usually shoo away the cats who are bugging me) put it in the dishwasher. I wash my hands and doing my best not to get chicken juice anywhere, wrap the pieces on the plate. Those go into a plastic bag in the freezer and the plate gets rinsed and put in the dishwasher.
The container with the back goes into the freezer too.
The drumsticks and wings I cook right away using this recipe. Most chicken recipes in my world are for thighs or breasts, not drumsticks. Matt gets the wings (which he loves and I don't) and I get the drumsticks.
This is a pretty sweaty process the first few times you do it, but becomes automated after about the third time. I also enjoy it because I remember watching my mother do this when I was a child and being totally grossed out. She told me it was cheaper than buying the parts and I remember thinking I would just buy the parts when I grew up. I'm happy to master the technique instead.
*Just to be clear, I buy meat at New Seasons. So it's more expensive than standard supermarket prices.