How To Stretch Meals From One Chicken

Buying a whole chicken and stretching it to make multiple meals makes sense in so many ways. Environmentally less processing, packaging and energy used in a whole rather than individual portions. Health reasons, reducing your meat intake and maximising your vegetables brings health benefits. Financially because it is usually cheaper to buy a whole chicken than individual portions, and if you use all of it you will make the most of your chicken and save your pocket!

Fresh V Frozen

Depending on what you have access to and how you shop, may depend on whether you buy a fresh or frozen chicken. I always buy a fresh whole chicken just because I know if for some reason I didn’t use it, it could go straight in the freezer whole or cut up. In general I’m usually using it within a couple of days of purchase and certainly within any use by dates.

I also like to keep some cooked chicken back and freeze it for another meal. Although technically you could refreeze a meal made with previously frozen chicken, I personally prefer not to.

One thing you definitely cannot do is refreeze raw chicken that has been defrosted. However you can refreeze a meal that has been created from a thawed frozen chicken once.

This is why I personally buy fresh so that I know I can cook and freeze without concern of how many times the meat from the chicken has been frozen.

Cook First Or Chop Up

Although there is nothing to stop you chopping up a chicken before cooking, especially if you want to freeze or use parts of a fresh chicken, such as legs and wings for a different type of recipe. In reality it’s harder to cut up than a cooked chicken, which once cooked will literally just fall apart once you start handling it.

Top Tips

Care must be taken handling raw meat, the equipment you use and suitable storage. Ensure you avoid any contact with other food items.

Whenever you are using frozen chicken (cooked or uncooked) ensure it has been thoroughly defrosted preferably overnight in a fridge and used within 1 day.

#1 Roast Dinner

I know I’m perhaps biased being from the UK but in my opinion you can’t beat a Sunday Roast! Yummy family meal, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots can go in the same roasting tin or separate if you prefer. I usually make a cauliflower and broccoli cheese in advance which also gets popped into the oven at the same time. With or without stuffing, lashings of gravy. Most people in my experience want breast. Top tip to save on the meat consumption, don’t put the whole bird on the table, slice thinly and plate up individual portions, a spoonful of stuffing, a couple of potatoes and a splash of gravy make the plate look fuller and people are able to help themselves to the vegetables on the table.

The bird remaining in the kitchen is harder to get to and less likely to be picked at. Meaning more meals can be made from it!

#2 Remove All The Meat

Either the same day as roasting or at most the next day, I remove all the meat from the bones. As the chicken has been roasted it falls off easily. I separate it into different smaller containers. The skin, gristly parts and bones are put together in one (to make stock). The rest of the meat is pulled off the bones, legs and wings included and divided up, not forgetting underneath the bird. I try and divide the meat into the portion sizes I am likely to use as a maximum for future meals, whether that be later in the week or to freeze. In the images below the chances are by using other ingredients, particularly vegetables in my cooking I will be able to stretch 2 main meals for a family of 3/4 from one container of chicken.

If you have family members that prefer to eat off the bone, then you can keep the legs and wings in tact. However I do find that because I strip the bones and usually combine the meat with other ingredients, it tends to go further.

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How To Make Meals Stretch

Making the most of your food, eating well but reducing food waste saves time, the planet and money in your pocket. Far from being a frugal ideal. Being savvy with what you buy, use and plan makes complete financial and environmental sense. Most people go through periods in their lives when they need to make savings, being prepared or starting now to allow for a build up of funds for later is no bad thing, or simply wanted to divert funds elsewhere.

Planning

There’s truth in the saying fail to plan and you plan to fail. The reality is however if you plan your meals for the week and then get the shop for the week, you are less likely to overbuy create waste and end up throwing food away and basically your money too! You can also often double up on meal prep, leftovers, stretch individual food items to go that little bit further and easily swap options about.

I have tried several ways but find it easier to just keep a month at a time calendar in the kitchen specifically for main meals. It also helps to look back if your stuck for ideas, enables others to write a favourite meal request in for the future, as well as a guide for the week.

If something has come up, or for some reason we are having something different for dinner, everything just gets moved by a day, or an item that may be in the freezer might get moved to the following week. It’s a guide, but its flexible, and enables advanced food prep or the welcome of a hot meal waiting in slow cooker for when you come home after a long day!

Bulk With Legumes & Vegetables

Adding lentils, beans, peas and/or other seasonal cheaper vegetables particularly to casseroles, bakes, pies, curries and risotto’s especially ones including meat, can really help to create a much larger amount, therefore creating another meal for another day or reducing the amount of meat required. As meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, this can create considerable saving, particularly if you are having dinner guests.

I always add lentils, leftover veg and a tin of chopped tomatoes to my lasagne, cottage pie and chilli, when using minced beef/steak as well as when creating vegetable versions. I find it gives greater flavour, and greater volume with surprisingly little meat. My team are not keen on kidney beans so I use mixed beans or baked beans instead.

Casseroles and curries can easily contain more vegetables than meat with nobody really noticing. Even with a shop bought sauce adding more vegetables and legumes will not only add nutrition, it will add volume. You can always add more water or stock, gravy, a tin of tomatoes, or baked beans to stretch the sauce content, if it seems too dry.

Reduce Meal Or Plate Size

Not everyone likes a mountain of food on their plate. I know several people for whom a loaded plate is the quickest way to put them off their food. Reducing food portions can help with reducing volume consumption and therefore overall cost. Using a slightly smaller dinner plate can also help give the impression of a large plateful of food, if that is your enjoyment.

Weekly Leftover / Fridge Crawl Meals

Allowing for one night a week when you have leftovers and/or fridge crawls is a great way of using up food that otherwise could be heading for the bin in a few more days. A friend of mine used to call it bits and bobs night. Its amazing what you can create when your forced to! I find Its kind of nice to have a buffet on the table if there are several left over dishes, you can create a few sides, left over veg, salads, pickles or even fruit and some bread. Does it really matter if things don’t go that much? Everyone has enough to eat and your less likely to have something that’s gone off in the back of the fridge, or iced up in the freezer.

Make One Freeze One

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DIY Reusable Food Wraps/Fabric Beeswax Wraps

Creating your own fabric beeswax/reusable wraps is easy and a great way of re-purposing unwanted cotton fabric.

If you are unsure as to what beeswax wraps are, checkout my post What Are Beeswax / Reusable Wraps And Why Do I need them?

If not then lets get started!

There are multiple methods of essentially creating the same thing. Some people prefer to use pine resin, others not, some use jojoba oil, but coconut oil can also be used. Beeswax can be bought and grated or beeswax pellets can be used. One thing everyone needs however is fabric and beeswax!

What Do You Need To Make Beeswax Wraps

  • Fabric 100% cotton is best a fine weave sheet type thickness. I used part of an old sheet and part of a cotton blouse that was beyond repair.
  • Beeswax
  • Jojoba oil or Coconut oil
  • Pine resin (optional)
  • Parchment or baking paper
  • Dedicated paint brush (optional)
  • A heat source – oven, sandwich press or iron.
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What Are Beeswax / Reusable Wraps And Why Do I need them?

What Are they

A Beeswax wrap, also known as a reusable wrap is a piece of fabric (usually cotton) coated in a beeswax mixture and dried. It can be used to preserve food, cover dishes, as well as other uses. The heat of the hands help mould it either around food or to cover a plate, bowl or other type of container that has no lid.

They are mainly used as a more sustainable alternative to cling film or foil as they are plastic free and can be washed and reused.

What Are They Made From

They are usually made from 100% cotton which is coated with a mix of beeswax oil often jojoba and/ or coconut and a pine type rosin.

There are also vegan versions that do not use beeswax.

Why Do I Need Them

The wraps are a good alternative on the fight to reduce plastic in particular to reduce single use plastic. They replace foil and cling film particularly in food preservation. The wraps therefore help to reduce food waste as well as single use plastic waste. They take up very little room, so a great space saver compared to plastic or other containers.

How Do I Use Them

The wraps are simple to use. They use the warmth of your hands to become pliable and slightly sticky enabling you to mould the fabric around a food item such as bread, fruit a block of hard cheese or a sandwich. The fabric can be stretched and stuck over an opened tin or another plate or container to keep it air tight. They can be made into a pocket or cone for dried food/snacks or fruit.

It is not advisable to use them on meat.

It can be beneficial to colour code them. For example keeping the same colour for dairy products and another colour for vegetables.

Once used they can be washed in a mild detergent at a cool temperature and hung to air dry. They dry quickly.

Best Uses – Food

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Mixed Fruit Crumble

This is an ideal way of using up fruit that is starting to look a little sad and being bypassed for fresher looking fruit! Predominantly a pudding but my family have been known to scoop a bowlful as an alternative breakfast!

You can pretty much use any fruit. I find Apples, pears, plums, berries, rhubarb, all work well and I tend to add in, citrus, banana and mango to other fruits rather than a whole crumble of them, but that is only because I haven’t tried it thus far!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can make a little or a lot. I tend to decide from what fruit I would like to use up as to how big the dish I am going to use and subsequently how much crumble I will need. Therefore the amounts below are a rough guide, its quick and easy so if you feel your crumb is looking a bit thin you can always add some more!

  • Prep Time 10-15 minutes
  • Cook Time 30-35 minutes
  • Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 500g of mixed fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey or syrup
  • 100g of flour
  • 50g of butter
  • 50g of sugar white or brown
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Quick Flap Jacks

Flap jacks one of those snacks that you can leave basic or add in all sorts of things that you would like to use up. Banana, apple, raisins, chocolate chips, leftover cereals, I love just popping things in and seeing how they turn out.

For a quick basic recipe see below and have a go!

  • Prep Time 10-15 minutes
  • Cook Time 20-25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 125g sugar
  • 125 butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Golden Syrup
  • 250g Porridge Oats
  • 50g dried fruit (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven 180C / Fan 160C/ Gas 4
  • line a small baking sheet with grease proof paper
  • Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan, put on a low heat stir and melt it down.
  • Once all melted add the oats, dried fruit and any other bits and pieces and give a good mix around making sure everything is coated.
  • Once mixed place into the tray, smooth and press down with a fork
  • Bake in the oven for around 20 mins or until golden.
  • Remove and allow to cool
  • Once cooled, lift out and chop into squares.

Other Posts that may interest you

What can I do with overripe bananas

7 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Soup

Why Less is More

What can I do with overripe bananas

You bring your lovely bananas home partially green and it seems within seconds there are brown spots they quickly become less appealing to eat as each day passes. Before you know it, there are more black than yellow areas all hints of greenness disappeared. However before you head for the nearest bin even if its a compost bin have a look at these options. There are quick options for when you are heading out of the door!

  • Freeze
  • Banana porridge
  • Mashed Banana & Peanut Butter on toast
  • Smoothie
  • Banana Ice Cream (quick method)
  • Baked Banana
  • Banana & Mixed Fruit Crumble
  • Banana Flap Jacks
  • Banana over ripening prevention

Freeze

Freezing is a quick way of delaying any further ripening and saving them for use at a later date. You can actually freeze with the skin on, it will go black. (ensure when defrosting you place in a bowl as there will be liquid seeping)

Bananas are best put in an air tight container or freezer bag. I tend to use reusable jars. But whatever you use, you can peel and cut into chunks, there by being able to remove the amount of chunks you may want for later. If space is tight you can mash up and place in a freezer bag, flatten to remove air and seal. You then will have a nice flat shape that can slot in pretty much anywhere in the freezer. Labelling your item with how many mashed bananas it contains can be helpful for future use.

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Basic Vegetable Stock

This basic vegetable stock recipe can be created and used straight away, kept in the fridge for a few days, or frozen for another time, it’s easy and can be a great way of using up leftover vegetables:-

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Carrots
  • 1 Whole Onion (skin on is fine)
  • 4 sticks of celery or the bulb end
  • a handful of mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Sprig of Thyme
  • 1 handful of parsley

Method

  • Wash (making sure all dirt is removed) and roughly chop your ingredients (skins can be kept on)
  • Place in a large saucepan or stock/soup pot
  • Cover with water so that the vegetables are covered by about 1 inch of water and can easily be stirred.
  • Put on a medium heat and once getting to boiling point, reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 1 hour stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat, strain and you have your stock.

If not reusing straight away remember to cool before putting in an air tight container. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week and can be frozen for up to 3 months.

For a lighter flavour you can add more water or less for a more concentrated stock.

You do not need to add Salt or Pepper, this is best leaving till you make your soup, or use it in other cooking.

Another good way of creating stock is keeping a container in the freezer for leftover bits of veg that you haven’t used and once you have enough for stock, create the stock.

It is fine to use vegetables that are passed their best but do not use mouldy vegetables.

Other articles you may like

7 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Soup

Click on the links below to see some of my favourite soup recipes.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Leftover Vegetable Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Sweet Potato Carrot and Lentil Soup

7 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Soup

There is something incredibly wholesome and satisfying about homemade soup both for the cook and the recipient. A large pot on the stove simmering away with that welcome aroma floating through the house is a scent encompassing the feeling of warmth and cosiness on a cold night. Equally satisfying, open a flask at work, school or out in the cold and you have instant tingly home cosy warmth to wrap your hands around. If this isn’t enough to get you heading to the kitchen and peering in the fridge for possible soup ingredients, then see below for 7 reasons why it is worth making your own soup!

In a rush…don’t need the reason just want some recipes? – Scroll to the bottom of this post!

  • You know exactly what is in it!
  • Nutritious
  • Low Calorie & Filling
  • Easy to make
  • Low Cost
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Easy to Freeze

You know exactly what is in it!

Hate to state the obvious but the reality is, you make it, you know what’s in it! Equally goes for any homemade food you’re creating from scratch. Ready made soups, do tend to have a higher salt and sugar content, so something to check on the ingredients breakdown label. I do not need to add sugar to my soups, and may not always add salt, if I feel it tastes fine without. Some items being added for example in my Broccoli & Stilton Soup the Stilton being cheese, will already have salt in it. As will ready made stock cubes and other ready made stock options. You can get reduced salt or (reduced sodium) stock. If you are worried or need to limit your salt intake, you can also just either use water, or make your own stock without any salt. For my recipe on How to make stock click here.

Nutritious

As most soups have plenty of plant based ingredients and meat based soups only usually have small amounts of meat as well as vegetables. The vitamin and mineral content of this meal is usually high depending on the ingredients, also, nothing is lost by throwing it away during cooking, everything remains together. It is also an excellent way of hiding specific unfavourable nutritious items that won’t be eaten normally by some family members (especially little ones) but are acceptable in soup.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Carrot & Lentil Soup

This all in one soup is one of those go to soups for an amazing taste from very little ingredients, the roasting process bringing out all the wonderful flavours of the Sweet Potato, Carrots, Onion and Garlic. If you don’t like it too spicy, go easier on the Chilli Flakes.

It’s silky smooth texture but hearty fill make this an excellent winter warmer lunch that will easily keep you going till dinner.

  • Prep Time 8-10 minutes
  • Cook Time 20-25 minutes
  • Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato
  • 3-4 Medium Carrots
  • 100g or 4 oz Red Lentils
  • 1 Onion
  • 5-6 Garlic Clothes
  • 2.5 Pints of stock
  • 1/4 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 2 tsp Coriander ground or fresh
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper seasoning

Method

  • Turn on oven to warm 200C/ Fan 180C / 400 F/Gas 6
  • Wash, peel and chop vegetables putting approx 1/4 of the onion to the side, the garlic cloves can be peeled and left whole. Or if you like a strong garlic flavour you can use a whole one part peeling keeping it together and chopping the pointed ends off so it will bake in one. (See photograph below).
  • Pour some of the olive oil on the tray, then place the chunks of sweet potato, carrot, 3/4 of the onion and garlic on the tray, pour on the rest of the oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper over the vegetables and mix everything together with your hands, ensuring everything has a coating of oil, (add a little more oil if necessary)
  • Pop in the oven for 10-15 mins or until vegetable are soft
  • Place a little oil in a large saucepan, heat and add the onion to soften and the lentils and 3-4 table spoonfuls of stock and cook for 3-4 mins keeping an eye, then put the rest of the stock into the pan and simmer for about 8 mins until the lentils are cooked.
  • Once the vegetables are cooked add them into the stock and blend with a hand blender or transfer to a liquidiser in batches.
  • Once blended return to the hob to heat season to taste and add the coriander. Stir in and serve.

Other Soup Recipes

Click on the links below to see some of my other favourite soup recipes you may like.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Leftover Vegetable Soup