Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Real Food Deals

My blogging friend Alea over at Premeditated Leftovers has started this wonderful blog carnival, Real Food Deals. Basically, its a place to share any ways we save on Real Food, either at the grocery store, local foods or even just general tips for saving on real food or healthier foods, as we define it for ourselves. I missed the first week, but am hoping to participate fairly regularly from now on. This week, I'm just going to share a little about how we save on pasture raised meat.

We chose to begin eating pasture raised meat a few years ago after reading Nourishing Traditions and The Omnivore's Dilemma. You can read some the reasons we believe pastured meat is right for our family here. As I mentioned in my earlier post, pasture raised chicken is EXPENSIVE. It can be up to four times more expensive than grocery store chicken when bought on sale, and depending upon the breed of chicken raised, may be much smaller than grocery store chickens, as well. We've had to get really creative with our chicken meals in order to keep their use within our budget.

We are raising some meat birds at this time, though definitely not enough to keep our family fed yet. Therefore, we are buying pasture raised, organic heritage breed chicken from a local farmer at this time. We pay between $6 and $8 per dressed bird, depending upon their size and most of them are about one pound smaller than grocery store chickens. What they lack in quantity of meat, they more than make up for in flavor and of course, we believe they are better for us as well.

One way we make the most of our chicken meals is that we do not usually eat chicken as a main course anymore - you know, meat and potatoes. Most of the time, we use the chicken as part of a main dish such as stir fry or enchiladas.

We get our birds whole from the farmer. I start out by seasoning a chicken with a dry rub (usually celtic sea sale, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper) and then putting it in the refrigerator over night to "marinate". The next morning, I usually roast the chicken in a 300 degree oven for about 2.5-3 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees in the meatiest part of a thigh. Next I allow the chicken to cool a bit, and remove most of the meat from the bones, reserving the pan drippings. Some of the meat will then be used as part of a main dish like chicken enchiladas, tamales, chicken spaghetti or stir fry. The bones and pan drippings will then go into the slow cooker along with some onions carrots and celery, if I have it, to make chicken stock. I usually cook it on low for 6-8 hours. When the stock is rich and flavorful, I strain it and once cool, put it in the refrigerator (or freezer, if I won't be using it right away). The bones are then picked for more meat - usually enough for soup which we usually have at least once a week. We use the stock also to make rice and especially when we make beans and rice dishes, as the stock adds a depth of flavor and a richness that makes eating meatless dishes much more filling. The remaining chicken skin and bones are given to our dog who loves his special treat.

If we are careful, we can usually get about 3 meals from one chicken. A stir fry will usually cost us about $4.00 for the main course, assuming we paid $8.00 for the chicken ($2.50 for the chicken, $1.00 for the veggies and $.50 for rice and sauce - or we serve it on lettuce leaves if we are low carbing) and will serve 4-6 depending upon how hungry my family is that day so about $1.00 per serving, on average. Chicken Enchilladas will usually cost about $7.50 ($2.50 for chicken, $2.00 for tortillas, $2.00 for cheese, $.50 for veggies, $.50 for sauce) and this usually will serve 8-10 depending upon how hungry everyone is, so between $.75-$1.00 per serving. Soup is even more economical, costing only about $4.00 ($2.50 for chicken and stock, $1.00 or less for veggies and $.50 for a handful of rice or pasta and seasonings), and it will usually serve 10 for approximately $.50 per serving. From that same chicken, we might also make Cuban black beans and rice for approximately $2.00 ($.50 for beans (cooked from dry - about 2 cups), $.50 for stock, $.50 for rice and $.50 for chipotles, onions and spices). We can usually have this for supper with a side of veggies and it will serve 5 (supper for 4 plus I will have it for lunch the next day), so about $.40 per serving.

Our grocery budget has gone up over the last few years, especially since we began eating pastured meat, but by working at it, we can at least keep things more affordable. Some weeks this works better than others of course, but for the most part, if I can stay organized, we can stay within budget and enjoy pastured meat as well.

This post is being submitted to Real Food Deals at Premeditated Leftovers.


Alea said...

Thank you for breaking down how you use your pasture fed chicken. You do a great job of demonstrating how you can fit higher quality meat into your budget and still keep it affordable!

The Book Lady Online said...

Thanks, Alea. I'm so excited about your blog carnival :) I hope I can get my post linked up to it soon :) I'll try to be online tonight or early tomorrow :)

Anonymous said...

The pasture fed chicken sounds so good -it's sounds like it's definetly worth the cost. some things you just can't compromise.