Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicken- Time, Space and Money Saver Tips

So at our house we pretty much eat chicken all the time.  It is a versatile and healthy choice.  It is also super cheap if you buy it on sale.  Lately, chicken (boneless skinless chicken breasts) in family packs has been readily on sale at $1.79/lb. Let me go on about a couple things about buying chicken before we get to bringing it home...

  • Never buy the "thin cutlets" - you can easily save money by just buying regular breasts and butterflying them yourself.  That’s all that means.
  • Rib meat- what the heck is that? It just means there will probably be a little bit of stuff left on the breast that you will probably want to remove. No biggie. Each place that packages them is different.  In store will be different then if you get a factory shipped one.  Some are butchered better then others.  I always clean up the chicken myself regardless.
  • Rinsing chicken- well my mom used to do this and I also have an older Perdue Chicken Cookbook that advises rinsing the chicken as well.  I guess that's what they used to do back in the day, but now-a-days it is completely unnecessary and actually you are promoting the spread of the bacteria by rinsing it.  As long as you cook the chicken to the internal temperature of 165 degrees F, you will be fine.
  • Speaking of that- the safe internal temperature of chicken is 165 degrees F.  I always pull my chicken out a few degrees shy, because the residual heat will finish cooking it through.  Don't ruin your chicken by overcooking it.  If you've never eaten juicy chicken- you don't know what you’re missing.
  • If you have ANY questions about how the government classifies chicken, safety procedures, thawing, cooking, color, hormones, additives etc- check out the USDA's website about it- pretty informative.
Now on to the work:
This might seem tedious or silly, but believe me this is a 100% time and space saver.

Step one: Buy your chicken on sale in the big packs.  The family packs of any meat at the supermarket are usually priced better then the smaller packs.  (Even if you are just one person! Buy the family packs- This is why the freezer is such an awesome thing!) I bought about 6 packs of these boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale at $1.79/lb.  Each pack will come with about 6-8 breasts.  See how much money we save!?

Step two: Set up your work station, because you don't want to touch anything not chicken related while doing this.  This 6 pack repack took me about 30 minutes to do.  But I also clean up all the chicken- cut off any extra fat or bones that were left behind.  If you don't do this it will only take you a couple minutes.

See how I prepped the ziplock bags? Fold them over a bit to make them stable and to make sure you don't get chicken on the zip part- so we don't contaminate anything outside the bag. I put 3 chicken breasts per bag for one meal (for my family).  It might take you more or less bags depending on what you need for a meal. 

  • Approximate how many bags you will need on how much chicken you bought- more is better- you can always put the extra ones away- it is annoying to try and set them up once you get going.
  • Clean up (or don't) your chicken- regardless if you clean them up yourself- I always like to double check for bones or cartilage bits.
  • One bag=one meal
  • Even if you are one person- use the smaller sandwich bags and just freeze them individually
  • The point is that by repackaging we are saving space (believe me bags fit way better then those packages in the pic above) and time because when you need to thaw out for dinner- it will thaw faster and more efficiently.  A bonus is that they are all ready to go- just pull out and use.
  • Another good point is that they are in these bags and also have the potential for marinades.

Those packages came out to ten 3 chicken breasts each bags- plus that bag with x's on it which was 4 or 5 pieces.  Pile on top of each other and flatten out- if they are all mushed together in each bag they will freeze like that and it will take longer to defrost.

Now proof you can fit all that chicken in a small packed freezer.  Keep them flat as possible when putting in the freezer.  A look inside my freezer!

Starting on the top right I have frozen chicken from the last batch I made.  Bottom shelf is all the new chicken I just prepped.  Top left is all that broccoli I just froze myself too- along with that corn I used the same method with.  Then phyllo dough, store bought frozen spinach, homemade frozen hamburgers, and hiding in the back is some almonds (they last way longer in the freezer so they don't go rancid), oh and of course some bacon under all those healthy veggies ;)

So enjoy your new found space and time.  I hope this makes getting dinner on the table a bit easier and more enjoyable! Now go and look at my recipe index for what to actually DO with all that chicken!

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