Monday, March 12, 2012

The Most Frugal Practice in My Kitchen

Everyone seems to be trying to save money these days. For moms with many kids and/or one income families, it is essential to cut unnecessary costs. One of the variables in a budget is food. No two household grocery budgets look alike, however almost all of us could cut costs here first in an emergency.

I will make a confession. I am not into couponing. If you get carts of groceries for pennies, then my hat is off to you. (Actually, I'm too cheap discerning to buy a hat. But you know what I mean.) That why this is the most frugal practice in my kitchen. I'd love to hear about some of yours!


No, mine isn't couponing or even making my own bread most of the time (although that would save a lot of money....and chemicals). It's bones. Yep! I get a lot out of bones. Now before you get a mental image of my children fighting the dog for his chew toy (No dog either...again, too cheap frugal), let me explain.

When we buy our beef, I request the bones from the butcher. When I roast a chicken or turkey, I save the bones. When my mom roasts one and offers the bones to me, however, I say "No, thank you!" The bones and broth have spilled in my car on the way home too many times.

So how do bones save me money? Well, first of all, I get great nutrition and often one or two more meals out of something I would have thrown away. Secondly, I never have to buy canned broth for recipes. Or bouillon. I cannot even remember the last time I bought cream of chicken soup which used to be a staple in my pantry. Third, having the broth on hand motivates me to make healthier, more frugal meals like homemade soups and casseroles.

The process. I know a lot of you already do this and probably have a method more perfect than mine. However, enough people look at me strangely when I mention saving the bones from meat that I know you don't all do this.


In this example, I'll tell you how to stretch a roast chicken. After feeding it to your family with some mashed potatoes and noodles (or  gravy if you don't have Pennsylvania Dutch heritage like I do), put the bones back in your roaster or crockpot. I do not have pictures of this because I really didn't think anyone wanted to look at bones. I said this was frugal not photogenic. 

 Pour any leftover broth or gravy over the bones, then cover completely with water. Turn it on low heat and leave it alone. You can add some onions and garlic and celery. It adds a delicious flavor, but it is not necessary.  If you do it in the crockpot, you can leave it overnight or longer.

What you have after this process is delicious broth. You can strain it and put it into the refrigerator. All the fat will rise to the top after being chilled. You can skim it off and, if you cooked a good chicken, you should have a gelatin-like broth.

Put it into freezer bags (or glass jars if plastic creeps you out---just make sure you leave space at the top for expansion). A sandwich bag holds about 2 cups. A quart bag holds about four cups.

After you put all the broth away in the freezer, you can pick the bones. This is admittedly not very fun. It is also something you will most assuredly do alone. This is not a kitchen chore for which I get volunteers. I can usually get a cup or two of chicken off the bones. I also freeze this for other meals like Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Casserole or sandwiches.

The best part is, you can boil the same bones again for several more times and get even more broth! I have done this until the bones started to disintegrate, although the flavor is most rich with the first time or two of  boiling.

Why do I say this is the most frugal practice in my kitchen? If I pay $6 for a roast chicken and feed our family of 6, I have paid $1 per person for our meal. Not bad. If I boil the bones and get broth and chicken for one more meal, I have paid 50 cents a person per meal. A lot better. If I boil the bones again, while I may not have enough meat for another meal (though often I can get 3 or 4 meals out of one chicken), I have at least cut the cost to somewhere below 50 cents per person per meal.

If I got a free box of Hamburger Helper with coupons, I'd still have to buy the hamburger and it would only last my family one meal (probably one snack, the way my family eats!). So this is my brand of frugality.

Do you keep your bones? What is your most frugal kitchen tip?

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the reminder, i have only made broth this way once but somehow forgot all about broth-making. i never knew you could re-boil the bones several times, thanks!