Nearly two years ago I made an important decision to eat only organic, local and/or ethically raised meat. Even in New York City, it’s a tall order. At first, I was tempted by convenience to grab chicken from the market instead of making my bi-monthly trip to the butcher where I could request healthy meat. I stuck with it though and, after a couple of months, something amazing and unexpected happened: I started saving money.
You might be wondering how that’s possible when organic meat is more expensive. The simple answer is that I learned how to stretch my meals. To get my family on board with the change, I focused hard on making sure that even though we were eating less meat, it didn’t feel like we were eating less meat.
One of my favorite tips for stretching meat is to skip the supermarket chicken (unless your market has a butcher and carries organic, naturally raised chickens) and go to a butcher where you can request a whole chicken cut into pieces. If you want any of the pieces deboned, just say so. You’ll get what I call the “sexy” pieces—wings, thighs, legs, and the split breast—which will make a solid dinner for 4-6, depending on what else you serve. You’ll also get the neck, innards and some other parts that will make a mean chicken stock, a base for a second meal.
One chicken, two meals. This is how we get more bang for our buck and make pricier—but healthier!—meat worth it.
Here’s an example of my trick at work. I recently used the “sexy” pieces to make this Coconut Mango Roasted Chicken (pictured) for dinner #1. The next day, I threw the leftover meat and bones from our roast chicken dinner into a stock pot with the rest of the chicken pieces from the butcher, two big carrots, two stalks of celery, a roughly peeled and chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, a couple of whole coriander seeds and black peppercorns, a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. This made a lovely, simple stock that, once strained, of everything but the carrots and celery, which I chopped into bite-size pieces, became broth for dinner #2. I served the broth with a pile of buttered egg noodles and a big salad. (If your kiddo doesn’t eat salad yet, you can toss anything from chopped broccoli to peas with the buttered noodles.)
I paid more for an organic chicken, but got two chicken dinners out of it. Both served healthier, modest portions of meat, but they were meat-based dinners nonetheless. It’s a win-win so long as we stop thinking that our budget limits our ability to get healthy. Our budget is there to support our healthy and, with a few good tricks up our sleeves, we can get great value out of healthy meat despite the greater upfront cost!