Buying a Whole Chicken: Better Value?

I am all about the frugality these days. More than usual. Maybe it's the cooler weather that makes me want to dig into my stores and start noshing roots and beans and slow-cooked stews. (Check out my Trying to Eat Cheap series for example--one November spent keeping close track of dinner and how much it costs.)

So here's the thing. For some reason I always believed that buying chickens whole was just a better value. You cut it up yourself, you get the added bonus of giblets and carcass to use for stock, and it's cheaper per pound than if you buy the meat pre-cut. Right? Here's a little demonstration of my thinking:

A whole chicken costs $14. (It's Murray's Chicken.)

Cut into 4 pieces, I've got 2 full legs (left) and 2 breasts with wing (right). The breast is boneless except for the half wing I left on there. I could have left the whole wing, but realized this too late. (Lesson learned: always read your Julia before making the first cut)

Bake the breasts until golden and you have dinner. Put the legs away for later. (I deboned them and made a crockpot stew.) So that's two dinners from one bird.

Here's part of that breast, with a shiitake gravy. Plus brown rice & broccoli.

BUT. I noticed something about the amount of work this takes. There's a lot of cutting, planning, freezing and remembering to do. Am I factoring in the cost of my time? Is this whole chicken costing me more like $20 once I add in all the bloody bother? Also, I am terrible at making stock. Those giblets and that carcass are not huge assets. When I got to thinking about that $14 price tag, I realized I could also get (also Murray's):

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about $8)
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about $5)

This is actually more meat, and more meat that I can use right away, than can be found on a single chicken. Obviously.

My conclusion: it doesn't make sense to buy a whole chicken if the intention is to cut it up. Buy the skinless boneless breasts or thighs and save yourself the hassle. And buy a whole chicken because you want to roast a whole, crisp, toothsome, juicy chicken. Give the bird--and yourself--that honor and respect.

1 comment:

Wallace said...

I actually can buy an already roasted stop N shop chicken "natural" flavor (meaning they just seasoned with sea salt and pepper), and it is less than buying an organic whole chicken to roast myself. I love to do it, feel like i'm cookin' and homey, but then it is alot to DO...and clean up.