Stretch that chicken

Leftover chicken is welcomed, from one chicken, you can get so many meals. S-t-r-e-t-c-h that chicken, and your budget too.

Find also a few more ideas for chicken leftovers from Karen Fox on the sidebar, and know that there are more things to do with leftover chicken or poultry.

Stretch that chicken to more than one meal

Chicken is an incredibly versatile meat. It pairs well with a huge range of flavors and cooking styles. Add to that versatility, low cost, and low fat content, and it is easy to see why chicken is a popular choice among frugal cooks.

One chicken, so many meals

If you are looking to maximize your food budget dollars, buying whole chickens is the way to go. To stretch those budget dollars even farther, do not use that whole chicken as a main dish, but as an ingredient for many main dishes. A creative and frugal cook can stretch that one chicken to feed the family five dinners or more, while providing enough variety to keep everyone happy.

First cook the whole chicken. It can be baked, or it can be boiled, but the easiest way is to use the crock pot. Place the chicken in the crock pot with a 1/2cup of water or broth. Use minimal seasoning as you will season the dishes you make with the meat. Allow the chicken to cook all day. Then let it cool just enough that you can work with it. The meat will come easily and cleanly off the bone. Remove all the meat and store in the refrigerator as an ingredient for the meals you will make. It also can be frozen in meal sized portions.

Before discussing the meals that can be made with the meat, let's not forget to make broth. Place the liquid left in the crock pot and the chicken carcass in a large pot. Add carrots, onions, and celery, (or even scraps of these vegetables) if desired. A bay leaf, salt, pepper, or other spices can also be added. Cover the carcass with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for several hours, skimming off any foam that forms. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer. Use the broth for soup that night, or freeze it for later use.

What to do with all that de-boned meat and broth? Here are some ideas and recipes:


Chicken noodle soup would be the obvious choice to use part of the meat and broth that was produced from cooking the whole chicken, but consider others such as white chili, chicken tortilla soup, or creamy mushroom and chicken soup.

Creamy mushroom and chicken soup

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli (cooked)
  • 1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • cornstarch
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a large pan. Sauté the onion in the butter a few minutes, and add in the mushrooms and broccoli. Cook for three minutes. Add the chicken and broth. Heat to a simmer.
  2. Add the milk. Mix a few TB of cornstarch with an equal amount of milk and stir into the soup. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Taste and add salt, pepper and garlic powder to your taste.


The chicken meat is great for use in tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and other Mexican favorites. Try this simple enchilada dish.

Enchilada casserole

  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies (do not drain)
  • corn tortillas
  • 1 can re-fried beans (also good with black beans)
  • shredded chicken
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • salsa

Grease baking dish. Put about 1/2 can of tomatoes in the bottom of the pan. Make a layer of tortillas. Then a layer of beans. Followed by chicken and then cheese. Repeat layers. Top with salsa and more cheese. Bake at 350 F (uncovered) about 20 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Sandwiches, casseroles and more

Creamed chicken, barbeque chicken, or chicken salad sandwiches are always favorites. The chicken could also be used on pizza, or in stir fry. Don't forget the frugal classic, the casserole, such as chicken pot pie.

Because of its adaptability and affordability, chicken is a very popular meat. Using the meat of a whole chicken as an ingredient for your meals, instead of the main dish helps to stretch the food budget even farther, and provide healthy, interesting meals for the family. Challenge yourself, and see just how many meals you can make out of one chicken.