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Cutting costs in the Kitchen

I tried doing a search but wasn't able to come up with anything, but anwyays, I was talking to a few roommates today and we were discussing about how I buy skin on, bone in chicken breast while they would buy skinless, boneless chicken breast. At the nearby supermarket, the skin on, bone in chicken breast sells for $7.39 /kg ($3.36/lb) and the skinless boneless chicken breasts sells for almost double at $13.45/kg ($6.11/lb). To me its just a few minutes of prep to the chicken to remove the bone and if I want to the skin. Plus, with this I get to collect the bones and use them for stock :D. I think part of it may also be that they dont like touching the "Icky" stuff but I feel so proud when I debone my own chicken. lol.

However, they would forego without spending more time in the kitchen and spend a little more for the convenience. My one roomate even said that the inedible bones take up some of the weight. While I dont have a scale, I'm sure that it doesnt take up much weight at all.

While I'm sure this principle of cutting costs can be applied to other meats as well, chicken I think is the easist example I can think of. As well as grating your own cheese (which I do as well).

What do the rest of your CH'ers do? Save some cash and prep your chicken or pay more for the convenience?

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  1. My ex used to insist that the weight of the bones negated the cost savings of bone-in chicken breasts. He did all the shopping and managed to cook the breasts so dry that they were inedible for me.

    My boyfriend and I don't do a whole lot of chicken, but when we do, they're family packs of bone-in thighs for price and flavor. We freeze them in single-meal portions. The family packs tend to go on sale more often at our local grocery store.

    ETA: Yes, we do buy larger blocks of cheese and grate our own. Oh, and to use fresher herbs and spices, we buy those loose and keep them in those tiny plastic lidded Gladware containers.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tracylee

      For some reason I have an aversion to handling raw chicken . I buy a whole chicken and ask the butcher at the supermarket to cut it up for me into to 8 pieces. He never charges me extra. :)

    2. Hi Roarasaur,

      In my experience, there is about 50% 'waste' in bone-on and skin-on chicken breast. It takes two pounds to net one pound prepped. This I determined by using my scale.

      So $3.36 per pound un-prepped is actually costing $6.72 per pound vs $6.11 per pound for already prepped.

      I buy the un-prepped, remove the bone and leave the skin on. I prefer the way it cooks to skinned chicken. Unless I'm planning to grind the chicken. Then I decide based on the price of both types.

      Using the bones for stock is worth something. You need to figure that out for yourself.

      As for grating cheese, there's no waste there.


      1. If you really want to save, buy a whole chicken.

        Roast it, debone and reserve for stock, and you've got your choice of white breast meat, dark thighs, wings and legs.

        Ah, but you say, what of the skins? I've got that covered as well ... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739272

        8 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          exactly what i was thinking.. its $1/lb max (for the ordinary stuff) in SoCal... so for a 3 lb bird you have 2 huge breasts for $3... plus the bonus of (the good stuff) dark meat.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Buy the whole chicken and cut it up raw yourself. Deboning the breast is the hardest part and you already do that. After you've cut one up and you're familiar with where the joints are, it takes under 5 minutes per whole bird. Depending on your freezer space you can seriously stock up when the birds are on sale and cut chicken packs better in the freezer than whole. You can skin some breasts and satisfy your roommates need for speed. Then take all the necks and back bones and other "trash" parts, throw them in a pot with some celery, carrots and onion, simmer into a simple stock, and freeze that in various portion sizes. You and your roommates can have homemade soup in 45 minutes or less. You'll get the biggest bang for your buck between sale price, cutting and freezing, stock, and ipse's skin magic!

            1. re: morwen

              Deboning the breast is the hardest part and you already do that.

              For those who find deboning raw chicken to be difficult, it might just be better to cook the whole chicken (either roasting it or just freaking boiling the sucker) and then debone. It's always easier to debone a cooked bird than a raw one because when your knife-skills fail, you can just resort to pulling the meat off the bone. Hard to do that with raw meat.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              Ipsedixit, my friend who owns a wings & pizza restaurant tells me that the wings are now the most expensive part of the chicken (when he says chicken he does it like a Vaudeville comedian, which cracks me up). Just a random factoid.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Want to save even more money, buy leg quarters. They are by far the cheapest cut of chicken. Often around $0.69/lb

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  But you get an awful lot of fat and skin with them because they have those huge flaps on them that they never trim off. I only use the big bags of leg quarters if I have to produce chicken for a huge group, otherwise there's way too much waste.

                  1. re: Kajikit

                    Recently they were on sale for $0.39/lb. Even with the waste they are still very cheap. I don't toss out much. That fatty skin flap is does not weigh that much to offset the savings. Now if you are counting bones and skin, well that's a bit more percentage wise. I don't let much go to waste so bones and skin go to a bag for stock making. I recently took the skin of thighs and scraped out most of the fat then rendered them further to make nearly fat free chicken skin crisps.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      I love the skin, roasted on 450 and all crisped up, yum. Not waste to me. Antibiotic and hormone free, for me. I do tear off the largest fat blobs, though.

              2. I do the same thing with my chicken - I buy the bone-in breasts and trim them myself. Here, I can often get them on sale for $1 a pound, while boneless skinless are, at best (on sale), $2.

                Plus, I have better control over the size of my portions - while the 7 or 8-ounce boneless frankenboobs may run $2 a pound, more reasonable, 5-6 ounce cutlets cost $3-4/lb., as do the tenders, both of which are included with my $1/lb. chicken.

                Typically, rather than compare pound -for -pound (comparing boneless skinless breasts to some combination of cutlets, tenders and random trimmings, plus bones and skins for better stock), I look at the number of meals and cost per meal.

                Even if cost-wise, it was a wash (which I don't believe it is, but I've never seriously done the math), the portion control and better quality (of the final chicken stock, if nothing else) is well worth the half hour it might take me to trim 10 pounds of chicken breasts.

                As an aside, I also like to get a whole bone-in rib roast when it goes on sale the day after Thanksgiving for an obscenely cheap price and butcher my own Christmas rib roast, several steaks, have bones for beef stock, and scraps for grinding meat.

                1. I buy in bulk wherever I can, and stock up when things are on special. That way I get the best of both worlds - boneless and skinless, and a lower price per unit :)

                  1. After spending forever chopping up whole chicken wings once for a party I realized that buying the already broken down parts is worth the extra cost!

                    1. Yes! And also to afford treats. I save money buying whole chickens and menu-planning around what is on sale, making vegetarian meals 2 to 3 times a week, cooking from scratch rather than boxed, processed foods . . . and this enables me to splurge on organic strawberries out-of-season, a beautiful pineapple in February, a lovely section of wild salmon, and other special, expensive-where-I-live food joys.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: three of us

                        three of us, I like the way you think!
                        I've cut back considerably on the amount of meat I serve the family because I've been buying more expensive locally raised birds. They're humanely raised, and killed and supplemented diet is vegetarian with no additives. it's more expensive... I buy the whole birds frozen when the farmer has a 'freezer sale' s that's usually 20% off, which puts them at about the same price per pound as the conventionally raised boneless skinless chicken breasts that you find in the grocery store (but I personally don't think have much flavor, but I guess that's the point of chicken to some, a blank canvass)

                        I've invested in grass fed beef by the half cow from a local farmer that has the same high standards... we just eat less of it

                        You can afford to buy humanely raised animal products if you take a step back and re-think the way you plan your menus and meals. giving yourself vegetarian options with dried beans/legumes and brown rice bought in bulk freshened up with seasonal vegetables and pastas cuts back on the grocery bill, makes you healthier and gives you the ability to spend your money supporting smaller farms who care

                      2. And it's up to each person to decide what that means.

                        1. True, but this is a food board. If you want to become a better cook (and I realize not everyone here does, which is fine - I'm not judging), you'll learn more by not taking so many shortcuts.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            "you'll learn more by not taking so many shortcuts."


                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              better yet, you learn which short cuts are worth it (time and quality wise) and which are not. Jacques Pepin's 'fast food my way' are a good example of an experienced cook making good use of short cuts.

                              1. re: paulj

                                My original post was s reply to a post that is no longer here. The point stands though - you can't learn which short cuts are worth it unless you try it without short cuts. You don't get to be a very experienced cook (like Jacques) unless you push yourself and expand yourself in the first place.

                            2. I have to admit that I buy the chicken that is on sale on the day I shop. I buy whole chickens and roast them, or sometimes I pressure cook them for the stock, using the cooked chicken for chicken salad or such dishes. I also like thighs--bone in, and have bought family packs to portion and freeze. I also will buy large packs of boned and skinned chicken breasts. These are not my favorites, but I have finally come to the realization, that they provide a good source of lean protein, and I should learn to cook them properly. So I am.

                              I find that I don't buy much beef. I feel that it is expensive, and often doesn't taste right. I can't explain it any better.

                              I do like a good pork chop. I always wait until they are featured on sale, then buy a large pack to portion for the freezer.

                              I don't fry chicken. But if I did, I admit I wouldn't buy a whole chicken. I'd buy a cut up chicken on sale.

                              1. If you do some looking there are plenty of places that will sell you freshly killed whole chickens for far less than the supermarket charges, you have to dress them and pluck them but to me that is the best part of the experience.

                                1. I wish those you bought "cheap" chicken would reconsider what that means to the chicken. I am not a vegetarian and I do eat chicken, but I generally buy that which has been humanely raised and slaughtered. I understand people who cannot afford otherwise and do not have the skills to cook healthy meals buying cheap chickens, but if I posted a link or two for the rest of you, you might reconsider. Just something to think about.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    I raise my own chickens, layers and broilers, and I do my own processing. Doing the math, my eggs and meat cost more than typical store bought but less than "organic" and "free-range" store bought. It's a compromise price-wise but not humane-nutrition-organic-quality-taste-wise and unfortunately not an option for many people.

                                    "Organic" and "free-range" are slippery words. A producer can abide by the rules and regulations set out by the government for those words and still not be treating those animals humanely. It's a letter of the law vs spirit of the law situation. Better to look for the independently "certified organic/humane" label if you want to travel that road. Those regulations are far stricter and more heavily enforced than the previous two. Unfortunately that means a person will have to pay even more for poultry and meat because the certification alone is a hugely expensive and intensive process as are the future inspections and maintenance of those certifications. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's not, just pointing out why certified humane/organic meat and poultry is vastly more expensive and that simply organic or free-range labeled meat and poultry may not be the same as humane and not exactly what a person thinks they are buying.

                                    1. re: morwen

                                      You're absolutely right. I guess I'm just encouraging people to think a little more about what they're buying. I find the flavor and quality of non-factory chicken to be better so I just don't buy as much and have meals heavy on vegs, like the Asian chicken thighs last night.

                                    2. re: escondido123

                                      I can't afford to buy humanely. I wish I could. Advising people to buy free range or freshly killed doesn't alter the fact that it is inconvenient to find what you recommend, and it costs substantially more. I prefer to buy better produce, including locally grown when I can get it. I would love to decrease my reliance on animal flesh, in general. But I eat low carb - high protein as a health choice.

                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                        Sue...why not fish which is high protein but not red meat? Or maybe you do include it...salmon, sardines, kippers? Great Omega 3's without the red meat issues (IF they are issue for you, not saying they are for everyone!)

                                        1. re: Val

                                          Yes! I am adding fish into the mix. I find that good fish is also expensive, of course. But now I am experimenting with fish for breakfast. And I do fix fish for our main meal. But I really like to feed myself fish, and I do like canned fish. I have discovered yellowfin tuna in a can at Whole Foods. It is definitely more expensive than regular canned tuna, but it is so good.

                                          I've never eaten kippers. What brand is good, and how does one eat them?

                                          I love sardines, but have trouble deciding which brand to settle on. I eat sardines on a cracker with mustard. Love them.

                                          The main reason I am not buying as much beef is expense. But I've noticed that I'm not liking how beef tastes. We eat a lot of chicken, frankly.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            you can't go wrong with fatty fish..salmon--sardines--kippers. Canned salmon, well--very cheap if you get the pink kind WITH skin and bones for extra nutrition...that has the highest omega 3's per serving...all canned salmon is wild-caught...Super Target sells frozen wild-caught USA salmon for $10.00 per pound just in case you are interested...KIPPERS: seek out either Crown Prince Natural or King Oscar kippers. They are lightly smoked...great with mustard of any kind and fabulous on any whole-grain crackers!

                                            1. re: Val

                                              I'll try kippers! If it goes with Gulden's mustard, I am sure I'll like them. I have eaten Demings canned red salmon for decades. It is a bit salty, but it is good. And yes, I'm not afraid to eat the bones. Crown Prince produces the canned yellowfin tuna and the tongol tuna I like.

                                              I also like to treat myself to the frozen cooked shrimp I can scoop from the bin at the grocer. If Mr. Sueatmo is buying a treat for himself, then the shrimp is my treat. I've learned to make a very good low carb cocktail sauce, and those shrimp are an indulgence.

                                              My fave whitefish is orange roughy. But because roughy has been over fished, and because I see it so seldom, (because is has been over fished) I don't eat it any more. I've been experimenting with Swai, which is farmed, and making do wiith tilapia. Sometimes I like swai, and sometimes I don't. If I could afford it, I'd buy halibut every week. (If I could find it) But because of its high cost, I couldn't even say how to fix it. The price scares me off. But if I can get it on our NW visits, I happily eat it. I guess halibut is really my fave white fish.

                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                Great, sue! How about cod for a whitefish? So delicate and flakey...available pretty much everywhere *I think* and pretty decent price--I live in SWFL and halibut FORGET it as far as price, it's like $18.00 per pound and I agree, totally delish, but can't do it financially... I haven't checked cod on the sustainability status lately...need to do that...

                                                1. re: Val

                                                  Trader Joe's has very low prices on wild caught, high quality, Alaskan halibut and salmon, among other fish. They also have some reasonably priced NZ grass fed beef, occasionally.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    thank you, mcf for that information!....sadly, no TJ's here in SWFL (yet)...plus I love TJ's sardines which I tried in SF whilst visiting my son...in a tin with NO extra packaging...most are in a tin with some kind of extra wrapper...ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

                                                    1. re: Val

                                                      See if you can find Wild Planet sardines. They're the best I've had so far. I think that's the name... stores around here all carry them: http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Planet-Sar...

                                                      I've only had the olive oil ones, they were so firm and plump, so much nicer than standard supermarket ones. I want to try the lemon juice ones, next.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        I've wondered about the Wild Planet brand. Thanks for the rec.

                                                        I always forget to shop TJ. I should. There isn't much there that I can eat, so I don't think to visit. But I owe it to myself to look at the wild caught salmon and halibut.

                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                          I rarely buy anything there but the frozen fish (worth the trip alone) and their red label, roasted unsalted almonds, the best tasting almond I've ever had, and the NZ grass fed beef if it's there. Oh, and Garrett County bacon.

                                    3. At one of the major supermarkets in my neighborhood, the butchers will cut, debone and wrap whole chickens, for no charge. So, I wait until the organic birds are on sale for $4.99/lb, and then get a few for the freezer.

                                      1. There's also the benefit that cooking chicken with the skin on often tastes better.

                                        For economy, I'll buy a whole chicken from the traditional market. The price is good, the chicken is fantastic, and I know both that it's fresh and what colour it's feathers were.

                                        If I want "hacked chicken" (a la Chinese menu translations) I'll get them to do it for me - it takes them a minute with a cleaver. If I want it cut into legs/breasts etc I can do it myself. And I get a lot more out of it than buying pieces, as I can chop it up into parts and save the feet, head and innards for stock. As an added bonus, I can usually get a handful of chicken livers for free when I buy it.

                                        They also sell half chickens, boneless skin on breasts, wings, hind quarters, and your choice of gizzards, hearts, livers, and testicles, if you don't need a whole one.

                                        To save money at the grocery store, a better tactic is to go for chicken legs and thighs - much cheaper, and a lot less dry when you cook it. I particularly like chicken legs (bone in, skin on) simply baked.

                                        1. i try to cut costs anywhere i can...
                                          some store brands are just as good..(u have to try and find the ones u like)
                                          i cut coupons..scan for sales..buy some foods at sams in bulk..
                                          i try and maximize my dollar ..
                                          buy a whole melon and cut it myself..
                                          buy the chicken and cut it down ..
                                          altho i will sometimes buy a convenience food -like a bagged salad-- if im in hurry..

                                          another way is other sundries
                                          cleaning supplies i buy in bulk ...
                                          like a gallon of ammonia is usually a 1-1.50 mix with some water u have glass cleaner..
                                          i bought a big pack of spray bottles at sams..
                                          most cleaning sprays can be bought in gallon sizes u just make what u need..
                                          paper towels and the like ...
                                          things like that...

                                          1. We buy whole chickens. We have done a little calculation on our own, and by no means it's accurate. I remember that chicken was particularly fatty, maybe it was a lazy one. A more active chicken may have heavier bones, more meat, and less fat.

                                            The 5lb organic chicken was $13.72.
                                            The two breast came to about 1.4lb, at $5.99/lb for boneless skinless breast, it'll be around $8.30
                                            Two wings came to about 0.42lb, at $3.19/lb, that's $1.37
                                            Almost $10 right there, and we haven't counted the legs and thighs yet.
                                            The whole legs weighed 1.3lb, so that's about 2lbs of bones + fat and yuckiness.

                                            A carton (1qt, about 1L) of organic chicken stock is usually $3 when it's on sale, $4.xx otherwise.
                                            I can make about 2 to 3L of chicken stock from 2 chicken carcasses, depending on the size.

                                            The leftover meat from stock goes to my dog. I save money on dog treat. His treats are way more expensive than mine at the store!!

                                            Deveined shrimps are usually like $10-$12/lb here. I managed to get some unpeeled shrimps some time ago for $5/lb. You do have to do the work to devein and peel them, but they suffer from less freezer burn, and cheaper too.

                                            BTW, save up all your veggie scraps. You know those unwanted parsley stalks, old carrots, fronds of fennel... and make a bouillon out of it.

                                            1. We ate a store-bought ciabbata in one meal ($3.99), and for the entree leftovers, I planned to go buy another one. Common sense clicked in, and I made my onion sun-dried tomato foccaccia, which fed us for 2 nights, for probably less than $1.50.

                                              1. Consumer Reports this month has rated most dish detergents equal in cleaning effectiveness. From a cost standpoint Ajax liquid dish detergent and Costco's Kirkland liquid dish soap come in on top at 6 cents per oz. each. It is interesting that they all seem to do about the same job. Here is the Bottom line quote:

                                                "All were very good, so buy by price. Skip antibacterial cleaners. The government says they don't clean an better, and they might lead to tougher bacteria."

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                  I bought the Costco dishwasher gel and cursed my new Kitchenaid dishwasher for not getting anything clean, and leaving a heavy while film on all my glasses. So I went back to Cascade gel and my dishwasher is doing a great job again. Most Kirkland stuff is good, but that dishwasher gel is evil. I have a few containers left, and they'll be in our yard sale.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    No, CR recommended dish liquid, dish soap or dish detergent--however you say it. I should not have used the phrase dish detergent. They did not deal with dishwasher detergent.

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      That's very different. Just don't ever use their dw gel. It was so nice to get Cascade and have clean, shiny everything again after one wash.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        We use old fashioned Cascade. The clean up crew prefers this.

                                                2. I am also of the "whole chicken camp"
                                                  I cook a whole chicken about every ten days, and I usually buy them for $.79-$.99 a lb. I'll either roast it or crockpot it and then break it down to eat the day of and then to make chicken salad, casseroles and/or adobo. I can generally eat 3 different dishes from one chicken (sometimes yielding 4-6 meals) which isn't bad for about $3 plus spices. I ALWAYS make stock from the bones and leftover skin, then make a huge batch of risotto with the stock which gets me another 3-4 meals.
                                                  I *always* shred my own cheese. Trader joes frequently has great cheddars, asiago and swisses for $4.99 or $5.99 a lb. $2.50 worth of those cheese is a LOT of shredded cheese. I use these cheeses to make various forms of baked mac n cheese which are awesome leftovers for less than three boxes of kraft.
                                                  I make veggie soup (again in the crock) from the REALLY cheap veggies at my corner market- usually, these wouldn't make it 24 hours without being slimy but they're perfect for soup if I cook them right away. Recently I got three large zucchinis for $1.50. Not a bad deal.
                                                  I also ask my local store if they have any "really ripe" bananas in the back which they usually do- I buy these at half-price and make baked goods with them which I bring to my friends while they're working waiting tables or tending bars...this almost always repays itself 10fold in food and drink buybacks ;)
                                                  I've also noticed that sometimes buying premade *is* costsaving. Periodically stores near me will have premade spaghetti sauce on sale for less than a dollar a jar. Sprucing these up is usually cheaper at that cost than making it from scratch, especially if its a resealable jar and you don't need that much.
                                                  I freeze bread that I think is about to become a science experiment and then thaw and toast it to make breadcrumbs when I need them (see baked mac n cheese above!)
                                                  I shop the dollar store for treats. Yeah, I said it. The dollar store. Most recent find- namebrand ChexMix "MuddyBuddy" mix which tastes EXACTLY like the homemade treat for $1 a bag (and not scheduled to expire till august ha) Yeah, I know it's not healthy or home-made, but I'm totally willing to splurge for $1. Especially when I cook virtually EVERYTHING else from scratch.

                                                  1. As far as chicken goes, if you look at the packaging of most boneless/skinless chicken, it says that they may contain up to 15% solution. This bulks up the breasts and makes them weigh more, then when you cook them you can see the solution cook out and the breasts shrink. Cooking beef, pork, chicken, etc with all of the skin/bones/fat intact allows the meat to be better lubricated while cooking, then you can cut the fat off.
                                                    If possible, buy directly from a farmer. A friend and I bought a side of beef directly from a farmer and we split it. The total cost was $600, which seems like a lot of money up front but considering we won't be buying beef again this year, the quality of the beef is higher than the beef in the supermarket, and if you take the total weight and compare it to total cost, we paid roughly $2 per pound.
                                                    I buy my vegetables fresh at a dutch market every week, the cost is lower than a supermarket, and the quality is much higher. I also buy cheese, eggs, and spices there too. I usually don't spend more than $30 per week there.
                                                    I save the cash and prep myself, partly because I'm cheap (but I do demand quality, which is why I don't buy any meat at a supermarket), and mostly because I enjoy being in the kitchen.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Considering price one option is better.
                                                      Depending on what I'm using the chicken for.
                                                      Personally I much prefer bone in skin on chicken.
                                                      Our kids all buy bl/sl breasts.
                                                      Not me though unless I'm making a rather large batch of Melinda Lee's poached breasts.
                                                      Which are then flash frozen for later meals when needed.