Making a meal of it….. how to make the most out of a roast chicken

Sunday roast is a “thing” – it always has been in our household and I just love the comfort of the meal, especially on a cold winter afternoon. With all of the discussions about meal planning and cutting costs of a food shop taking over the headlines recently I thought I’d share the kinds of things I do to really make the most of a humble chicken. Admittedly it’s just Arlo and I with a small chicken so for a larger family it won’t quite go so far without additional ingredients – bear that in mind when planning your meals. I previously worked with Jacks supermarket – getting a weeks worth of essentials for £30 – read all about that here

The main event – A roast dinner

It starts on Sunday with a roast dinner, I cook the chicken simply, seasoned with salt and pepper and then stuffed with a lemon. This isn’t to everyone’s taste but you can swap this for anything which tickles your fancy. Served with roast potatoes and seasonal veg – I try to take advantage of seasonal offers on veg and mix things up every week.

This week we opted for tenderstem broccoli and frozen peas and I chucked in a few carrots and an onion with the potatoes. At this point it’s probably useful to add that my leftover plans work with any kind of meat, these rules don’t just apply to chicken so I’ll add in some alternatives along the way. We are fans of the dark meat, Arlo will have a leg with his roast whilst I prefer the wings so that really helps with options for the breast meat on Mondays.

A healthy lunch for Monday

First things first…. there’s nothing better than a humble wrap or sandwich for a quick lunch idea. This is one of my favourites, I tend to chuck in a bit of salad and some of the breast meat along with dressing. As I was working with Jacks on their budget shop challenge I had bought red peppers from their “fresh five” – the red onion I used was also left over from the roast dinner. I tend to pile all the leftovers on to a plate and pop them in the fridge and nothing goes to waste. You can do the same with roast lamb and beef – adding complimentary dressings to suit your taste for sandwiches and wraps. It’s at this point in time I strip the chicken carcass and separate some of the breast and dark meat away for our Monday evening meal.

Second chance saloon – Leftover chicken pesto pasta

There’s always lots of different options to use up the leftover meat. This week I had fun with all of the ingredients pictured, (red onion, pepper, courgette, tomato and garlic) sautéed it all off in a pan with a little oil and then added this mixture to pasta and pesto.

The Monday meal is the perfect chance to use up whatever you have in the cupboards – so other options we often have include fajitas, curry and even a Moroccan style tagine – If I have a lot of veg from Sunday left over I will pop the whole lot in to a pie dish (including the leftover gravy) and cover it with a sheet of pastry… or mashed potatoes. The more veg you pack in the less meat is required but this isn’t a meal which feels like it’s short of anything.

They think it’s all over – Using a chicken carcass to make a stock.

Don’t Chuck away the scraps!!! – If you aren’t a fan of the dark meat or fatty bits keep them to one side. Once you’ve stripped the carcass of the meat you want to eat in your Monday evening meal there’s still potential and this is literally the easiest thing to do. Set aside the “nice” meat you can eat and bung everything else from the chicken (the entire carcass) in to the bottom of your biggest saucepan with some oil and add fresh garlic and a finely sliced onion. Leeks too if you have them. Fry it all off and add some seasoning. This is the basis of your stock for an awesome soup. This pan might look a bit gross but trust me this sticky residue is where all the flavour is.

This is a job for a Monday afternoon and I like to come back to this for a meal on Tuesday. Once all these bits and bobs are golden brown add in some water – just a small amount to cover the carcass and this gets all the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Leave this to simmer for a short time and the last bits of meat simply fall off the carcass. I carefully pick out the bones at this stage – you can strain through a sieve or cloth if you need to. This is now your made from scratch stock and from here you can make any flavour soup you like.l Add in any left over gravy plus your veg of choice and top up the pan with water.

How much water depends on the amount of veg you have. If I’m pinched for time I’ll use a bag of pre prepped casserole mix, if I have any random carrots in the salad drawer of the fridge then this is where I’ll use them – It’s at this stage if you have any shredded chicken meat left you can add it back in to the pan. I bring this lot to the boil over a high heat and then add the lid on and leave it all to simmer down.

You can thicken your broth by adding cornflour and maybe add dumplings so it becomes a stew – this is an essential if I’m doing this with leftover beef. If the meat situation is rather thin then you can add a handful of “soup mix” – which is a combination of pulses such as lentils and barley for added protein to bulk out the meal – check out the instructions on packs as some of these need to be soaked before hand.

I have one more little tip here – if you’re a fan of fresh bread and find you often have half a random baguette which is going a bit hard then makes yourself some giant croutons – slice it all up, drizzle with olive oil and toast it in the oven with garlic and Rosemary whilst you’ve got the soup warming up….. maybe even top with some grated cheese. These make the perfect accompaniment to a home made soup…. which is essentially made from scraps otherwise destined for the bin.

So there we have it – my favourite soup made from leftover chicken – this weeks versions was whizzed up with a stick blender and swirled with cream – we used two portions for dinner, I’ve set aside two portions to freeze and there’s one more left for my lunch tomorrow. So all in all I’ve managed to stretch one roast chicken out for four days worth of meals.

Results – 14 meal portions from one chicken

I love my food so I’m confident enough to say that I didn’t scrimp at all on the portion sizes and I think all of the meals are fairly well balanced and nutritious too 14 portions of food isn’t too bad for a humble chicken.

  • Sunday roast x3 portions
  • Monday lunch wraps x2 portions
  • Monday evening meal – pesto pasta x3 portions
  • Tuesday lunch – pasta salad x2 portions
  • Tuesday evening meal – soup x2 portions
  • Wednesday lunch – soup x2 portions

I quite enjoyed preparing the blog for this challenge, I’d love to work on more challenges like this so let me know if you’d like any tips or advice about family and budget friendly meal planning.

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