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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Afford Healthy Food

I am contributing to the Real Food Wednesdays Blog Carnival, hosted by Cheeseslave and Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

The theme this week is Real Food on a Budget.  You can go here to see all the other great tips.

My biggest way to save money on groceries, allowing me to spend more on real healthy food, is to only buy whole chickens, never parts, and cut them up.

The instructions below were part of my Money Matters article.  You can check it out to see lots more tips for saving money.

How to Cut a Chicken





Rinse the chicken and lay on cutting board.  I like to put some paper towels down to soak up juices.  Make sure your knife is sharp.  I like to start with the breast, so I have it breast up.  It’s easiest for me to have the legs facing away from me.




First cut in the middle of the breast.  You will encounter the breastbone (sternum); you will need to cut along side this bone.


Keep cutting down along side the breastbone and the rib bones.  I pull the knife toward me in long slicing motions; I don’t use sawing motions here.


You will not be cutting through any bone, if you encounter a bone, just cut around it.  There is a small ligament to separate the breast meat.  Then the breast meat just pulls easily away from the skin. 



Next I turn the chicken 90° so that the legs are to my right (I’m right-handed). Do the same on this side as the last, cutting on the other side of the breast bone and down along side the ribs.


Next, I grab the chicken by the wing and hold the wing up.



In this picture you will see that I am cutting the wing off of the chicken.  I cut with my knife (this time in sawing motions) under the wing pit, looking for the joint.  You won’t have to cut through bone; you should find the joint and cut right between the two bones.



Now that the wing is off, I lay it on the cutting board and cut off the tip at the joint.  Again, you won’t be cutting through bone, just between joints.  I save the tips for broth.



Now I have the remainder of the wing, I will hold it in my hand and pull the knife up between the joints.



Now you have two parts of the wings, the little drumstick and the other piece.



Next I flip the chicken over, breast side down.



Grab hold of the leg and bend it backwards to pop the joint out.



Now cut the leg off at the thigh along side the body.  You won’t cut through bone, you will see the thigh joint and just cut between the joint.



Now you have the leg and thigh piece.  Sometimes there is excess skin to cut off.  I leave the leg/thigh pieces together.  If you want your drumsticks separate from the thighs you can easily cut them apart at the joint.  Most recommend looking for the line of fat that runs under the skin between the leg and thigh, but that is never a guarantee for me.  Instead, I press with my thumb to feel the indentation of the joint, and then cut at that point.



Now I am left with the carcass, I will put this in a freezer bag along with the wing tips to save for chicken broth.  I freeze the breasts in separate bags, freeze the wings together in a bag, freeze the leg/thigh pieces together in a bag. Then we can pull out the breasts for such meals that call for boneless, skinless breasts, we can have a wing meal (like hot wings or teriyaki wings) when we have a couple of bags saved up, and we roast up the leg/thigh pieces in the oven or put them on the grill.  If I do a soup I will pull out some carcasses and cook up some broth and then just cook a whole chicken for the meat of the soup.

Also, I make my own chicken broth.  It is SO much better for you than store-bought and it will save you tons of money!!  I cannot remember the last time I had to buy store-bought broth.


  1. Hey, I never knew this! I've always just cooked my whole chickens before cutting, then get the meat off afterward. It's nice knowing I can get my own cuts off a whole chicken now. Thanks for sharing! I


  2. It is handy to know. I can take the breasts and make stir fry or lunch meat for my husband. We roast the legs and thighs or use in soups. And I use 2 carcasses (plus wing tips) for a batch of broth. Really makes the dollar stretch. I'll post my recipe soon for the roasted chicken legs.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! Very helpful! I've been crock-potting a chicken every week then picking it to use across a couple of recipes but I may try cutting to make getting the meat a bit less messy ;)

  4. Great instructions! One of the only kitchen "lessons" I ever got from my mother was how to cut up a whole chicken :) She taught me to take the wings and the legs off first and I find this helps me cut the breast meat out more easily.
    I like to bake the wings and drumsticks with either seasoned salt and tarragon or apricot preserves and mustard. Yum!

  5. Kristen,
    Yes, I find that pre-cooked chicken in recipes has a tendency to fall apart, especially white meat. With my method of cutting up the chicken first, you have more flexibility, cubing the breast meat, for example, for a stir-fry.

    That's interesting about the order you cut your chicken. I have tried cutting off the wings and legs first, but then I don't seem to have a proper handle on the breast, so it doesn't go off so well. It seems to work better for me to do the breast first and then wings and then legs. :)

  6. I've gone thru culinary courses and "learned" this several times, but since I rarely do it, I always feel lost when it actually comes time to do it - THANK YOU for the step-by-step snaps & how to's! AWESOME!

  7. Shannon,
    Thanks! I'm wondering what your target price is for whole chickens? Thanks. And I agree about the broth. The only time I purchase some in the last 6 months was when I found it for $0.25 a can.

  8. Tammy,

    I don't really have a target price. I don't afford free-range right now. I am just at the mercy of the going rates. I have been paying .98/lb at Walmart for quite a few months. I buy the smaller chickens, not the big roasters, so they average about $5.00 per bird.

    I check the weekly sales ads for other stores, but I have never seen anyone beat Walmart's price.

  9. This is unbelievably useful!! Thank you so much for posting. I have always bought whole chickens, but I've been intimidated by cutting them up. So, I cook them whole in a giant stock pot and pull the meat off when done. Yes, it's great for creating broths and shredded chicken, but it's not very handy when you have a recipe that specifically calls for chicken breasts or thighs. I feel empowered!