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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Last week I bought beef, this week I bought chicken

. . . lots and lots of chicken.

I found a 40-lb case of chicken hindquarters on sale for $19.99, or just under 50 cents per pound. Again, I worked the pros and cons back and forth over this.

I realized that even I have a hard time with these large stock-up purchases -- a hard time, mentally. If I buy just a regular, weekly amount of any one thing, then I know that my risk is small. If we don't like it, or it takes up a lot of space in the freezer, or if I come across a better price, then my smaller purchase has limited effect.

But with a much larger purchase, it stays in the freezer for a much longer time, taking up space. If we don't like it, we still have to eat it, for months on end. And if I find a much better price later on, then I have locked myself out from those savings, by making such a large purchase, now.

And with the chicken hindquarters, there was the issue of how to deal with such a large package? Will I be able to break the quarters apart to cook them individually?

So, you see, these major stock-up purchases are not comfortable for me, either.

The tipping point which enabled my purchase was all of the conversation about potential rising poultry prices. If both chicken and turkey prices go up in this coming year, then this purchase will tide us over until next spring. And even if these price increases are not as bad as some anticipate, then I have still made a purchase with a more favorable price than even what I see for whole chickens.

In the case that I bought, the chicken was packaged in 4 10-lb bags. Not super convenient, like IQF (individually quick frozen), but these are manageable, enough. The frozen-solid quarters can be broken into chunks of about 3 large pieces in each of the 10-lbs bags, with the help of a mallet. I figure that thawing and cooking the chicken in this amount will be the equivalent of cooking up a small whole chicken, and will yield about 3 family meals per large chunk.

The other night, I cooked up 3 hindquarter pieces. We had teriyaki chicken the first night, chicken in marinara sauce the second night, and we'll have chicken soup for tonight's dinner.

I know that occasionally supermarkets put these 10-lb bags on sale for a good price. The obstacle for most folks is that the chicken is frozen solid in one large chunk, not exactly user-friendly for family dinners. The way around this, though, is if the frozen mass cannot be broken into smaller portions, the whole thing can be thawed, cooked up, then refrozen in individual pieces, to use the meat later. When you think about it, it's not much different than cooking up 2 whole chickens, or 1 large turkey at a time, then freezing the meat for later use.

Thawing a 10-lb bag of chicken parts takes about 2-4 days in a refrigerator. Once thawed, it can be safely held for 1 or 2 days more. (This means that you could cook up half of a 10-lb bag on day 1 after thawing, and the other half on day 2 after thawing, making the cooking a little more manageable.) And according to the USDA, thawed meat can even be refrozen, though there may be loss of quality. But this is only the case if you thaw the chicken in the refrigerator. If you thaw it in the microwave or in cold water, then it does need to be cooked immediately. Read that page in the link above, for complete information on safe thawing and cooking of frozen meats.

Currently, hindquarters are the least expensive option for chicken. The next best price on chicken that I have seen this spring is as whole chickens, at 88 cents per pound. I saved nearly 40 cents per pound on this 40-lb purchase, over buying the same amount in whole chickens. That's a grand total savings of $16.00. I can use that $16.00 to buy a lot of groceries for our family. AND, I have a hedge against potential rising poultry costs, including turkeys this next fall. Should turkey prices go way up, I may only buy 1 or 2, instead of 4 whole turkeys. I may still have chicken hindquarters in the freezer at that time, as well as a ham and possibly my last turkey from this past year.

Food inflation may be escalating on some items, but there are still some avenues to get around these high prices.

Now, I need your help, here. 40 pounds is a lot of chicken legs and thighs, which I prefer if the flavor is more disguised. I have a well-stocked spice cupboard, and a lot of basic ingredients to work with. What are your favorite, flavorful dishes that use dark-meat chicken? Do you have certain spices or herbs that you like with chicken? How about ethnic chicken recipes? Any that stand out as favorites in your house?

TIA, and I'm eager to hear how you like to prepare chicken legs and thighs!


  1. That's an incredible price. I don't see how you could not buy them. My family loves the darker chicken meat, so we wouldn't need to disguise the taste here. With summer coming, the obvious thing to do with some of the meat is to grill it. When I'm pressed for time, I zap it a little to start the cooking, and finish it on the grill. Sometimes we marinate it and sometimes we used a little BBQ sauce and sometimes we add nothing. The smoke gives it enough flavor.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Grilling sounds really tasty, and legs/thighs do well on the grill, with the high fat content. And, I do have 2 bottles of BBQ sauce in the pantry. Thanks for the suggestion! I see a barbeque in our very-near future.

  2. We love a sweet potato/chicken curry made in the crockpot. I was trying to remember where I found the original recipe but am not sure, so will just put it here generally as best as I remember (I cook it from memory these days).

    Sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked (for 7 of us, with enough left for some lunch servings, I usually use about 3 lbs, purchased if possible when I can get them on sale for .69 for the 3 lb bag at Aldi, usually after the holidays)

    Carrots, about a pound, prepped however you do it and cut into chunks (I don't usually peel after washing)

    Chicken, about 2 lbs, though I'm sure you could use less to stretch it--original recipe called for thighs though I've subbed whatever I had

    *the original recipe called for one can of coconut milk, which is not the cheapest of ingredients--I now sub a small handful of dried unsweetened coconut blended in the blender with a couple of cups of water

    1 TBSP curry powder (or more to taste

    salt and pepper to taste

    Blend the coconut milk or homemade mixture with the curry powder (I usually whisk them together in the crockpot), then mix in veggies and chicken, "tossing" to make sure everything gets coated in the coconut milk mixture. Cook for several hours on low, or until done.

    1. Almost forgot, I usually add an onion, cut into small strips.

    2. Hi Cat,
      oh that does sound yummy! And a fairly simple list of ingredients, too.

      I'll have to see what I could sub for coconut milk, or check out our Asian markets for a better price on coconut milk. I have a friend from Indonesia -- I'll ask her for where she buys coconut milk. She uses coconut milk in a few of her recipes.

      Thank you for the recipe! I'll surely give this a try, as I do love curry!

    3. Canned coconut milk has steadily gone down in price these past few years. We can usually find coconut milk in cans for 99 cents on sale.


    4. Thanks, YHF. I'll be looking for it.

    5. Lili--

      I don't have a super-cheap resource for coconut milk. I get mine cheaper than the supermarket at Vitacost (and delivered free, which is another savings for US over driving to a market, anyway).

      What I really wanted to mention, though, is that I don't think that anything truly substitutes for coconut milk. The combination of flavor, consistency and fat really is unique. We use it for a few favorite recipes here, and really love it in those dishes!


    6. Thanks, Sara. I am going to ask my friend from Indonesia where she shops, as I know she is on a tight budget, too.

    7. Cat, I was reading some substitution lists for coconut milk and what you use is actually one of the preferred substitutions-- has the closest taste and mouth-feel to coconut milk.

      I think this would work very well for me, too, as I can buy the unsweetened flakes in the bulk section of the local supermarket, and only buy exactly what I need. I'll let you know how the recipe turns out, when I try it (gotta wait for sweet potato season, here).

  3. I cooked chicken a lot when the kids were young, especially buying frozen chicken thighs in 5# boxes.

    This is a very simple marinade taken from our local Midweek Tyson chicken ad about 20 years ago:

    1 can guava juice concentrate
    1/2 c. oyster sauce
    1/2 c. shoyu
    1/2 c. sugar
    1/2 t. Chinese five spice

    Marinate the boneless, skinless thighs in that overnight and grill them over charcoal.

    I would cut the hindquarters into smaller pieces (drumstick, thighs), and remove skin. I think boned chicken pieces should be fine. I used this recipe countless times, it is a no fail.

    Chicken or Pork Adobo (Hawaiian Electric, "Favorite Island Recipes")

    3 lb. chicken thighs or pork butt (cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces)
    1/2 c. vinegar
    1/4 c. soy sauce
    3 cloves garlic
    1/4 t. salt
    1/4 t. peppercorns, crushed
    1 bay leaf, crushed

    Combine all ingredients, Let stand 1-3 hours (in refrig). Bring to boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes (45 minutes for pork). Remove cover and simmer 15 more minutes or until liquid evaporates and chicken or pork is lightly browned.

    The adobo is wonderful served on rice!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      both of those recipes sound very flavorful -- thank you!

      The Adobo recipe I know I have everything to make it. With the first recipe, do you think guava nectar could be subbed for guava juice concentrate? I recently save guava nectar at a good price (now I just have to remember where.)

    2. The guava juice concentrate is sold frozen, usually we add 3 cans of water to the concentrate when we drink it as a juice. Guava nectar is in juice form to use as a concentrate would require vaporizing the water out...not sure how to do that.

      This recipe tastes like the famous local "huli huli" (turned over) chicken although the recipe book calls it Barbeque Chicken.
      (Franciscan Sisters of Hawaii Centennial Cookbook)

      2 dryers, cut up, about 3 lbs


      1 c soy sauce
      2/3 c white vinegar
      1/2 c chopped onions
      1 t chopped garlic
      Dash of salt and pepper

      Marinas chicken 4-5 hours (or longer). Best grilled over charcoal, or bake 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

      We took our chicken in this marinade to camp. Next day, it was just right.


    3. Sorry lots of spelling fire

    4. Thank you, YHF,
      The huli huli chicken sounds delicious too!

    5. YHF,
      When I visited Maui I wanted to try the Huli Huli chicken. ( From the white Catholic church with the green trim on Kihei Drive?) I don't think they were cooking it the time we were there. Thank-you for the recipe. Now to track down the guava juice (concentrate)

    6. Teresa,...often the grilled chickens are sold as church fundraiser. The original Huli Huli chicken I remember long ago is not teriyaki sweet (googled some recipes), but more like tart brine. The guava juice concentrate is sold in the frozen juice section. I think it is the scent of guava that gives this BBQ a fragrant sweet taste.


  4. I don't have a specific recipe - I just go by taste. Shred the cooked meat, add ginger, orange zest and juice, soy sauce and garlic. Sometimes I'll add a little chicken base or bouillon and some red or green bell peppers. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped scallions or chives.

    Love your blog!


    1. Hi Phyllis,
      Oh yum! I am getting so many good ideas, today! I love the sound of some orange in your recipe!

  5. Good morning, Lili--

    Our son buys big packages of chicken thighs (not as big as yours, because he doesn't have the freezer space), and he is only cooking for one. 16 thighs takes a lot of meals even for a big eater, but he loves how much cheaper it is! (And we're with Live and Learn -- we like dark meat better, especially if you bone it out and use it for stir-fry.)

    His favorite ways to cook them are all roasted with a "rub" (or "sprinkle", but dry spice/herb blends). He does Cajun/Creole seasoning a lot. He also really loves an old Frugal Gourmet recipe that has you drizzle the chicken with oil and lemon juice and then cover liberally with lemon pepper. He also does it with a paprika-based seasoning mix recipe I use a lot.

    There's a chicken we've made that's Thai, maybe. It's called kai yan chicken. It makes delicious thighs. You just marinate the chicken in a lot of lemon juice, pressed garlic, chopped cilantro, cracked pepper, and a little oil and salt; and then bake it in the marinade. Very flavorful.

    Dark meat chicken is also very good for white chilis and things like cock-a-leekie soup. You can throw them in whole, and then bone and skin them out when they're cooked through. Gives you good broth in the dish from the bones and skin during cooking, but not hard to remove those if you catch them before the pieces totally fall apart.

    Dark meat is also actually nicest for boning out raw for stir-frying. It gives you the moistest, most flavorful dish (according to my Chinese MIL and our own experiences.)

    Thanks for the tips on thawing. Thawing is the bane of my existence! Seems like no matter how I do it, it's always either thawed way before or way after I wanted to cook it! LOL

    Have a good day! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I have several of the old Frugal Gourmet cookbooks. I'll look for the lemon/lemon pepper recipe.

      I love all of your ideas. And the Kai Yan chicken sounds very delicious. Some cilantro reseeded itself in a pot on my deck, and I just found the tiny plants today -- perfect timing!

      Thawing poultry never works as planned, for me. Especially Thanksgiving turkeys. The cookbooks all say to thaw for 3 to 4 days, but they're still frozen solid in my fridge on Day 4. It is hard to get the timing just right.

      Have a great day, yourself, Sara!

    2. Lili--
      I'm pretty sure it's the original self-titled Frugal Gourmet cookbook that has the lemon-pepper chicken, and I think he might have done it with lime juice. We got in the habit of doing it with lemon juice because we're more likely to have lemons on hand (useful for a wider variety of dishes and usually cheaper, too), and the flavor with the lemon juice is also delicious.

      Lucky you to have "volunteer" cilantro! :)

      Don't get me started on turkey thawing. I have PTSD about it. Turkey's our family's favorite meal, and we do it often... but darn that thawing! LOL Sara

  6. I also prefer dark meat chicken, as I find it to be more moist. You sure got a great price!

    Here are a couple of easy chicken recipes that I use--

    crockpot chicken--6 skinless thighs in a crockpot, pour over a mixture of 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup honey (you could probably reduce the amounts and sub in some chicken broth) on low for 4-6 hours. Add sesame seeds if wanted.

    Tangy mustard basil chicken--I use this for chicken breasts (it works wonders to make them moist) but it works for dark meat as well--
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
    1/4 cup honey
    3 TBSP dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp dry basil
    1/8 tsp pepper
    3 whole skinless chick breasts

    combine first 6 ingredients in a 2-quart baking dish. Mix well. Place chicken in marinade, coating both sides. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refirgerate several hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally. Preheat oven to 375*. Bake 45-60 minutes.

    Enjoying everyone's recipes! I'm also a fan of baking chicken with a sprinkle of pepper on it--very simple, makes great leftovers for chicken BBQ sandwiches or quesadillas. Sometimes simple is all I have time or energy for. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Oh, yum. Basil and mustard sounds delicious and I don't think I would have thought to pair those two together. The chicken must come out very tender, as well as moist, with the buttermilk and yogurt in the marinade. Do you bake this chicken in the marinade?

      The recipe for soy sauce/honey sounds so simple.

      Thanks for the recipes, Kris.

    2. The basil chicken recipe is one of my favorites. You can play with the buttermilk/yogurt combo--you don't have to add both--either/or will give you the tangy taste and it really does make chicken breasts tender, which can be tricky, for me at least. The recipe doesn't call for baking it in the marinade but I typically do.

      The soy sauce/honey recipe gives the chicken a mildly sweet Asian flavor that I like, and I especially like how quick an easy it is.

      Enjoy your chicken.

    3. Kris, that's good to know about using one or the other. I always have yogurt (and can eat a little bit of it myself), but not buttermilk.

  7. Hi Lili,
    This may seem strange but you could cook the chicken & debone it & tear it up small then put it in with pasta & spaghetti sauce. That would disguise it some & be like spaghetti with chicken. We like the dark meat here but I do that on occasion for something different.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      No, doesn't sound strange at all!
      Last night's dinner was something similar. I pulled meat off the bones from baking the night before, then simmered in canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, tomato paste and water, and served over pasta for most of the family, and over veggies for me. It was very good.

      And I can see how chopped into small pieces and added to spaghetti sauce, it could also be added to rice.

      Thank you for your suggestion. I do like tomato sauce with dark meat chicken or turkey.

  8. Hi Lili,
    Sounds like a great buy. I'm like others in that I prefer the dark meat of legs and thighs. I've made several of the thigh recipes from the website Budget Bytes. (I find that I can usually make her recipes cheaper with some substitutions when I do my calculations;) Many of her sauces are quite flavorful and the recipes have been good. They can be stretched with noodles or rice and the sauces. Perhaps this will give you some ideas of ways to use your large purchase! Enjoy! DSW

    1. Hi DSW,
      Thanks so much for that link. I'll check out their recipes. I have a felling we're going to be eating some very tasty chicken dinners!

  9. You just wouldn't believe what I accidentally ran into today! My local store had 10 lb bags of chicken quarter for 29 cents per pound! $2.90 a bag! I got 60 pounds for the freezer. 40 lbs for us and 20 lbs for my parents. They were not frozen solid so we were able to separate them. I cooked chicken for dinner and it was delicious!


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm so excited for you! What a buy! now your freezer is all stocked, and at a fraction of what future chicken prices might end up!
      So happy for you!


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