Whole Chicken in a Crockpot – Have I uncovered a frugal myth?

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I shared a confession on the Frugal Find Facebook wall, it read…

I have a confession to make – as frugal as I am, I’ve never cooked a whole chicken before. I hate the though of touching raw chicken AT ALL and so I’ve always shopped around and found good prices on boneless/skinless chicken. No more though! I’ve purchased my first whole chicken and into the crockpot he’s going today. Felt good to get that off my chest :)

The responses to that wall post were wonderfully encouraging and so I pushed ahead and began (with gloved hands) to pull out the inners of the chicken, rinse him clean, stick him in the crockpot and sprinkle him with my favorite Pampered Chef Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix.  I also added 1/2 cup of water and 4 whole garlic cloves.  For 6 long hours he cooked and simmered, the house smelled so very delicious!  At one point I heard my 4 year old from upstairs say “Brother, do you smell that? Something smells really good!”

When it was time to pull him out, I set him on a cutting board to cool off so I could easily pull the meat off the bones without scorching myself.  I had cooked my chicken well because he was falling off the bones, the process was simple and my tray was quickly filling up with tender meat.  The possibilities were running through my mind of all the freezer meals I could make with this meat.  I put the rest of the skin and bones back into the crockpot with another 1.5 cups of water to simmer on low for a couple of hours.  My plan is to make chicken stock.

I began to divide the chicken up among freezer bags, 2 cups per bag.  I was able to get 5 1/2 cups of meat and that felt pretty decent.  That would make 2-3 casserole or enchilada meals, maybe even a salad or two.  Then I got the idea to weigh my meat and what I found was shocking.  I must be missing something crucial here.

I paid $0.98/lb for the whole chicken at Walmart, from what I know this is a decent price.  It was almost a 5lb chicken so I paid just under $5.00.  But guess what?  That 5lb chicken only netted me 1.78lbs of meat – the rest was just skin and bones!  So in the end I paid $2.78 per pound – OUCH!  Did I do something wrong?  How could this be a more “frugal” way to go about cooking and eating chicken?

I’ve often been able to get boneless/skinless chicken breast for $1.50 – $1.99 per pound.  Of course when it’s $1.50/lb I stock up!  So tell me what am I missing or have I uncovered a frugal myth here – is it possible whole chickens are NOT cheaper than their boneless/skinless nemesis.

Of course the math-minded Mr. Frugal just pointed out the fact that 5lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breast would cook down as well – so maybe that’s the key.  I plan to test this soon and get back to you!  For now, we have some very tasty meat to devour.

You can check out the final results here – Whole Chicken vs. Chicken Breast Experiment Results


Comments

  1. Robin Lawson via Facebook says

    It’s true! I did the same thing a couple years ago and decided it’s not worth all the mess and effort. I think the only draw is for people that like making homemade broth or like the presentation on a platter for company (?) Boneless/skinless breasts all the way!!

    • Pamela Duncan says

      It isn’t always better to use a whole chicken. Most whole chickens are actually fryers. Roasting chickens are meatier birds. That being said, whenever you buy bone in chicken you pay for the weight of the bones. They do add a great deal of flavor. To me the issue is :will I use the meat from the back, neck etc? If I will, then buying a whole bird makes sense. If not I just get the parts I like. I’m partial to thighs and can often get them for $99 cents a pound. Yes, they have bones and skin but I like them that way so there isn’t really wasted. I do buy boneless chicken also so thanks to the person who mentioned Fresh and Easy!!

  2. says

    When I cook whole chickens, I generally roast them, then I have the fat and drippings for flavoring later, and the bones can be boiled down to can stock. Using your chicken frugally can make it cheaper, but dumping all the ‘extra’ stuff can make it seem a wash.

    • says

      I made stock as well, I got about 32 oz out of it. So that’s more savings but I can still get stock pretty cheap with coupons and a sale. Of course it’s not fresh!

  3. Bunny Carey via Facebook says

    what I do is………when turkeys are on sale for 48 cents a pound I look for the biggest ones I can find. I buy 2 or 3 and cook one up as you did but end up with way more numerous meals with a lot less cost. Many times people can not tell if they are eating chicken or turkey.

  4. Whitney Flores via Facebook says

    Hmm, very interesting! I like whole chickens because they cook up so moist and delicious and its not just one cut of meat. And like you said, you can also get stock out of it or soup if you want to go that route. But for me, it is so rare that I find boneless, skinless chicken breast for less than $2.99/lb and then I usually have to spend a lot because you buy a few pounds at a time. So at the very least these save you from paying a lot at once.

    • Angie says

      I know Savemart (Modesto Ca) always has boneless skinless breast in the butcher department for 1.99lb. I havnt noticed it on sale, but that isnt a bad price. Also, they will marinade and or filet them at no charge. I buy about 3-4 lbs at a time, and have them filet them to about 4oz (serving sugestion) come home and use fold n close sandwich baggies to seperate them and then freeze them in ziplock or a food saver.

  5. says

    For me, it is a give and take situation. I will buy whole already cooked from sam’s club,if I have time to pick all the meat off, my family will eat all the meat this way, and then throw the carcass inthe pot. But I don.t always (almost never) have the time. The next couple of days, we have meat ready to use in whatever.

  6. Judy Tilley Cardiff via Facebook says

    They usually go on sale at safeway for .69-.74 cents a pound which is when I load up the freezer. I think the benefit of the whole chicken is the diversity. I can get a roast chicken dinner one night, two chicken pot pies, chicken soup for 8. I cook a whole chicken (not in the slow cooker) every week. So for $5 bucks I get at least 5 family meals with meat and nothing beats the depth of flavor from a good slow roasted chicken in my opinion. Then if you roast like I do over veggies and potatoes there’s another soup, filling for my crustless quiche…

  7. Jayme says

    I rarely purchase whole chicken, because it takes AT LEAST a whole chicken to feed my family, its easier to do boneless. But, when I do I never pay more than. 60¢ a pound it, and Ive seen it for.38¢ a pound, so at that price it would be worth it.

  8. Bunny Carey via Facebook says

    As far as a turkey being moist. I don’t cook it the conventional way. I usually cook mine frozen and with 2 or 3 cups of water in the roaster. I cover the roaster and cook it on low over night. It is always moist and you will have plenty of delicious broth.

  9. Amber in Maine says

    Yeah, I use boneless skinless mostly, as well for the time/less work v. price. I only buy whole if it’s under 70 cents/lb though I usually make more stock/chicken, though. I work full-time, though, and value my time, so it’s got to be quite a significant savings if it’s going to take my time. (BTW, I vote for oven-roasted whole chicken – it is too mushy in the crockpot to me.)

  10. Whitney Flores via Facebook says

    Good to know, Julia!!! I love Fresh & Easy, especially when they discount their stuff in the afternoon. They always have marked down meat & bread at awesome prices… I got salmon last week for $2!

  11. Amy says

    Next time you do it wrap some potatoes in foil and place the chicken on them. Then your chicken wont be sitting in the juices and you will have a side dish too.

  12. Heather says

    We always buy bone in chicken. The savings in homemade stock is amazing! AND it is a fact that the bone in while cooking keeps the chicken moist and flavorful. Boneless skinless is a rip off.

    • says

      That’s the question, I guess we’ll see after I cook the 5lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breasts I have. I’ll use the same crockpot method and weigh the final product on the scale as well. Should be interesting!

      • Carson says

        I agree with Heather. When you cook with bones, you get sooo many more nutrients that you don’t get with boneless. I do notice a difference in flavor in stock, as well. Boneless lacks something to me.

        • says

          I guess it depends on how you’d use the meat itself. We’ll use it in various freezer meals (with sauces and flavors added) so I don’t think I’d noticed the difference in the taste of the meat. I could be wrong though. Nutrients though, hmm…

  13. Jessica Lowrance says

    I’m interested to see what your cooked chicken breast weight is. Per pound they weigh more when they are raw because of the water content. A lot of companies add the water & salt combo to “plump” up their chickens and once it’s cooked you end up with meat that weighs a LOT less. I think that should be your next step. Buy the chicken breast and COOK it first, then weigh it. Just my thought… :)

  14. Bunny Carey via Facebook says

    using poultry in your recipes is endless. Pot pies, turkey and gravy over potatoes, hot turkey sandwhiches, salads, soup, turkey and dumplings, it is endless.

  15. Amanda Richards via Facebook says

    So here’s how to make it super-frugal (and better for you). Take the carcass, cook it with a bunch of water, onions, carrots, celery for a few hours. Strain, then either can or freeze the stock. SO much better than store-bought and you know what is in it!

  16. says

    Wow! Thanks for breaking that down for us, Julia. I know from experience you don’t get a whole lot of stock out of one chicken’s bones either. The rotisserie chickens at Costco are very meaty, $4.99, and already cooked – would that have been a better buy?

    My stockpile price on pretty much any meat is anything under $1.99/lb is a good buy. Anything under $1.50/lb where I live is a steal.

    • says

      I got a whopping 32 oz of stock and that’s pushing it. Without a sale I can get 32 of stock for $1.99 and that’s all natural and organic at Whole Foods. It’s possible that you’d a bit more meat at Costco but I thought my chicken was pretty plump. It definitely seemed like a lot of meat, I was so excited. Then I had the idea to weight it, that’s when I started wondering if it was really a good buy or not.

  17. Bunny Carey via Facebook says

    same idea with a pot roast. I never buy stew meat. I buy a roast two or three times what I need for a meal. Divide it accordingly . Cut one piece into stew meat (much, much cheaper) and cook the rest as a pot roast and make my meals from that. Pot roast one night, in a couple of nights beef pot pies, etc.

  18. Amanda Richards via Facebook says

    If you buy in a grocery store, you can also ask your butcher to cut the meat up for you, most will do it for free! Before we had our steer butchered, we would buy a whole beef tenderloin and cut it up ourselves into filet mignon (youtube has wonderful videos on it) …..it’s super-affordable that way and such a good cut of meat. Save the smaller steaks for beef stew.

  19. Dot says

    be sure to factor in how much time you spent de-boning the whole chicken…time vs. convenience makes a difference in cost too…

  20. Tammy says

    You are correct (of course!). I seldom buy whole chickens b/c it is cheaper to buy a roasted one at Sam’s Club. They’re HUGE, delicious and cost less than buying one to cook yourself. The drawback to the boneless, skinless breasts are that you usually get that 15% of God-knows-what solution injected in it. I also suspect all the processing causes a loss of nutrients, but I’m no expert. I still buy the boneless, skinless stuff for convenience sometimes, but I have found that a great compromise is that you can buy fresh legs, thighs and/or quarters for MUCH less. You get all the flavor & stock for a fraction of the price. Of course, if your prefer the white meat, this won’t do. For casseroles, enchiladas, etc. most people would never know!

  21. Holly says

    I have always wondered about this!!! Yeah you are paying less per lb, but you are paying for useless (and heavy) skin and bone, and less desirable meat (we dont eat most of the dark meat in our house). (Not to mention labor!) I will be very interested to see what your findings are if you test with the boneless skinless chicken breast! I almost never buy whole chickens to cook, if I want one I just buy the rotissere’s at Costco fully cooked and delish @ the awesome price of $4.99!!!

  22. says

    Problem #1- you bought it a walmart 😉 I usually by mine at Kroger when they’re on sale- last time, I spent about $3.50 on a whole chicken (I think it was 69 cents a lb.)

    Problem #2- you didn’t use all of it! 😉 Next time, take EVERYTHING that you didn’t shred and boil it overnight on low. Voila- several quarts of chicken broth! When you add that into the equation, it is definitely a money saver :-)

    • says

      Yes, I realize I could have gotten it cheaper – but I did yse all of it. I did slow cook EVERYTHING else for several more ours (I think around 5) and I got 32 oz of broth. I can get a 32 oz container of broth (natural and organic) at Whole Foods for $1.99. I’m just not sold yet! We’ll see though :)

  23. Jules says

    I think the most bang for your buck is to buy bone in chicken breasts when they go on sale for .99/lb. I bone them out myself and dump the bones and skin in a stock pot with veggies. It takes me about 45 min. to bone 40 lbs. of chicken breasts and I calculate the “waste” to be about 37%. Of course this “waste” goes into my stock pot…I get about 24 quarts of deeelishious stock out of it. I can the stock and use it through the winter. Soooo….for my $40 investment, I get 24 quarts of stock, and around 28 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts to stock my freezer with.

  24. CJ says

    65% of a whole chicken is meat, 35% bones. So if you bought a 5 lb chicken, then 3.25 pounds is actual meat. If you do the math at .98 a pound for 3.25, you end up with $1.50 a pound. Right? That’s pre-cooked weight. Same price as the chicken breast stock up price except now you also have bones to make stock. Then, your as purchased weight is reduced by cooking by 1/3. (6 ounces becomes 4 when cooked). Same for any chicken, white or dark meat. Am I missing something? I’ve never been a math wizard. =)

    • says

      It all sounds good in theory, but I only ended up with 1.78lbs of meat – I think I should have had more according to your calculations right?

      • CJ says

        I didn’t calculate the end product, just the stock up price before it was cooked so I’m not sure. 3.25 pounds of pre-cooked meat should be the same weights after it is cooked, regardless of it’s state prior to cooking… to get a true outcome, I think you’d have to have exactly the same mix of meat (light and dark) and the same pre-measured weight: 3.25 pounds, to see how much you would get of chicken breast. Fascinating!

  25. D.L. Kurson says

    I RARELY buy boneless skinless breasts- we prefer the b/s thighs here- great taste and they don’t dry out. Our family prefers dark meat to light meat most of the time. You can use them just like the breast but they are usually cheaper. I always stock up when they are marked down.
    I will be checking Safeway for markdown on their chicken this week if the whole ones are on sale- good chance they will have some marked down near the end of the sale. If they are on sale for .77 a pound and put the 30% off sticker on it, I will be getting extra and putting them in the freezer(means I need to clean out my freezer because there is no room right now)

  26. Donna says

    looking forward to the calculation you come up with for what boneless skinless cooks down to . Thank you for sharing your info

  27. Donna Whiteman Abbajay Spencer via Facebook says

    some of the cast away stuff like skin, or if you don’t like the liver etc. can be added to the cat or dog food. not wasted and I think it’s healthier than regular cat food.

  28. Dominique Rudegeair says

    Thank you! I thought it was just me. I did this a few times and thought to myself, “Umm…what happened to all the chicken?” One thing I DO recommend (if you have the freezer space) is stocking up on turkeys when they go on sale around Thanksgiving. I got 4 last year on Black Friday for $0.07/lb!!! I made 2 and they yield a TON of meat. Saved the other two for future use. Awesomeness.

  29. Dee Dee says

    The mgr at my local Publix used to work in the meat industry and says that Walmart is known for injecting their chicken with fluid/water and then freezing. So, part of what you paid for was water.
    I just bought whole chickens (south FL for .68 a pound). I would much rather pay .68 a lb. than 1.89 for BLSL breasts. Get a variety of meat and flavors. Lots of options to use it for. My grandpa was a butcher most of my life, so I don’t have a problem dealing with the whole thing.

  30. Janel Yeisley-Berchielli via Facebook says

    I got my recipe from Stephanie O’Dea and it is always yummy….1/4 to 1/2c of red wine/vinegar salad dressing and I sprinkly on some minced garlic and stuff with an onion…4 hrs on high and it is done!

    • Dot says

      be careful giving your dog cooked bones, especially chicken bones. They are very brittle and can cause injuries ‘going down’…even for big dogs…bet she loves those innards tho!

  31. Kim says

    I think they taste good but I feel like very little meat for the effort.
    Now I’m wondering about my half breasts with rib meat.

  32. ter says

    when cooking whole chicken it will shrink! Sometimes people cut chicken into portions before cooking whole chicken – e.g. – breat, wings, tights (all this can be one meal) and then everythink you have left – bones, fat, skin etc will make great stock.
    However if you are buying whole chicken only to get “nice” meat from breast etc I would go for boneless skonless brest. Even split breast will end up cost you more because you are paying for weight of bones. But again – if you are planning on cooking soup and main course – split breat would be good option.
    So answers which is more frugal whole chicken or brest. I would say it depends on your meal plan.

  33. says

    I only buy whole chickens when they are 79 cents a pound or less and I always make stock from the bones after. I agree with many of the commenters that part of the convenience is having the meat for several meals and I usually get a lot of stock from it as well. One of my tricks for stock is to use a couple of cups of previously made stock in a new batch. It helps give a richer flavor. I also keep a bag in the freezer with leftover bits of cut veggies from other meals such as the ends of carrots and celery and onions so I use up the bits that might go in the garbage. Yes, you can often get stock cheap or free on sale and with coupons but have you checked the sodium content on the average box/can of stock? It’s insanely high and I just feel better using homemade stock.

  34. ChristinaAileen says

    I buy whole chickens when I can get them for $0.69/lb … but I buy them because we like them, and not because I can use them for various meals like others have said. I find we can get 1 meal out of them, plus some leftovers (chicken salad for lunch, or a 2nd quick dinner for the kids on busy nights). I haven’t figured out how to get multiple meals from one whole chicken because I don’t think they have that much meat on them. I also love making chicken stock, so I guess in that sense (lol) I can use it for multiple meals.

  35. Amanda A says

    I think it’s hard to compare cooked to uncooked (are you going to cook the breasts the same way, are you sure you didn’t leave bits in the broth etc). I think it would be a better comparison to compare a butchered chicken to uncooked. Then you can literally take a chicken make your boneless skinless breasts from them, and your thighs and drumsticks and then weigh them and compare because you know you aren’t going to pay more than $.99 for thighs and drumsticks as well as your $1.50 for the breasts. This may take a reader or person who can do this if you can’t, but it’s a better comparison.

  36. AnnaLynn says

    Do you have any idea what kind if chicken you are getting for those prices? The kind raised in warehouses w/ no room to move, left in the light 24/7, beaks clipped, & injected w/ tons of anti-biotics. Nothing good for you when you buy chicken at walmart or any other place for cents on the pound. Good food, quality food matters! As much as we all need a good deal to save money & live frugally, we need good health even more!

    • says

      AnnaLynn, good to see you hear! I agree with you and our family is making huge strides in this area – but quite simply the fact is that most Americans cannot afford organic everything.

  37. Janelle says

    One thing to mention is that you can add a LOT more than 1.5 cups of water to your stock! I always put several chopped up celery stalks, some old carrots, and an onion in the pot as well. I like to save up the not-so-good ends in the freezer until I have a chicken to make stock with. I usually add about seven cups of water in the pot with the bones and vegetables and let it simmer for a few hours. I add water periodically because it will evaporate off pretty quickly.

    Another thing to make sure you’re doing is getting every last bit of usable meat off the chicken. I freeze it for soups or chicken salad. Then, break up the bones a little bit before you make the stock. It will add all kinds of nutrients and make your stock gel. Yum yum!

  38. says

    I buy them when they’re cheaper, so it’s not quite so torturous for me. I know this grosses most people out, but my kids actually beg me to boil the inards (minus the liver) and they fight for preferred body parts. I know, we’re insane! :) I also buy a bunch when they’re cheap and do them all at once. My kids help and we have plenty of almost-ready-meals in the freezer.

    I roughly figured out (through a couple experiments) that you only end up with about 1/3 of the total weight. It seems like yours worked out to about that. I do it (like many have said) because it is a little cheaper (with a better sale) and I like the dark/white combination for some recipes. (I know you can also buy the thighs and breasts, but it just doesn’t taste as good for some things, to me. ) I also like the broth.

    We just ate a Crockpot chicken tonight and it’s been awhile. Funny! If I wasn’t gone all day (oven time), I would have made my favorite simple chicken . . . poke a small lemon (as much as you dare — more will give you more flavor) with a toothpick and then stick it inside the cavity of the chicken. Put whatever spices you like on it. It has a mild lemon flavor, but is so juicy! Oh — cook it in the oven for whatever time you normally would. I always forget and check online for the weight I buy. :) Just in case you’re up for buying that sale chicken and trying something new. :) Good luck! Let us know about the next comparison! Thanks for the insight and making us think about what frugality is and isn’t!

  39. Christie says

    I never spend more than $0.69 – 0.89 per pound on a whole chicken (and then I stock up). The biggest benefit for us with the whole chicken is that I like white meat and prefer to feed it to my children, while my husband prefers dark meat. We divide the whole chicken between us nicely and everyone is happy.

  40. says

    We usually purchase our whole chicken at Wal-Mart too. Around the holidays is the time to stock up. Wal-Mart usually has it’s whole chicken $0.99lb. We look for the “Quick Sale” Chickens that are reduce to $0.88lb and purchase one or two. This is usually Wal-Mart’s sale price around Thanksgiving also($0.88) . I have always been a HUGE fan of Kroger’s Rotisserie Chicken. I thought to myself I can cook one just as good and I can control THE SALT content. So with a few birds later I am known for the Homemade Rotisserie Chicken. I bake mine in the oven. A few weeks ago I cooked a 6.75lb Chicken and NOT one bite was left. He reminded me of a mini turkey he was so huge. If I can find one on sale cheaper I will make Wal-Mart price comp. :)

  41. Diane says

    I always save the chicken carcass’ until I get 2-3 and then put them in the crockpot with celery ends, carrot ends, onion – whatever I’ve saved. Fill crockpot with water and cook 24 hours. Strain broth and free and then pick the bones again. You will have enough meat for another meal and the skin and grizzle for the pets. Flavor beats boneless skinless breasts every time. Also, organic chicken on sale at Nugget for $.85 lb this week. I’m stocking up.

  42. Misty says

    You really make a good point here. I always thought a whole chicken was cheap, and buying boneless skinless chicken breasts was kind of a luxury purchase for me. Maybe not! I’m curious about how the other cookes down.

    I found whole chicken at Wal Mart for .99 a pound also, but .98 at Grocery Outlet, both Foster Farms.

  43. jaimee says

    if you watch sales- Safeway & Savemart will have whole Foster Farms chickens on sale for $0.59-$0.69/lb (usually in fall/winter). Can get whole chicken for ~$3. Works well for us.

  44. Patrick says

    When you buy those whole chickens real cheap make sure the lable DOESN’T say Hali on it.
    This means it was processed to MUSLIM standards and NOT American standards.
    Not really quite as healthy as they don’t mind letting the dead chicken sit around in the hot sun for a few hours before they load it to ship it to a processing house.
    Same with cows.
    Hali foods are starting to show up in a lot of discount food markets…Costco being one.

    • Anonymous says

      Not true, as an expert in the poultry processing field, the only difference is that the birds are blessed by a priest before they are processed.

  45. Darrell says

    Just a thought here, but you are really comparing apples to oranges. It’s easy to say “chicken is chicken” but it’s not. When you buy boneless skinless chicken breasts you are getting only that, and perhaps you dont care what type of chicken you are using for the meals you have planned. Buying a whole chicken gives you both white and dark meat, it gives you legs, wings, breasts, and thighs. You can compare a whole chicken to a package of chicken breasts. If all you are looking for is how many pounds of chicken you get then sure it’s probably not going to stack up. But I wonder how much you would pay per pound to get all the pieces of the chicken for different flavors and meals. I understand how at the end you felt like you paid more, but in my opinion you are looking at it wrong because they really are different results.

  46. Lacy says

    But how much chicken broth/stock did you get? Wouldn’t that need to be calculated as well? I mean 4 cups of swansons broth is like $4 where I live.

    • Maria says

      True! It’s been a while since this recipe was posted so I honestly can’t tell you how much broth there was.But you have a good point there :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Raley’s Natural Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – $1.99/lb  No artificial ingredients or preservatives, also don’t forget to ask for your FREE rub or marinade! Did you see my “Frugal or Not?” Whole Chicken Experiment? […]

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