Projects in meat stretching, part 1.

Yes, that title makes me uncomfortable too.  But when one is trying to simultaneously get the most one can out of a ham and a chicken….. well, there just aren’t many categories to which both belong.

THE HAM.

Last time I made Stephanie’s fabulous split pea soup, I had a major ham debacle.  That is, I had no idea how to buy a thick slice of ham from which to slice ham cubes, and I made the mistake of going to the deli counter.  The conniving deli lady decided to cut me 2 slices of ham that ended up costing me $11.00.  I’m still mad at myself for paying it, but it was custom cut and I would have felt so awkward handing it back.  Thankfully, one slice ended up being plenty for my soup (which fed 5 people that day) and I was able to use the other slice to make us Denver omelets, which slightly made up for it.  Fast forward to split pea soup take two.  My wise mother suggested that next time I check out the pre-cooked little hams in the not deli section and slice them up myself, so I did — and I ended up finding a gigantic cooked half-ham on clearance for being nearly past its prime.  6 lbs for…. wait for it…. $11.00.  Feeling quite vindicated, I purchased said half-ham, thinking I could surely use the rest.  Uhhhh………

That night, I cut up the ham into several thick slices, many thin slices, and LOTS of cubes.  I used some of the cubes in soup and portioned the rest out to freeze it.  Which means that in the next however-long-it-is-before-frozen-ham-stops-being-good, I need to use up approximately 5 lbs of it.  I’m on my way, but still working on coming up with recipes.  Ham is not something I’d like to eat nightly, so I’m thankful it’s frozen.

Meal 1: Split pea soup

Meal 2: Sliced ham with a maple/vinaigrette glaze

Meal 3: (Coming up this week) Casserole with ham, broccoli, cheese, whole wheat egg noodles, and some other stuff.  But not carrots, because I bought enough but accidentally used them all before I remembered I was supposed to save one.  Oops.  Also, I’m generally against adding canned soup to things and calling it a “recipe,” but that picture looks pretty good, right?

Meals 4-288: I don’t know, but I really do feel like I have that much ham.

THE CHICKEN.

Logically, the same time I’m trying to use up too much ham is a perfect time to also decide to try to use a whole chicken in as many meals as possible.  I keep reading on thrifty mom food blogs about loaves-and-fishes situations with whole chickens — like how one 5 lb. chicken turned into 10 meals for 6 people and other ridiculousness. So I planned a few meals this week that feature or at least hint at the presence of chicken.  On Monday, I roasted and then ravaged the chicken, reserving its parts for today’s stock adventure.

Meal 1: Roasted chicken.  We each ate a couple slices along with potatoes and broccoli.

Meal 2: Chopped chicken breast over salad with pecans, craisins, and the best blue cheese dressing evah.

Meal 3: Stock, prepared today and currently chilling in the fridge.  I have about a gallon, which will most likely become soup, which will hopefully last for several meals/lunches.

Meal 4: BBQ chicken sandwiches on pub buns.  Perfect for the chicken that just wouldn’t come off without getting totally shredded.

Meals 5-?????:  I’ll keep you posted.

WHY?

I’d really like to cut our food budget down.  I love fancy ingredients and fresh herbs, but I think there are ways (such as meat-stretching) that I have yet to implement that could really make a difference in my grocery spending.  Take, for example, this very non-scientific anticipated savings calculation:

Stock vs. Chicken broth
Chicken carcass — basically free.
Onion, carrots (one of which was meant for ham casserole….), parsley and celery — $2-ish
3 garlic cloves and 5 peppercorns — 10 cents?
1 bay leaf and a few sprinkles of dried thyme — 20 cents?
= 16 cups for less than $3 as long as I have a carcass lying around.  Muahahaha.

or

16 cups of store-bought chicken broth (11-12 cans at .79/can*) = about $9
*I generally buy cans because I don’t use cartons quickly enough

This practice alone could make a huge difference, especially if I portion the stock and freeze it for use in dishes that call for a small amount, like one cup.

Stay tuned for part 2: the rest of the meals and how far a ham/chicken really can go.

Love,

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  • Mama

    Very entertaining! I had to laugh at the “muahahaha”!!! And, the pic of the casserole does look appetizing. The soup referred to is stated to be reduced-fat, reduced-sodium, so it’s not THAT bad. : )

    Love you!

  • Stephanie

    I love all your creative ways of stretching your food budget! Also, to help with that 5-lb hunk of ham…..I love to use leftover ham in a scalloped potatoes recipe, turning it into a main course.

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