For a lot of us homemakers, our grocery bill is the easiest area to save money in. Any college student can tell you that Ramen noodles, bologna, and peanut butter will fill you up and save some cash, but when you are feeding a family you need a little more variety than that. One of our favorite go to frugal meals is chicken and rice. Not only is it frugal and filling, it makes a lot and is easy to clean up afterwards. We can usually eat for two or three days off a pot of chicken and rice. Even my somewhat picky husband doesn’t complain about leftovers if its this dish!
I rarely cook from a recipe, I just add ingredients in whatever proportion seems right, but I will try to explain to you how to make it as best I can. To me, the beauty of cooking is the fact that you don’t have to stick to a hard and fast recipe, you can substitute, change proportions, and add ingredients according to what’s on hand and what sounds good right then:)
Here is what you will need:
1 whole chicken
2 whole carrots
2 stocks of celery
1 onion (cut in half)
Lots of rice
Frozen mixed vegetables
First things first, put your chicken in a stockpot with the carrots, celery, and onion. Fill the pot with water and let it simmer away. If you are rushed for time feel free to turn off the heat as soon as the chicken is cooked through, but the best chicken and rice is made when the chicken is boiled to the point that the small bones are mushy. This extracts all the flavor and gelatin from the bones. The gelatin in the bones gives a smoother mouth feel to a dish, adds valuable minerals and nutrients, and just all around tastes good. If we are cooking frugal we want our food to be as tasty and healthy as possible!
When the chicken is cooked remove it from the heat and let it cool. You can place it in the fridge, set it in a sink of ice water, or remove the chicken from the stock with some tongs and just cool the chicken. Once the chicken is cool comes the fun (and messy!) part. Be sure to enlist the help of your kids if you have any, it makes the work go by fast and they love it! If you haven’t already, remove the chicken from the stock and set to the side. Remove the celery, carrots, and onion and discard. Now take a piece of chicken and remove all the gunk you don’t want to eat like bones and skin and toss it. Take your chicken meat and break into small pieces and throw it back in the pot. This sounds complicated but I just set up my trash can next to my stovetop. Then I am in easy reach of the bowl of chicken, the bowl of stock, and the trash. I can pick through a whole chicken in about ten minutes by myself so it’s not as time consuming as it sounds once you get a good system working for you.
Once all your chicken is picked through and back in the stock turn the heat back on. Add your mixed vegetables ( I use about 2 pounds of vegetables but we have a HUGE stockpot and A LOT of hungry mouths to feed!). then I add the rice. I wish I could give you more accurate measurements but I really never measure. I dump in about six large handfuls of rice, but it depends on how big your stockpot is. With a little practice you will figure out the best proportions for your family.
Next I season with garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoned salt. I’ve also been known to add in some garlic and herb seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning, and one of our new favorites curry powder. Once everything has come to a boil I taste it and adjust the seasonings accordingly. I haven’t read anything that says this, but the rice seems to need a lot of salt, so you will probably use more than you think you need. Always taste your dish after the rice has cooked because chances are you will need more salt before serving it. Have fun with the seasonings and make your chicken and rice perfectly suited to your family! A nice last minute addition is a splash of rice wine vinegar, it heightens the flavors and the acid really gets your taste buds going. You won’t taste the vinegar, it just heightens all of the other flavors.
Cook until the rice and vegetables are very tender, usually about 45 minutes for me, and serve. Be ready for your family tot go crazy, this may be their new favorite dish! A nice time saver is the crockpot. I have used it many times on this dish to make my life easier. I cut up my chicken and place it in the crockpot, fill with water, turn it on low, and go to bed. In the morning I turn it off, put the crockpot in the fridge, and come afternoon nap time it is cool and ready to be picked through. The only downside is that I can’t make enough stock this way, but I just add some water and bouillon when I use the crockpot.