In the spirit of being green in the world, you want to use everything up in the kitchen, right? Well, here’s how I do one big entree and get at least three meals out of it.
To start, you want a roast chicken or two. My personal favorite is Barefoot Contessa’s classic roast chicken. In short, she stuffs the chicken with herbs, whole garlic, and a lemon and uses a bed of carrots and potatoes to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom. (Pro-tip: take the chicken out to rest, but squeeze the roasted garlic and the juice from the roasted lemon onto the veggies. Give everything a good stir to get all the good juices from the chicken and… well, let’s just say you might have a new favorite meal.)
If that sounds like too much for you or if you came to this activity late, hit up the rotisserie chicken section of the grocery store for a bird or two. (If you’re at Costco, pick up one of the salads in a bag as a side dish. But don’t make it all for night one. It’s always too much for one meal and we can use the veggies in another way later in the week.)
If THAT sounds like too many bones and chicken ick you have to deal with, then get a big pack of boneless chicken thighs or breasts and throw them in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. At this point just use a basic seasoned salt so we can change the flavor as the week progresses. This time of year, I’d suggest a green salad or a baking sheet’s worth of roasted zucchini and squash as a side dish (or a bed for the shredded chicken.)
However you get to this point, I want you to debone the chicken and shred. Separate the chicken into containers giving you enough in each for a full meal. (This size depends on how many people you’re feeding each time.) If you have a family of four average eaters, you should be able to get two to three meals worth of meat off the bones. Speaking of the bones – keep those and any veggie scraps in a baggie in your freezer. You’ll see why in a second.
For days two through whatever, you can play around with whatever sounds good. Bonus – these ingredients are probably already in your kitchen. Here are my favorite combinations, but feel free to mix and match!
- BBQ chicken sliders with potato chips and cucumber salad (or the other half of that Costco salad) – Slice one cucumber and a half a red onion. Top with rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper and let sit while you warm the chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce on the stovetop. Serve on slider buns with chips on the side.
- Leftover slider buns make great French toast nuggets for a weekend breakfast!
- Asian lettuce wraps – Mix the chicken with a 4oz can of diced water chestnuts and a handful of chopped mushrooms. Warm this with a bottled teriyaki sauce or make your own sauce with a combo of hoisin, soy, and sriracha. Serve on pieces of romaine or iceberg lettuce. Goes great with quick fried rice. (Remember to freeze your rice and this dish would come together in a snap.)
- Leftover lettuce? Add a salad to your rotation! Any leftover sauce would be great in this next chicken and rice dish, too.
- Chicken and rice – speaking of rice, make a pot of your favorite white rice. While it is cooking, saute your favorite veggies (zucchini, broccoli, peas or carrots) and warm your chicken. Mix all of this together in the veggie pan and top with your favorite spices and/or cheese.
- Be sure to save the scraps from the veggies in that freezer baggie. Leftover shredded cheese will come in handy for this next one…
- Mexican night – Need to go quick? Top a tortilla with chicken, a handful of cheese, and another tortilla and warm in the oven for quick quesadillas. If you have time, mix the chicken with black beans and chopped pepper. Roll up in tortillas and top with enchilada sauce and cheese. Heat at 350 for 30 minutes or so until warmed through and cheese is bubbly. Quick or slow – serve with sliced avocado and salsa to dress it up.
- Don’t need the dinner, but have all the ingredients? Make the enchiladas in a freezer safe dish and stock up for your next Dinner Time Panic! Use any leftovers tortillas in place of regular bread for kids’ lunches. Roll-ups are a great changeroo!
At the end of the week pour the chicken bones and the sack of veggie remnants into a large pot. Add enough water to the pot to cover all the ingredients. Let simmer on low for four hours, scooping off anything that comes to the top. (This is a great Sunday project!) Taste, adding salt and pepper or your favorite spices as needed. Once you’ve got your desired broth, strain out all the solids. This is a great broth all on its own but also makes a great chicken noodle soup with still more leftover chicken, noodles, and a handful of carrots and celery.
Whew! Now that is a LOT of dinners that will use up everything, leaving you with a bare fridge. Just in time to do it all again next week. Sigh…