Friday, March 21, 2014

Grilled and Roasted Chicken Breasts and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Kroger has several things that are a good price if you buy “any five.” It’s really easy with a deal like that to buy something you don’t need to get in your five items. Don’t do it! You usually end up paying more than you would if you just bought the items you do need without the discount. At least that’s the way it works for me. Saving money can be really expensive! But on to their sales… Kraft salad dressings are 99 cents for a 16 ounce bottle. Kraft cheese is $1.99 for 5 – 8 ounce packages, which is a good price for 8 ounces but not for 5 ounces. Oscar Meyer lunchmeat is $1.99 for a 1 pound package. It’s going to be heavily processed, but it is convenient. All of these prices are assuming you buy “any 5” of the various sale items. They’re all $1.00 more if you don’t buy 5. There are also a few things that are on sale even if you don’t buy 5 items. Split chicken breast, drumsticks or thighs are 99 cents a pound. Cottage cheese and sour cream are $1.99 for 24 ounces. Butter is two pounds for $5.00, or $2.50 a pound, and you don’t have to buy two to get that price. These prices are good through Wednesday, March 26. There is also a four-day-only sale, with prices good only through Sunday, March 23. Among these sales items are five half gallons of milk for $5.00, or $1.00 each, or $2.00 per gallon. You don’t have to buy five gallons, and there is a limit of five gallons. Asparagus is 88 cents a pound.

Marsh has pork chops in the family pack for 99 cents a pound. Grapes – red, white or black seedless or red with seeds – are $1.48 a pound. Anjou and Bosc pears are $1.49 a pound. Jumbo cantaloupes are 3 for $5.00, or $1.67 each. These prices are good through Wednesday, March 26.

IGA has split fryer breasts for 99 cents a pound. Turkey sausage is $1.99 for a one pound package. “Jumbo size” lemons are two for $1.00, or 50 cents each. Ambrosia apples are $1.49 a pound. “Red ripe tomatoes on the vine” are $1.49 a pound. Some Kraft products are buy-one-get-one-free. Some cheeses $2.99 for two 5 to 8 ounce packages. That’s a good price for the 8 ounce packages, at $2.99 a pound, not good for the 5 ounce packages. Planters peanuts are $3.49 for two 1-pound jars, or $1.75 per jar, and peanut butter is $2.79 for two 15 – 16.3 ounce jars, or $1.40 each, also on the buy-on-get-one-free sale. These prices are good through Sunday, March 23.

We’re back to chicken breasts this week. IGA and Marsh both have split fryer breasts for 99 cents a pound. They’re bone-in and skin-on, so that’s something to consider when you see the price. By the way, I’ve been wondering how the price of split fryer breasts and boneless, skinless fryer breasts compare. The result of my little experiment was that it really is cheaper to buy the split fryer breasts and do the work yourself. Of course, the ones that are already boned and skinned are quicker and easier to use. I use both.

Figure that about half the weight of the split chicken breasts will be in the boneless, skinless portions, so if you need a pound of boneless skinless chicken, you’ll need to start with two pounds of split chicken breasts. Between 8 and 9 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield a cup of diced, cooked meat. Let’s call it 8 ounces, so 1 pound of split chicken breast will yield about 1 cup of diced, cooked meat. More or less. That’s about 99 cents per cup of cooked meat this week, plus you get the bones, the skin, and some meat that’s left on the bones after you cut off the big chunks.

Twice as Nice: 25 Chicken Breast Recipes for Today and Later, by Sandra Liu, is one of the free books I found for the Kindle. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download Kindle for PC onto your computer. Unfortunately, the library doesn’t have Kindles and doesn’t have the Kindle software on their computers.) The idea behind the book is that you can buy chicken breasts when they’re on sale, grill or bake them, then cut them up and freeze them to have COOKED CHICKEN STRIPS available whenever you need them. They’re a lot cheaper that way than buying the precooked strips of chicken breasts. The book tells how to grill or roast them, how to cut them up, how to freeze them, and then gives 25 recipes using the cooked meat. 

To find recipes for the cooked chicken breast strips, I did a google search for “grilled chicken breast recipes.” One site that came up was the Tyson website, which included almost 90 recipes using their precooked chicken breast strips. I’ve included one of them. Of course, I adapted it to use your own home-cooked chicken breast strips instead of Tyson’s!

Let’s go back and start with the raw chicken breasts. Let’s start with six pounds of them, since you frequently have to buy them in the family packs to get the best price. First, cook them with the bone in and the skin on. (You could cut the meat off the bone before we cook it, in which case you’d pull the skin off, too. It comes out pretty much the same either way, and some people don’t like handling raw chicken.) Then you pull the nice crisp skin off of the meat and save it for a treat. Next, you cut the meat off the bones, trying to get it off in one big chunk, but not scraping the bones to get every bit of meat off of them. You put the bones in a pot of water with some vegetables and seasonings and make some soup for four people. And then use the meat you cut off in two main dish recipes for four people each. That’s twelve servings from $6.00 of split chicken breasts.

Let’s start with SIMPLE CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP, and its cousins, CREAM OF CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE SOUP, CHICKEN VEGETABLE EGG DROP SOUPHow much will this soup cost? It depends, of course, on what you end up putting in it. I figure that the broth and the meat and free, because I include the entire cost of the split fryer breasts in the cost of the chunks of meat that I cut off for other things. Let’s say 2 onions, 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 8 ounces of frozen peas, and 8 eggs. That’s going to be about $2.85 for four big servings of soup. Let’s call it $3.00, or 75 cents per serving, just because I like things that come out nice and even. You’d want to add a salad or something if you were having this for supper, but for lunch I just have a big bowl of this type of soup and call it good.

I figure $1.00 for breakfast and $1.50 each for lunch and supper, or $4.00 a day to keep my costs down to the average food stamp benefit per person received in Indiana. I don’t have the exact figure, but the latest I’ve seen is just under $1.40 per person per meal, or just under $4.20 per day per person. Since this soup is only about 75 cents per person for lunch, that leaves an extra 75 cents for other meals that might go a bit over $1.50 per person, or for special meals where you want to splurge a bit.

Now to a few recipes using those chunks of meat you cut off the bones in big chunks, and then sliced. I didn’t really intend to when I started today’s column, but I seem to have ended with Southwestern or Tex-Mex recipes. The cooked chicken breast doesn’t have to be used only in Tex-Mex recipes; it can be used plain, or in Italian dishes, or Thai dishes, or curries, or just about anything else. The recipes that I ended up using today just happen to be more or less Southwestern. 

Like SOUTHWESTERN FRITTATAThe frittata will cost about $4.00. Add half a cup each of sour cream and salsa to top it off (two tablespoons of each per serving) for another 60 cents. Serve it with a quick fruit salad of one cup of halved grapes and half a cantaloupe for $1.25 and you’ve got a good brunch or lunch or even a light supper for just under $6.00, or $1.50 per person. Or sauté a couple pounds of asparagus in butter with some garlic and serve that instead. Or serve salad. Or a salad and a pound of asparagus. There are lots of ways you can use that other $2.00 on side dishes to accompany the frittata.

LEFTOVER CHICKEN SANTA FE is different than I usually .give, with corn, beans and tortilla strips. The mixture of chicken, black beans, corn and cheese can be used in many ways. Add it to a salad, or to a wrap, or a burrito, or rice, or you could even make soup out of it. As a salad, it comes to about $5.50, not counting the tortilla strips. I have no idea how much they cost, though I do remember when I bought a big bag of plain corn tortillas for Mom they didn’t cost very much. You should be able to make plenty of TORTILLA STRIPS for the salad and stay under $6.00 for the meal, if you make your own. Making your own ITALIAN DRESSING helps keep the cost down, too. 

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