Real Food Money Saving Tips: Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks for Stock

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Want to make chicken stock but don’t think you can afford good quality chicken? Buy chicken thighs (bone-in) and drumsticks. These pieces are quite inexpensive. Conventional health tells us to avoid dark and red meat. So over the last few decades, meat producers in the U.S. have put a premium on white meat – which is actually the least healthful. Dark meat is actually better for you to eat because it contains more of those all important nutrients found in poultry (see below). If you can get your hands on chicken organ meats, those are also cheap, and extremely nutrient-dense to use in soups, stews, casseroles, and any other dish which has a lot of ingredients in it (think hiding the organ meats in these meals).

Once you have let your bones soak for an hour or so in filtered water with a splash of apple cider vinegar, add in all your other ingredients: butter or ghee, onions, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and any seasonings you like. I frequently use any combination of the following: parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, or basil. Here’s a post about making bone broth.

If you are feeling adventurous, find a farmer who will give you or sell you some chicken feet. Yes, chicken feet. These are incredibly cheap and fantastically abundant in minerals, amino acids, gelatin, and collagen – which helps your whole body and especially your skin, eyes, and bones.  You can add these into any chicken stock after cleaning them and clipping off the nails. Some people don’t clip them off, but I do since toxins can collect in them (such as arsenic).

Is all chicken created equal?

Unfortunately, no. You will get the most nutrition from chickens (or any poultry) raised on pasture, without antibiotics or feeds which alter their nutritional composition such as corn, and grain (and are likely to be sourced from GMO – genetically modified organisms). You are also going to get 3-5 times the amount of nutrients like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Read this informative article from Eat Wild to learn more about the benefits of grass-fed and pasture-raised.

Sources for chicken:

Ideal - pasture-raised direct from the farm – may also be organic (ask local farmers or go to your farmer’s market) see this post about deciphering egg and poultry labels
Better - Pasture-raised chickens from local grocery or health food store – may also be organic
Acceptable - commercial and grocery store organic, “cage-free”, or “free-range”, omega-3 chickens. Many of these are also raised on feedlot premises, but may be antibiotic-and chemical (pesticides) free.
Avoid – conventional poultry from the grocery store which likely is raised on a feedlot, usually administered antibiotics, usually exposed to pesticides/herbicides, and most often given corn, soy, and grain as main source of feed.

Deciphering egg and poultry labels
More money-saving tips:
Waste not, want not: tips for saving in the kitchen
3 tips for eating organic on a budget
Proof that real food doesn’t have to cost a bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!
Food budgets- using creativity and prioritizing for healthy eating

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop, hosted this week by Sustainable Eats

8 Comments

  • Jen
    October 20, 2011 - 9:05 AM | Permalink

    Great tips for saving money on broth!

    I’ve discovered that I can purchase chicken necks and backs, otherwise known as “chicken frames” from my farmer for an excellent price. I make huge batches of broth using 8 chicken frames at a time, and feet if I have them. The best thing I’ve discovered making broth this way is that I can pull the frames out after about 2 hours and pull off 3 – 4 cups of meat to use for soups, chicken salad, casseroles, etc. What a great deal!

  • October 23, 2011 - 9:16 AM | Permalink

    I was so glad to read this, because I have found this to be true when I make a lot of stock (I’m on GAPS, and my son is doing a month with me right now) that buying drumsticks in particular is very easy on the budget. And of course, looking for sales and buying in bulk. Thanks for the post!

  • October 23, 2011 - 10:03 AM | Permalink

    Jen – yes, most pieces/parts from chickens are great to use for making stock. Thanks for your comments, and thanks for sharing your success with us here! It’s so economical, many people just don’t realize how easy and inexpensive it is to make.

    Kendahl – I am glad you are having success also using the less expensive parts of the chicken. It’s very easy to find sales on these parts since so many people don’t want or use them. But hopefully as time goes on, more people will soon discover the healing benefits of these foods.

  • October 23, 2011 - 11:08 AM | Permalink

    A year or two before I found traditional food I started buying chicken with the bones in, partly for liking dark meat better and partly for having bones. And now I next to never buy cuts of meat without bones. With the weather getting cold I foresee more broths being made in my kitchen.

  • December 16, 2011 - 6:00 AM | Permalink

    Hi, Raine – I just wanted to take a moment and clarify what appears to be some confusion about pastured chicken. Unlike ruminants, poultry requires grain in its diet. (check Harvey Ussery’s great new book on Chelsea Green or Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits) Grain is harmful to ruminants (such as beef) because it acidifies their rumin, lowering their overall health. Livestock fed grains for as little as 14 days lose a lot of their CLA and omega-3 (much beef sold at farmers markets as ‘grass fed’ has been ‘finished’ on grain for 3 weeks or longer to get the weight up before butchering) In a state of Nature, ruminants do not eat grains, they eat grasses. ANYWAY, chickens are ominivores, they eat seeds and grain. Getting GMO grain is not a good thing, of course, but getting grain is a good thing for chickens. You wouldn’t want to eat a chicken that had only been fed grass. It would be VERY scrawny and, probably, tough. (They can make nice eggs without grain though if they have access to a wide array of foods, such as kitchen scraps in large compost piles. I think for large tender breasts and thighs, though, a your going to want a grain fed chicken.) Just sayin’, that’s all…

  • December 21, 2011 - 10:29 PM | Permalink

    Hi Allan – yes, I’m aware that chicken require other supplementation besides pasture. What I’m objecting to is the feeds which come from GMOs (including soy, corn, AND grains), and most of those represented on the consumer farming market most definitely are…so, hopefully that clears that up. In fact, most farmers I’ve talked to who pasture-raise their chickens ARE using GMO feeds, most unfortunately. I should have made this more clear, but my main point was that just because you pasture-raise doesn’t mean the whole system is appropriately constructed for the health of the bird, the meat and eggs they produce, or the environment. But, thanks for the explanation for the benefit of readers here. :)

  • chelle
    December 27, 2012 - 3:09 PM | Permalink

    You can make fish stock for next to nothing if you can find a fish market that will give you free bones. Call in the morning and ask if they can save bones for you. I have never paid for them, and they always have some meat left on them as well. They make a delicious, rich stock that can be the base for soups and gravies.

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