Dishes that use meat sparingly not only save money, but they're also better for your family's health. The American Cancer Society suggests no more than 3 ounces of meat or chicken per serving, which is the size of a deck of cards or small bar of soap. Two chicken breasts per meal is more than adequate for a family of four. Round out the meal with vegetables, rice or whole-grain pasta.
Use shredded or cubed chicken breasts in a variety of dishes, such as chicken noodle soup, chicken salad, chicken Alfredo, chicken tetrazzini, and chicken and rice. Dice and stir-fry chicken breasts with carrots, broccoli, snow peas and peppers for a quick weeknight meal. Add a stir-fry sauce and serve with rice. Use two chicken breasts as the basis for chicken tacos, fajitas or enchiladas. Numerous quick and easy casseroles pair shredded chicken with canned cream soup, rice, vegetables or noodles for hearty, family-friendly meals.
Chicken breasts are low in fat and somewhat bland in flavor. One way to improve the flavor is to salt them a few hours before cooking them, according to Ina Garten, author of "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics." By salting chicken breasts ahead of time, the meat absorbs the flavoring more deeply, creating a more savory dish. Lemon pepper, powdered dressing mixes or spices and marinades bring out the flavor of chicken breasts.
For most soups and casseroles, cook chicken breasts ahead of time and shred or dice them when assembling the dish. One simple way to prepare chicken breasts is to throw them in a slow cooker in the morning after salting them. Cook them on low for several hours until they are tender. Poach chicken breasts in simmering water for 20 minutes, or brush them with olive oil and roast them in the oven until golden brown. Because some dry salad dressing mixes contain salt, you can substitute the zesty mix for salt and then place the chicken in the slow cooker.
Buy frozen chicken breasts in large bags so you can easily remove one or two pieces. Plan the menu for the week, though, and if you're using chicken breasts for more than one meal, cook all the chicken ahead of time. Shred the chicken and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Use it within three to four days.
- American Cancer Society: Controlling Portion Sizes
- Colorado State University Extension; Food Storage for Safety and Quality; P. Kendall, et al.; February, 2007
- "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics"; Ina Garten; 2008
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images