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Saving time and money with leftovers

Published May 26. 2010 05:00PM

Last week we talked about those frozen chickens taking up space in my freezer. I gave you my favorite recipe for roast chicken and used this recipe for dinner one night. Needless to say, we had leftovers. A 7-pound chicken will go a long way toward feeding two people even if that includes one hungry man!

Fortunately, nothing makes my family happier than leftovers. It's the ultimate timesaver for busy adults: cook once, eat twice. In many cases, it's also cheaper to make larger quantities of food to enjoy now and later as leftovers.

I told you once that I love eggs. My second secret: I love chicken even more.

I love cooking with chicken because it is so versatile and easy to prepare and when you're using leftovers, you get to skip the cooking and prep time! Hungry for Mexican food? Add some chili pepper and salsa or diced tomatoes to leftover chicken breasts. Chinese? Try chicken stir-fry with soy sauce or sweet-and-sour chicken over rice. And if you prefer simple, home-cooked American food, we love Italian-dressing marinated chicken on the grill!

If you're feeling lazy, just serve the chicken as you did before. Roast chicken tastes just as good the second time around. I also like to throw cooked, diced chicken and shredded cheese on top of salad, pasta or whole-wheat wraps for a quick lunchtime meal. The options are endless.

Substituting cooked chicken in a recipe that calls for chicken breasts or thighs is easy. Use the same quantities, but reduce the cooking time to ensure that you won't end up with burnt or dried-out food. Use your judgment when altering cooking times. If a recipe says "cook until no longer pink," you'll need to decide if the cooking time is needed to thicken any liquids in the recipe, or if it's OK to skip this step.

I'm not alone in my quest for saving time and money through leftovers. I introduced you to "$5 Dinner Mom" Erin Chase a few weeks ago now check out her recipe for "Sloppy Chicken Joes," a fun twist on sloppy joes that substitutes healthier chicken for beef. While this entire recipe costs less than $5, she encourages her fans to swap shredded chicken for boneless, skinless chicken breasts to save even more.

Sloppy Chicken Joes

1 1/2-pound package boneless, skinless chicken breasts ($2.52)

1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce ($. 59)

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar ($. 05)

1 tablespoon prepared mustard ($. 05)

3 tablespoons brown sugar ($. 10)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Dice chicken breasts into 1/2-inch pieces.

In large skillet, whisk together tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the diced chicken breast, cover and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through.

Total cost: $4.86

Frugal Fact: Substitute one 15-ounce can of store-bought Sloppy Joe sauce for the tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Substitute 1 to 2 cups of leftover shredded chicken meat for the chicken breasts.

Recipe from The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook by Erin Chase. Copyright © 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin.

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