Aug 3, 2008

Frugal chicken dinner from coupons and sales

I've discovered that "brand loyalty", frugal shopping and clipping coupons are not compatible. For example, I always buy XXX brand Spaghetti sauce (if you're like me, you've bought the same brand for the past 20 years!) for $1.69 a jar. But a recent sale on Ragu sauces, combined with coupons, allowed me to buy jars at .67 each. The new frugal shopper in me kicks in and out goes the "brand loyalty". Two weeks ago, I found several foods on sale that I had coupons for, but they were foods I had never tried. The price, however, made it worth buying. These two items were Patak's (Indian) Tomato and Onion Sauce, and Middle Eastern's Garlic and Parmesian Couscous. Jeff and I had the most wonderful dinner last night -- using both of these new foods. I'd purchased whole chickens on sale at .88 lb., popped one in my crockpot yesterday morning with a bit of water in the bottom (less than 1/2 inch) and a whole onion (quartered) in the cavity, and covered the chicken with about 1 cup of Patak's sauce. I set the crockpot on High, and left it for 6 hours. At the end of the 6 hours, I placed the chicken in a baking pan, added another 1/2 cup of sauce on top, and baked the chicken at 375 for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared the Couscous and steamed some fresh green beans. When I took the chicken out of the oven, I added a bit of water to the cooked-down sauce in the bottom of the roaster, to make a bit of extra sauce for the couscous. Everything was wonderful! The sauce was a very mild flavored addition to the chicken - you didn't really taste a tomatoe-y flavor, but more a wonderful combination of very mild spices and a hint of mint! Very clean and light tasting. When I served the chicken, I put some of the sauce and the cooked onion on top of the couscous, and that also added a nice mild flavor to a fairly bland couscous. The green beans were the perfect accompaniment. Because of the coupons and sales, dinner was less than $1 per person, and we have plenty of leftovers. (One full meal, plus another three meals from leftover chicken.) A word about the chicken. I love roast chicken, but the price of it on non-sale weeks can get up to over $2 a pound. Watch your local store for whole frying chickens on sale, almost always under $1 per pound. I usually pick up two or three of the plumpest, fattest whole chickens I can find, and stock the freezer. These whole frying chickens can be tougher than a normal roasting chicken, but if you cook it slowly (the crockpost is perfect) with a bit of steam (water or chicken broth), it is just as juicy and tender as the more expensive roaster. Once it's cooked through, pop it in a 375 degree oven to brown it up, and you'll have a wonderful, tender roast chicken. For two people, you can get almost a week's worth of meals from this one chicken, especially if it's a time of year when you can make soup. This meal has opened my eyes to trying new foods. When we finished our dinner, I told Jeff "I feel like I went out to eat." Of course, he looked at me funny, but I added, "That's a meal of ingredients I never would have thought to buy." So let your couponing and sales open your eyes to new food adventures!

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