Classy Chicken Dinners on the Cheap

19 January 2015  
How to balance family meals with busy schedules. 

The problem is that you really do want to have a nice family dinner, where you all sit down at the table together to eat. But, between your work and busy schedule, and your husband’s job and the kids’ after school clubs and sports (practice ’til 7?? Really?) it’s a logistical nightmare to make it happen. 

Well, we can’t help you with the long practices and the ridiculous schedules that we all manage to commit to, but we can help you with some fast and easy meals that can be put on the table quickly and without much fuss.

Best of all, you can do this without breaking the budget. 

Smart Shortcuts

The key is to make smart shortcuts. In our family, we often don’t eat until 7:30 or 8, because of practice, games or work commitments. But, we still sit down and eat together almost every night. Here are some tips and tricks to make that happen.

1. Keep snacks on hand. Our schedule often means 7 or 8 hours between lunch and dinner. So, have snacks ready to tide over hungry cherubs and famished teens until dinner. Fresh fruit, ramen soup, mac’n’cheese, meal remnants from the night before - these will help keep the hunger pangs at bay for a few minutes. Don’t worry, they’ll still have plenty of room for dinner.

2. Plan ahead. When you make your meal plan for the week (you do make a plan, don’t you?) have your calendar at hand so you can plan meals that fit the schedule. If you’re all going to be gone until late evening, your crock pot just might be your new BFF. 

3. Double prep. In other words, if you have to grate cheese one night for a meal, grate enough for two meals and save half. Cook up extras on the weekends, such as chicken breasts or burgers, then they’re ready to pull out when you need them. 

4. Buy food that’s easy to manage. For example, instead of buying carrots that need to be peeled, buy the pre-peeled baby carrots. You can even get them already grated, or cut into ridged rounds. Or purchase a rotisserie chicken and repurpose the meat. Which leads us to:

Rotisserie Chickens

Rotisserie chickens are pretty handy to pick up when you’re in a hurry. But, let’s face it, some rotisserie chickens are better than others. It doesn’t make a lot of difference, though, if you plan to repurpose the chicken into something other than basic store-bought rotisserie chicken. 

As mentioned last week, you can save a lot of money when you’re shopping if you get store markdowns on food that are close to being out of date. Frequently, you can purchase rotisserie chickens for under $3 in the deli section of your grocery store if you time it right. 

If you do that, you’ll probably want to give up on the idea of eating them as is, because truthfully, at this point, they might not be very appealing. Instead, think of them as cooked chicken still on the bone. Just remove the skin, pull off the chicken, and put it in your favorite quickie meal - chile verde, stir fry, chicken salad and much more. Plus, you can save the carcass and make soup out of it for a later meal. Not bad for $3, right?

Admittedly, it looks a little shriveled after a day or so lodged in my frig.


Rotisserie Chicken Remake Recipes

To get you started, I’ve got a list of Rotisserie Chicken Remakes that I’ve found online. After looking at these links, you’ll never turn your nose up at a rotisserie chicken again. There are so many ideas here, you could feed your family rotisserie chicken remakes two times a week for a year, never making the same thing twice. Not that I’m recommending you do so, of course, but you could. 

(Hmmm… I wonder if my family would notice? I once served hamburger 12 days in a row with a different recipe each night and it didn’t seem to bother them at all.)

Real Simple: 10 Recipe Ideas for Rotisserie Chicken

Southern Living: 11 Shortcut Rotisserie Chicken Recipes

Food Network: Weeknight Rotisserie Chicken Recipes

Health:  13 Easy Recipes That Use Rotisserie Chicken

Cooking Light: 55 Rotisserie Chicken Recipes

Pinterest: 52 Uses for a Rotisserie Chicken


Now, let me leave you with my current favorite commercial. This should make you laugh out loud!

Lynne LaMaster