Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Chicken Scratch

April 23, 2011 by Contributor filed under Columns No Comments
Chicken Scratch

By Cat Morris

When both my children were very small, my mother used to tell me that I ought to 1) dress myself to the last detail before anyone else was up in the morning, and 2) know what I was making for dinner before I climbed out of bed each day.

I secretly rolled my eyes at her advice. “Give me something a little more useful,” I thought, “Who cares how I’m dressed in this day and age?” I also considered it just short of insulting to place emphasis on my planning dinner menus. “I have more important things to think about. I have a life.”

After a couple of years spent stumbling around in a bedheaded, sleep-deprived haze wearing yesterday’s sweats, and with a vague question mark in my mind at 4:00 p.m. in place of a dinner plan, I came round. Mom was right: No matter how tired I am, if I make the effort to get up before anyone else, dressed completely, and plan my meals in advance, the rest of the day falls magically into place. Really. Meal planning has a double benefit, though. Not only does it keep me organized, but it’s absolutely key to saving money.

In years past, when I’ve dramatically reined in spending, I’ve stopped eating out, scoured the supermarkets for the greatest deals, purchased bulk items, and made food from scratch. I soon have unit prices memorized and will become so zealous that I refuse to buy an ingredient for one penny more than the best price recorded in my notebook. I get that way–a bit compulsive. It’s all or nothing.

If I’m really honest, though, the truth is that my savings have not been so much about buying “best priced” chicken breasts, or bulk quantities of flour, but about preparing meals from scratch versus buying prepackaged components, or going out to eat.

As you undoubtedly already know, our most consistent savings (and/or the best nutrition) will come from routinely buying and preparing the least processed foods available: Purchasing a whole chicken versus buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts; making soup from scratch instead of buying canned soups; baking cookies instead of buying dough or prepackaged goodies; even buying popcorn kernels to pop on the stove, versus microwave popcorn.

Did you know that you can easily get a minimum of three meals for four people from one whole chicken? Some people routinely get four or more meals from one bird. If you buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the store you cannot do this. Buy the whole chicken.

A one-pound bag of beans costs about as much as one 15 ounce can of beans, but yields about four times the quantity. Buy the dry beans.

Pre-shredded cheese can cost significantly more than cheese purchased in blocks, and usually contains a non-caking agent. Grate the cheese yourself to save money and lose the added cellulose. Buy the block cheese.

I think you get the drift.

You cannot prepare food from scratch if you aren’t a good planner—which is to say that you can’t very reliably save money on a nutritious diet if you don’t have a menu in place and the ingredients chosen and purchased ahead of time … which is really another way of saying, “You should know what you’re having for dinner before you get out of bed in the morning.” Sigh. See how that works? Saving money on a nutritious diet requires time management more than finding the best price on any single item.

So, let’s revisit that whole chicken concept, shall we? I don’t have space to provide recipes here, but I learned to get at least three meals from one chicken from the More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre: Day one is roast chicken: Roast the chicken with veggies in the oven. Day two is homemade chicken potpie, incorporating leftover veggies. Day three is chicken noodle (or rice) stew, and I usually end up with enough for two day’s worth of servings for our family. If you want to learn ways to stretch a chicken much farther, search the internet using the term “rubber chicken recipes” (Get it? You want recipes for s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g chicken. I’m serious.) Good luck!

The internet abounds with free and low cost menu planners to help you get organized and start saving money, from the bare bones sample menus at www.hillbillyhousewife.com to e-mealz.com, which provides menus and shopping lists tailored to selected grocery chains. Others include relish.com and mealmixer.com—and the list goes on.

Comment on this article

By commenting, you agree to abide by our Terms of Service.









2016 Energy Summit – George Washington University


On Friday evening, October 28, George Washington University, Virginia Campus in Ashburn will host the 10th annual Don Sandros Energy Summit in cooperation with local businesses and non-profits. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception with wine donated by …

Attributing Disaster


“Humans are likely to create a catastrophe, and possibly an associated disaster, that vastly exceeds our own ability to recover from it. In the face of all our efforts, it will persist.” – Richard Guthrie [1] “Here we show that …

Concerned Parent


By Michael Oberschenider Psy.D. Dr. Mike, We recently signed our four-year-old daughter up for gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her friends from the neighborhood do it, and she has been begging us to go. It turned out to be a …

Invisible Illnesses

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde It is general knowledge that when people think about illnesses, they don’t think about illnesses that aren’t physically apparent. Sure, people know about conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other diseases with visible symptoms, but many …

Robinson Park

robinson park

Looking back, now – I’m glad it wasn’t what most people would’ve considered a nice day; I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of hot and sunny to last me for at least a generation (especially since …

Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?


Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.” Where will you live as you age? Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you …

In Defense of ‘Adulting’


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Most friends transitioning from college to the workforce long for the days of college, wishing to be back in class and participating in campus life. To be honest, I may be in the minority, but I have …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

(Be the first to comment)

Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016


Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

(Be the first to comment)

Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016


Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

(Be the first to comment)


October 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 26, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 27, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 28, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 29, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 30, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

October 1, 2016

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

October 2, 2016
October 3, 2016 October 4, 2016 October 5, 2016 October 6, 2016 October 7, 2016 October 8, 2016

Virginia Outdoors Foundation 50 years of Conservation Celebration

October 9, 2016
October 10, 2016 October 11, 2016 October 12, 2016

Barefoot Puppets: Dreamtime, Tales From Down Under

October 13, 2016 October 14, 2016 October 15, 2016

Loudoun Centre Theatre: The Scamps Of Scapin!

October 16, 2016

Harvest Celebration & Fall Farm Tour


October 17, 2016 October 18, 2016 October 19, 2016 October 20, 2016 October 21, 2016

Anthony Semiao Live at North Gate Vineyard


October 22, 2016 October 23, 2016

Come Paint with us at Breaux Vineyards

October 24, 2016 October 25, 2016 October 26, 2016 October 27, 2016 October 28, 2016

October Fourth Friday

October 29, 2016

2 Pound Sterling Live at North Gate VIneyard

October 30, 2016

Music With A Cause - Music of Colonial America

October 31, 2016 November 1, 2016 November 2, 2016 November 3, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5, 2016

OysterFest at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

November 6, 2016
Current Print Issue:
Sign up for our email newsletter:

Recent Comments

Steady and NoBull


Veteran’s Day 10k Raises Funds for Veteran Causes

13 Oct 2016


On November 6, the Loudoun County Road Runners Club will again conduct the annual Loudoun 10K Trail Race in order to raise funds for veteran causes. Since it’s origin in 2011, the trail race has generated more than $90,000 with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to veteran’s charities, specifically Boulder Crest Retreat and Pets for Vets.

(Be the first to comment)

FBRM Clean-Up Day at Blue Ridge Regional Park

6 Oct 2016


Join Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an Autumn clean-up to remove invasive vegetation from Blue Ridge Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Some tools and equipment will be provided, but please bring your clippers, pruning shears, or saws if you can. Directions: From Leesburg, drive west on Route 7 past the turnoff …

(Be the first to comment)

Painted Barrel Auction Saturday, October 8

6 Oct 2016


The Auction for The Painted Barrels around Purcellville will be held on Saturday, October 8 at 7:00 p.m at the Bush Tabernacle – 250 S. Nursery Ave. Purcellville. Thirty-Five local Loudoun County artists were given an oak wine barrel to create a Purcellville / Loudoun theme on it. Each barrel was sponsored by a local business and was displayed throughout …

(Be the first to comment)


Grief and Greed


By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …


Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!


– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West


– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

New Proposed Uses for Western Loudoun

Loudoun County Seal Color

If you live in the middle or western part of Loudoun where you enjoy a parcel of open space near your property (which probably was put into an open space …

Bennett Knows How To Make Economy Work for All


In the election for the 10th District House seat, only one candidate has a more than three decades of success growing a local business. As the owner of a successful …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm


By Andrea Gaines On August 9, 1825 at the age of 69, French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette was honored in Leesburg by former President James Monroe. The French-born …

Around Virginia

History’s Holy Places: Four Local Sites Worth Exploring This Fall


The Journey through Hallowed Ground is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide trek from Gettysburg to Monticello, encompassing nine presidential homes and places, 18 national and state parks, and thousands of small and large historical sites. Dozens and dozens of these sites and related museums are short ride from just about …

(Be the first to comment)

Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

(Be the first to comment)

Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana


Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

(Be the first to comment)


Hunter’s First Professional Race

7 Sep 2016


Drew Hunter and Loudoun Valley classmates at his first professional race, Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC in early August , l to r:  Marcos Pierce, Matt Slook, Drew Hunter, Max McNerney. Hunter finished with a time of 3:57.15. Hunter turned professional and signed with Adidas.

(Be the first to comment)

Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016


American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

(Be the first to comment)


  • +2016
  • +2015
  • +2014
  • +2013
  • +2012
  • +2011
  • +2010
  • +2009