One of the ways I save money on groceries is to use A LOT of pre-cooked turkey or chicken. What I do is buy several turkeys or whole chickens when they’re on sale (or bulk at Costco if I run out before I see another sale), cook it up, and then pick all the meat off the carcass and freeze it in 2 cup (2lb) baggies. The day you cook the turkey or chickens (I’ll do one turkey or 3 chickens at a time in my roaster pan) it’s definitely a big job, but it’s also a yummy meal that day! We always do all the fixings, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. on that day.
Depending on the size of the bird, I usually get 8 or so baggies out of it, which for us makes 8 weeks of Thursday night dinners. Use every single piece of meat on that bird! You will need to get in there with your hands and pick out all the little bits. It’s ok though, because when you’re using it later, it’ll be just fine in small bits.
Here is my thoroughly used up carcass. Now I will bag the entire carcass and freeze it to make soups or stock later.
The baggies will all get frozen. They’re so handy for nights you need a quick and easy dinner. Even if you forget to grab the meat out, they thaw really fast because they’re nice and small, and they also take about 2 minutes to thaw in the microwave. They’re pre-cooked so you don’t have to worry about cooking it through or anything.
If you’re wondering what the heck you would use all these chicken baggies for, here’s a list I thought up of 20 of our staple pre-cooked chicken meals.
1. Pot Pie or Pot Pie Cupcakes
There are loads of easy pot pie recipes you can find online, or you can check out my pot pie cupcake recipe, which would just as easily go into a frozen pie crust if that’s more your style. The easiest way to make a quick, easy, cheater pot pie is to mix a can of Cream of Chicken soup with frozen veggies and your bag of pre-cooked poultry and dump it into a frozen pie crust.
Quesadillas are a huge hit around here. Tortilla shell, add shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, green onions, whatever toppings you like, and your precooked meat and grill lightly on each side. Serve with sour cream and you’ve got a winner every time.
3. Chicken Fried Rice
Another quick and easy staple for us is Chicken Fried Rice. I make rice in the rice cooker or a pot sometime during the day and stick it in the fridge. Then I can clean up the equipment I used long before anyone gets home at the end of the day. Throw that cooked rice, some frozen veggies, and your pre-cooked chicken into a big pan with a little oil. Add soy sauce and stir it all up until it’s all warmed through and serve.
4. Chicken Stirfry
You can make a stirfry out of literally any vegetables your family likes. My personal favourite is zuchini, onions and mushrooms with a bit of soy sauce. I also often do carrots, snap peas, red pepper and pineapple chunks with a sweet and sour sauce, or brocolli, carrots and mushrooms with a teriyaki sauce. It’s a very versatile meal. Add in your pre-cooked meat to your pan or wok and just heat it all up together. Rice , noodle, quinoa, or whatever you want as a side and it’s so yummy and easy.
5. Chicken a la King
Chicken a la King is a quick and easy meal too. I put a can of Cream of Chicken soup, half a can of milk, frozen peas, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and my bag of pre-cooked meat into a pan and warm it through, then serve it on toast.
6. Chicken Tacos
I’ve tried quite a few recipes for chicken tacos and they always turn out great. I usually use a packet of Taco Seasoning from the store and maybe some salsa. You can do it in the crock pot or in a frying pan, but the bottom line is if you have your bag of pre-cooked meat already, it saves you a whole step in cooking your meat.
7. Chicken ‘n Gravy
This is such a comfort food meal to me! With the pre-cooked meat it’s too easy. I make some gravy with a packet of Clubhouse. You could buy canned or be fancy and make your own with chicken stock. Cook your gravy in a pot and when it’s hot and ready, stir in your bag of pre-cooked chicken or turkey. I serve it over mashed potatoes.
8. Soups and Stews
There are literally hundreds of recipes out there for chicken or turkey soups and stews. If you use your pre-cooked bag of meat, you’ve skipped a step. I make soup with chicken stock and then add in the cooked meat, some veggies, maybe some pasta noodles, and season to our tastes. When I do stew I use potatoes instead of noodles, or I make dumplings. Yum!
Enchiladas is another one that’s easier to make and prep if your meat is already cooked. There’s a lot of recipes out there to choose from, the important thing here is that if your meat is pre-cooked, you’re saving time and hassle.
10. Thanksgiving Sandwich
I first discovered how amazing the Thanksgiving Sandwich is when I had one at Disney World. I use thick slices of sour dough bread, spread it with mashed potatoes, stuffing, your pre-cooked meat, and then I’ll make some cranberry mayo just by mixing the two together in a bowl and then spreading that on the sandwich. Omg it’s so delicious. Serve it cold. I usually go for french fries on the side but it’s honestly such a huge and complete meal on it’s own that you don’t need anything if you don’t want to.
11. Turkey Chili
I usually make my chili with ground turkey but you can also make a yummy chili with pre-cooked meat. Chili recipes tend to vary a lot by personal tastes, but your basics would be canned tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, onion, maybe some other vegetables your family likes, and then season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, etc. I cook mine in the slow cooker.
12. Chicken Salad Sandwich
I LOVE chicken salad. I mix mayo with some chopped green onions, or a bit of relish, and add in the pre-cooked chicken. Serve it on a nice bun, fresh bread, or in a pita. I’ll make a pasta salad as a side or potato wedges.
13. Chicken Noodle Casserole
I like to make a HUGE batch of Chicken Noodle Casserole and then freeze it in family sized meals. I use egg noodles, frozen veggies and Cream of Mushroom soup along with the pre-cooked chicken to make the casserole, season to taste and then bake it in the oven. I’d serve it with garlic toast or something like that.
14. Hot Turkey Sandwich
Oh man, a sandwich piled high with cooked turkey or chicken, then covered in gravy. Need I say more?
On nights I make homemade pizza, I love being able to pull out a baggy of pre-cooked chicken and add it as a pizza topping. It makes the pizza seem really fancy, but it’s zero extra work. I don’t usually need the whole bag as pizza topping so then I have leftover for a sandwich for lunch the next day.
16. Chicken Wraps
I love tortilla shells and we use them a lot. Pre-cooked meat wrapped in a shell with maybe some spinach and tomato and a pesto mayo is really good and really easy to put together. Potato wedges or a salad on the side and you’re all set.
17. Chicken Ceasar Salad
Romaine lettuce tossed in ceasar dressing, add Parmesan and croutons, and top with pre-cooked chicken you’ve warmed up in the microwave (or cold if you prefer) and you have yourself a restaurant worthy dinner in no time at all.
18. Bacon Club Sandwich
I’m drooling just thinking of this meal. This is seriously what I order every single time I go to a restaurant. (I’m boring, I know, but I like what I like!) Bacon, cooked chicken, lettuce, tomato and mayo on toast with french fries. My fave. I think might have to go make this for my lunch right now…
19. Chicken Souvlaki
Now I know a lot of people might argue with me that you need your raw meat to marinate in the souvlaki seasoning and be cooked in it, and maybe that does taste a little better and more authentic, but when it’s a night that I’m looking for a quick and easy meal, I always go for my pre-cooked chicken and it always tastes great. I use Epicure’s Souvlaki seasoning. You just mix the spices into some olive oil and then pour it all over the cooked chicken pieces. I then microwave the whole thing for a few minutes. Serve it on naan with cucumber and tomato (which I toss in a Greek seasoning) and Tzatziki.
20. BBQ Chicken Sandwich
I especially like these in the winter when we can’t barbeque. Grab your favourite BBQ sauce and put some in a pot. Warm it up and then add in the cooked meat. Stir until evenly coated and serve on hamburger buns or kaisers with coleslaw or pasta salad or french fries or whatever you want as a side.
I know these aren’t full recipes or anything, but they’re just some ideas to get the juices flowing and give you something to think about when planning supper. It’s a jumping off point if you’re interested in trying to save grocery money by pre-cooking and freezing poultry. You’ll come up with so many more ideas that suit your family’s particular tastes once you get used to using it and thinking of it. Hope you’re hungry!