Homemade Mac and Cheese and Rotisserie Chicken
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Two items have been largely resistant to recent inflation: pasta and rotisserie chickens at club stores. As a result, this entire meal costs only about $7.50, or less than $2/serving.
It's not that the cost of producing either of these items has remained stable—Sam's club and Costco are taking a loss on those $5 chickens—but they draw in loyal customers and neither store has indicated that the price of rotisserie chickens will increase. So, for now, these chickens are one of the biggest food bargains around and one chicken can form the protein basis of 2-3 meals. Likewise, there is now a glut in durum wheat on the market—and this amazing wheat is the main ingredient in most pasta. So, while the price of other groceries has risen, the price of pasta has been quite stable.
If pasta is cheap, then no form of pasta is generally cheaper than good old macaroni, and you can buy a pound of it for less than $1. You can make this entire mac and cheese recipe for about $4. The cost of chicken for this meal will range from $2-$4, depending on how much of the chicken you choose to serve. I personally like to reserve the white meat for chicken salad. (I love my recipe for Chicken Salad with Dill Pickle, which is available in the recipe area.) However much of the chicken you serve, do not throw away that carcass! You can make a quart or more of first-rate chicken stock from the carcass and a few basic vegetables, and it doesn’t matter if the veggies have gone a little soft. The best instructions for making broth from the carcass of a club chicken can be found at:
Remember, you can stick the carcass in a freezer bag and freeze it until you are ready to make broth, or you can save up a couple carcasses and do a double batch. The instructions include stovetop, crockpot and Instant Pot methods.
If you add a simple “steam in the microwave” bag of your favorite vegetables, the real cost of feeding a family of 4 is about $7.50, and the kids will love this Mac and cheese. (Since the USDA now estimates that even a thrifty meal plan will cost a family of 2 adults and 2 kids in excess of $900/month, this meal will definitely help with your budget bottom
Once the macaroni is cooked, you stir in 2 cups (8 ounces) of shredded cheddar cheese and stir. That's it. You have macaroni and cheese in about 20 minutes, and you only used 1 pot.
Slice and serve the drums, thighs, wings and portions of the breasts with skin from the rotisserie chicken and place on a platter. Cook a bag of frozen veggies in the microwave.
In 20 minutes, with only 1 pot, you now have a meal of delicious baked chicken, homemade mac and cheese and a vegetable.
But that is not all: you still have 2-3 cups of white meat from the breast area that will make the most amazing chicken salad. Shred this chicken with your hands and chop lightly. You can put this in the fridge or make your chicken salad now. And before everyone sits down to eat, put the chicken carcass, and other bones and cartilage with onion, celery, carrots, parsley, peppercorns, salt, a bay leaf and 1-2 liters of water in a large stock pot and put on simmer. You now have gotten significant portions of 3 meals out of one $5 chicken.
Homemade Mac and Cheese with Baked Chicken
one pound package of macaroni ($0.98, Walmart)
12 oz. can evaporated whole milk ($1.38, Walmart)
4 c. of water
1/2 t. salt
2 cups (8 ounces) of grated cheese, sharp cheddar, or your choice ($2, Aldi or Walmart)
A Costco or Sam's Club Rotisserie Chicken ($ 5.00, for multiple meals)
a bag of vegetable of choice, generic ($1, Walmart)
1. Empty a 12 oz. can of evaporated milk into a large pot (at least 4 quarts). Add 4 c. water, 1/2 t. of salt and a pound of uncooked macaroni. Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 6 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for 8 additional minutes, until pasta is soft.
2. Grate an 8 oz package of cheddar or similar cheese. (Don't used pre-shredded cheese as it does not melt well.) When your pasta is ready, add the shredded cheese to the pot and stir. If your Mac and Cheese becomes dry, add additional milk or cream.
3. Salt and pepper to taste
4. Place the rotisserie chicken on a cutting board and slice off the two chicken legs. Separate the thigs and drumsticks and cut the chicken wings off the breasts. Put 6 pieces of dark meat on a platter, together with portions of 2 breasts with skin. This should allow for 2 pieces of chicken per person if you are serving 4. Reserve the remainder of the breasts for chicken salad, unless you wish to serve them as well.
5. Serve your Mac and cheese, chicken on the platter and your veggie. (I would add 1T of butter and salt and pepper your veggie. Enjoy!
6. Refrigerate your remaining chicken breast meat. I made mine immediately into my Chicken Salad with Dill Pickle. Absolutely wonderful on a croissant or a nice roll. I will insert a link to the recipe as soon as I input it.
7. Place the chicken carcass in a Ziplock bag and either refrigerate or freeze. Do check out the instructions above for making stock. I just put mine on immediately. If you want really gelatinous stock, and you have been saving chicken wing tips (see post on cutting chicken wings yourself) put these wing tips into the stock pot as well. When your stock is done, you can strain it and throw away the pan leavings. You can refrigerate the stock, or it freezes well. I already know exactly what I'm using this stock to make, and having homemade stock is a wonderful luxury. Look at you—you just got 3 meals (or portions of 3 meals) from one $5 chicken. You are thrifty!