Chicken breasts are the little black dress of weeknight dinners: They’re always in style, they can be dressed up or down, and they go with just about everything. Even under non-pandemic circumstances, it’s smart to stock up on this versatile protein for easy-peasy meals.
But — oh, snap — food safety guidelines recommend consuming fresh chicken pieces within 1 to 2 days of buying them. If your most recent grocery run netted you a family-size pack (and you’re not part of a big family), you’ll need a strategy to keep from eating poultry at every meal for 48 hours.
Meal planning to the rescue! We’ve come up with a plan to get you through the week without hitting a wall of chicken fatigue. Read on for how to use a family-size pack to make a variety of chicken dinners (and lunches! and breakfasts!) in 7 days.
Depending on how chicken-zealous you were feeling at the grocery store, the size of your family pack may vary. For the purposes of this plan, we’ll assume you found a great deal on a 5-pound pack, which, when cooked, should make about 10 cups of shredded chicken.
Of course, once you’ve spent good money on a large pack of chicken, the last thing you want is for your fowl to go foul. At the beginning of the week, remove 1 pound of chicken, wrap it tightly in foil or other freezer-safe wrapping, and stash it in the freezer. (Don’t forget to label it — no one likes mystery meat.) Keep the rest in the refrigerator.
Because fresh chicken has a short shelf life in the fridge, this plan will have you cooking most of your meat early in the week and spreading it out in recipes over the next few days. (Cooked chicken lasts longer than fresh — 3 to 4 days.)
If you bought more than 5 pounds, freeze it! You’ll buy yourself up to 9 months of time to use it.
Let’s get this chicken party started. Use fresh chicken breasts at the beginning of the week to whip up the following recipes.
*Uses 3 pounds of chicken breast; makes 6 cups shredded
As every seasoned meal prepper knows, a little work up front goes a long way. First, dump 3 pounds of fresh chicken in a slow cooker to get set for delicious things to come.
This simple recipe from The Salty Marshmallow calls for cooking chicken until it’s tender and falling apart. Once you’ve shredded the meat, let it cool, and then refrigerate the whole batch. You’ll be using it soon.
*Uses 1 pound of chicken for 6 servings
Chicken for breakfast may not be your usual jam, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Early in the week, use your remaining pound of fresh chicken in this Paleo-friendly egg casserole, which combines poultry with veggies like spinach, red bell pepper, and sweet potato (and bits of bacon, because bacon makes everything better).
This recipe makes a hearty batch, so share with roommates or hungry neighbors.
Now that you’ve prepped 6 cups of chicken, it’s smooth sailing into the middle of the week. The following recipes use up your supply of precooked poultry.
*Uses 2 cups of chicken for 6 servings
Avgolemono, a traditional Greek dish, is a zesty chicken and rice soup with a secret ingredient in the broth: lemon! This easy recipe from Jo Cooks is ready in 30 minutes.
*Uses 4 cups of chicken for 8 servings
Fun fact: The creamy pasta dish tetrazzini is named after the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, for whom it was created. Fun fact No. 2: It’s a great way to use cooked chicken.
This lightened-up version from Fountain Avenue Kitchen calls for subbing milk for cream and olive oil for butter and adding kale for a nutrient boost. Freeze or share leftovers.
You got through your cooked chicken — now it’s time to bust out the frozen pound for thawing. Finish things off with an easy Asian-inspired dinner.
*Uses 1 pound of chicken for 4 servings
Oh, sweet sheet pan dinners, how we love thee. Using one pan to cook a whole dinner makes for easy prep and minimal cleanup.
This healthy sesame chicken sheet pan meal pairs a sweet and savory sauce with chunks of white meat, broccoli, red bell pepper, and snap peas (but feel free to sub other veggies you have on hand). Divvy up any extras into resealable containers for grab-and-go lunches later.