52 ways to save money on a healthy diet: 7 ways to use frugal chicken drumsticks

Using a cash system and counting my pocket change led me to some different options for making inexpensive meals (see other posts in this series here). Necessity is the great inventor, isn’t it? One of my favorite ways to make frugal meals is using organic chicken drumsticks from Trader Jo’s. These are inexpensive, and I will buy packages of them to keep in the freezer every time I shop there.

Now, I know I have readers who only buy the very best chicken, which (in my opinion) would be chicken raised by local farmers who fed them not only an antibiotic-free, organic diet, but also allowed them the freedom to “pasture” and eat their natural diet of bugs, grubs, and greens. Extra points if these farmers used a soy-free feed for them. I LOVE these type of chickens, as they taste rich, and are so much more flavorful then most chicken ¬– even organic store-bought. In my area, these types of chickens are generally available from anywhere from $3.50 a pound (when buying a lot of chickens at once from a local farmer during butchering time) to $6 dollars a pound. $5 dollars a pound would be the typical price I see. That makes a smaller sized roast chicken about $20+. Because this is a bit expensive for many of us (or at least it is for me!), I’ve learned how to stretch these delicious chicken out into more meals (more about that in another post). If this is the only chicken you are comfortable with, or can tolerate, there are plenty of ways to make this option more frugal by spreading it out in many dishes. I’ll do a post on that too.

But, when a Trader Jo’s was brought to our area, and I had the option of buying organic drumsticks for such a great price ($1.99 a pound), I decided to take this option and use it to my advantage. On the scale of poor to excellent in food choices, I consider this a “good” or “very good” option. By using this frugal option in a variety of ways, I’ve been able to keep up a good amount of protein in our diets – an important thing to do, as well as help make pots and pots or nourishing soups for us.

So with that long introduction done, let’s go to some frugal dishes and ideas you can use to utilize drumsticks!

1. Lemon Garlic Drumsticks: I always, always get requests for this recipe when I bring it for a potluck or bring it to a new mom. It is simple, yet so flavorful!

2. Teriyaki Drumsticks: This is a real favorite for us (I used wings in the recipe pictured, but I generally use drumsticks). Serve with a side of steamed vegetables and rice or quinoa.

3. Make it into chicken broth. I make all sorts of chicken broth with a wide variety of ingredients. But my favorite remains my recipe that uses a combination of leftover roasted chicken bones and fresh chicken drumsticks. It has a good gelatin quality, and excellent flavor. However, I will also make pots simply using raw chicken drumsticks too!

4. Make soup without premade broth using chicken drumsticks. The first recipe I used this method with was my chicken noodle soup recipe. In my soup cookbook. Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons, I utilized it in several other recipes as well, including my Chinese Congee. This allows me to make a nutrient dense soup from scratch even when I don’t have homemade chicken broth on hand. (I re-use the bones when making another, long simmered chicken broth too!). I can literally take my frozen chicken legs, stick them in a pot with the other ingredients and have a nourishing homemade soup and hour or so later. This is not only incredibly frugal, but is has saved me many a dinner where my other meal plans went awry (or I just didn’t have dinner plans!).

5. Use drumsticks to feed a crowd. Since drumsticks are so frugal, they make a great choice when serving food to a crowd. I know that many of us who are on a budget but want to feed guests healthy food, struggle with meal ideas. I have found that dishes using drumsticks are always popular, and fairly frugal too! I generally plan on about two drumsticks per person.

6. Drumsticks make great freezer meals. Before freezing you can pour the teriyaki marinade or the lemon garlic sauce over the chicken drumsticks. When you need a meal, you can pull them out of the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator for a quick and frugal meal.

7. Use drumsticks to make a nourishing meal for a new mom or family in need. It is good to be generous with the food you share with others. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to make delicious and nourishing meals to bring to a new mom, or a family dealing with a crisis without breaking your budget. Using drumsticks to make a nice meal that is still nourishing and frugal has helped me.

Do you have any favorite frugal drumstick recipes to share? I’d love to hear.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Renee says

    I’ve been really happy with the organic drumsticks I’ve purchased at Costco ($1.79/lb). I do pretty much all of the things you’ve mentioned here, plus I’ve grilled them and roasted them with a dry rub. Drumsticks and thighs are my two favorite chicken pieces (my kids, too) – so lucky that they’re the most economical!

    • KimiHarris says

      Renee,

      I didn’t realize that Costco carried them too! Interesting! Thanks for sharing. :-)

      Your grilling and dry rub ideas sound yummy.

      • Heather says

        Is a Costco membership cost effective for a whole foods/natural/organic lifestyle? (Meaning – are there many desirable products in those categories? vs. huge boxes of Cheerios, Cascade, Folgers coffee, etc?) I’d be interested to know more about what other products are available/recommended to purchase there.

        • KimiHarris says

          A couple of things to consider: Are you looking for the best of the best? If so, farmer’s markets, and direct buying from local farmers is the way to go. What they have at my local Costco is Kerrygold Butter, organic spinach and salad mix, organic broccolini, and some organic fruit (though I generally get my organic fruit else where). Organic quinoa, organic rice mix and brown rice, Nutiva coconut oil, and some decent olive oil too. They also have wild caught Alaskan salmon (frozen), and sometime good deals on kitchen appliances and such too. I know that there is probably more, but those are the main products I stock up on there. Anyone want to add any thoughts?

          • michelle says

            my Costco also carries Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, and other good European cheeses, such as Roquefort. Their price on organic carrots can’t be beat. They also make their own brand of organic PJs for kids (not as soft as Hanna Andersson, but for $11.99, that’s a compromise I’m willing to make). They also sell Culturelle – I can’t remember the price, sorry. Oh, and just recently I bought a 2 lb bag of organic figs for $7 or $8. And they carry organic raisins. Last summer they had really yummy organic peaches. There are probably more things, but you get the idea. We’ve been Costco members for years and find that it is worth it to shop there.

  2. Tracy Quebral says

    We use them to make Chicken Adobo, a Filipino dish. My husband’s dad was from the Philippines, and so it’s a family favorite. You marinate the chicken (any chicken, but drumsticks work great) with 3/4 cup soy sauce (we use gluten free because we’re gf), 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (any vinegar works fine), 1 clove minced garlic, and pepper to taste. You can add a bay leaf too. Then when ready to bake, bake in a 375 degree oven for 1-1 1/2 hours. Serve with rice.

  3. Anne Marie says

    Can’t wait to try these recipes. I love drumsticks here. Usually make a crockpot full for Sunday lunch. Pop the bones back in the crock with water and seasoning after lunch for dinner soup stock. Leftover meat gets added to the soup. Love it!

  4. Esther says

    I’ve never seen organic drumstick at “my” Costco but if you buy their organic whole chickens by the case it is $1.74 a pound instead of $2.??. With 6 kids it’s a no brainer to get them by the case.

    • KimiHarris says

      We love roasting whole chickens too! I *like* to try to buy a little higher quality whole chickens, when I can (the local, pastured kinds), but I think the reason I like the drumsticks is because we only have 4 people in our family, and I am always pulling them out frozen from the freezer and making quick soups and congees with them, which is harder to do with a whole chicken. :-)

  5. jamie says

    My children did not like drumsticks because they claim to not like dark meat….however they dearly love hot wings. When I questioned them on this they said, “well, if you made drumsticks like you do hot wings we would like them too.” Now we make hot legs. Problem solved.

  6. says

    I love korean food and etnic flavors. I maoe sticky chicken with homemade grain-free gochujang and honey. You can also use tamarind paste. Add some ginger and sesame oil if you have it! Its delicious. I also utilize my smoker for things a lot. It doesn’t cost much to fire it up and you get a LOT of flavor with just salt , pepper and smoke.

    • KimiHarris says

      Yummy! What smoker do you own? I like the idea of a smoker, but when I eat home smoked foods, sometimes I am surprised to find that I don’t like it after all. Not sure why….I like smoked bacon and ham hocks!

  7. tina says

    Have you talked to Trader Joe’s or Costco about the use of soy in the feed and why it’s an issue? I asked the salesperson at our new Trader Joe’s about this and they are going to look into it. I know it’s a start, but if more and more people ask, perhaps they’ll respond and try to find a soy free food source. I have a child with soy allergies. She doesn’t tolerate soy feed chicken well at all, especially the bone broth. The soy does pass into the meat and the eggs, there are studies showing this even though dieticians will swear otherwise. Just a thought!
    We use bone in chicken thighs and drumsticks to save $ too, just have to source well.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Tina,

      That’s a good idea! Though even the local, pastured chickens I know in the area often use soy feed. Where do you get your chicken from? Local or online?

  8. Jessie says

    sadly my husband does not like drumsticks – but he does like thighs & so that is a good choice for us. I have adapted some drumstick recipes to thigh recipes.

  9. says

    I grind up the bones and add them to stews and whatnot. The bones have an abundance of something called an electrochemical compound colloid, something lacking in our foods today – including organic- because of soil depletion. American Indians did this.

    • KimiHarris says

      Jamil,

      So interesting! I have also read many references to eating of bones in ways that it would be hard to imagine doing (just practically speaking). Guests of a friend who were from a third world country ate the bones of the roasted wings and drumsticks they served! Two questions for you: 1. How do you grind up the bones. 2. I’d love to hear more about how American Indians did this historically.

  10. Sarah says

    How does the nutritional content of making soup (broth or stock) from drumsticks compare to that of making soup from a whole “roaster” chicken?

    • KimiHarris says

      Sarah,

      That is a great question. When I make a quick broth to make chicken noodle soup or something like that, it is mostly using the meat to make the broth (which is why I save the bones to reuse in another broth). It doesn’t mean that it is not nutritious, but different then the “bone broths” that use bones and then simmer for a long period of time to leach out the minerals from the bones. I do the long simmered stocks for the really mineral rich aspects it has. However, a pot made with a bag of chicken drumsticks is going to be similar to the nutrition from a whole chicken, if they weigh the same and are cooked the same amount of time. :-)

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