But spinach is a cool weather crop, so this is more of a winter meal in the hot climate of Cyprus. One way around that problem, even here in cooler New England is to use frozen spinach, which is often cheaper than fresh and also saves some prep time.
Of course, this is only a true budget meal if you buy the meat on sale. And, as I repeat over and over again in my blogs, that’s the ONLY way you should ever buy meat, except maybe for special occasions. And even then, with just a little bit of planning, you can usually find deals in your local market.
I typically won’t pay more than 99¢a pound for chicken parts or whole chicken. And sometimes I can get legs or backs for quite a bit less. I don’t buy wings because they are too boney, and you’re paying for that in the per pound price.
Also, if I can get boneless chicken breast for $1.49 or so, I will stock up on that.
I simply plan my meals around this store’s sales flyer and what I have on hand in my fridge and pantry, and manage easily to stay within my budget that way. That also means I can get grocery shopping done very quickly.
It doesn’t need to be a huge time-consuming production, and I’ve fine tuned it to a very efficient activity.
That said, if I’m driving by a different grocery store, or am in the neighborhood, and I know they have a particular item on sale that represents a substantial savings, I’ll stop and speed shop for that particular item, and get in and out of the store very quickly.
That happened in the case of this meal. Aldi’s, which is across town from my house, had boneless chicken breast on sale. I was driving right by on the way back from an appointment, so I ran in to get a supply. I got several packages, and was in and out in 10 minutes.
You will likely pay quite a bit less than that if you stick to chicken parts, such as backs, breasts, or legs. You can also extend the meal and save money by adding a can or two of chick peas in addition to, or instead of, some of the meat.
Regardless of the specific cost of the chicken parts you use, this meal is about as simple as it gets for home cooking. Yet it provides great nutrition, flavor and value. I hope you like it.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes about 8-10 hearty servings (can be easily halved or doubled)
Prep time - Approx. 20 minutes
Start to finish time - Approx. 60 minutes
Total recipe cost – Approx. $8.00
Total per person meal cost with rice and tossed salad – Approx. $1.50
8-10 chicken backs, legs, or breasts, bone-in
2-2½ pounds boneless chicken (any type)
1-2 cans chick peas (optional - instead of, or in addition to the meat to make it go further)
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup dry white wine (the cheap stuff)
1 29-32 ounce can crushed tomatoes
10 -16 ounces fresh or frozen spinach
1 bunch fresh flat parsley
2-3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
Ingredients for the Meal:
Chicken with Spinach
6 cups cooked brown rice
Tossed mixed green salad
Plain yogurt (optional)
Recipe continues after pictures.
- Start the rice. Measure 4 cups of water into a pot, add 2 cups of brown rice and about ½ teaspoon of salt, cover the pot, and place it over high heat. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-medium-low and set a timer for 35 minutes. When the timer goes off, check the rice for doneness (firm, nutty consistency), and remove from direct heat.
- Meanwhile, get the chicken ready. If you are using chicken parts, remove the skin by holding each piece and firmly grabbing and pulling the skin off with the other hand. If you’re using chicken legs, it will take extra effort and possibly the help of a knife to get it off at the end. Discard the skin. Cut the parts into individual pieces, if necessary.
- If you’re using boneless chicken, then cut it into chunks about 1-1 ½ inches in size.
- Set the chicken aside on a plate.
- Dice the onion. Start by cutting the ends off the onion and peeling it. Cut it in half through the point where the stems were. Place each half flat side down. Holding it firmly with one hand, cut it lengthwise into narrow strips. The cut across the strips to finish dicing the onion into pieces about ¼- inch in size. Set aside.
- Chop the 4 cloves of garlic. Start by cutting the very tips off each clove and peeling it. If the peel is stubborn, it also helps to press down firmly on the garlic clove with the blade of a large knife to loosen it. Cut each clove crosswise into thin strips and then across the strips to make a coarsely chopped consistency.
- Prepare the parsley bunch. Start by holding the bunch at the stem end and swishing the leaves around in a large bowl of water. Empty and rinse the bowl, and repeat the process 2-3 more times until the water is free of any soil or garden residue. Cut most of the stem portion off the bunch and discard. Use a sharp knife to slice through the entire bunch of remaining leaves over and over again. Keep scraping it into a pile as it spreads out. Repeat the gathering and chopping procedure until you have a fine consistency. It should make about ½ cup. A little more or less is fine, too.
- Measure the 2 tablespoons of oil into a large pot and heat it over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Add the onion and cook it for about 5 minutes until translucent, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or so, stirring often.
- Stir in the wine and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the crushed tomatoes into the chicken mixture, using a spatula to scrape any residue off the sides.
- Add the parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Add the chicken parts and mix everything together well. Cover the pot and leave it to simmer for about 25 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, thaw the 10-16 ounces of spinach in a microwavable container on low power.
- Check the chicken for doneness by piercing the fattest part of any piece with a knife. Any juices should run clear.
- When the chicken is done, stir in the thawed spinach. Re-cover the pot and cook an additional 5-10 minutes or so.
- Serve the dish over the rice and with a fresh, mixed green salad. An optional spoonful of plain yogurt is also a traditional accompaniment to this meal in Greek households.