Save money using a whole chicken on your prep day for shredded BBQ chicken to use for salads, sandwiches, and baked potato toppers!
All the sun, all the sand! Our barefoot days spent on the shore of Lake Michigan in the summer is what gets us through the snowy winters here, and this summer is no different! The weather has been incredible…which also means I don’t want to be inside cooking meals all day!
Growing tweens and teens nutritional needs
If you have been around here as long as this blog has been around, you have truly watched my girls grow up. I started this blog when my third born was just a baby, and you’ve gotten to witness so many seasons of their growth. In the last few years, I’ve slowly started a bit of a larger gear shift as my oldest went through her tween years, and then turned 13 this spring. Now, with my second born right smack dab in her tween-hood, I feel like I’m seeing a pattern in nutritional needs of these rapidly growing, hormone-shifting years. Protein. And a lot of it. Sure, this age needs some really good, healthy fats for their ever-changing hormones and growth spurts – in fact it is vital. Hormones *need* fats to work. But I am also seeing even more importantly that their growth spurts and rapid metabolisms need protein, or they will eat you out of house and home!
Keeping the tweens from being starving!
I remember the moment I decided I had to change *something.* My oldest was a tween, and I literally couldn’t keep satisfied – she was always hungry! She was growing out of shoes left and right, and within one school year grew at least 5 inches. I was feeding her the same sort of meals as I always had, with larger portions, and making sure there was healthy fat at each meal. What I noticed was that on days that we had more protein on the plate, she was happier and more satiated. I started working on getting more meat into specifically our lunch meals, and it really helped during those growth spurting tween years. (Side note! YES pastured eggs are a great source of protein as well, and we use them for my younger two – but my oldest cannot have them other than in baked goods so that source is out for her!)
Saving your budget with a whole chicken
With an increased need for quality protein in my growing kiddo’s diet, I changed a few things around, and started focusing on using whole chickens for meal preps. We already had our half grassfed cow in the freezer at around $4 per pound (an absolute budget lifesaver!), but I didn’t want to be blowing my budget in cuts of chicken day in and day out. I needed something to pull for meat every day without cooking every day too! The budget savings in using a whole chicken at $4 per pound or less, versus cuts of chicken at over $6 per pound – well that is a no brainer.
More than just the meat!
Of course the tender, juicy chicken meat off the bone is by far superior to cuts of chicken, but you also get to use the leftover chicken juices (called meat stock), as well as the bones to make bone broth – practically free broth to use for weekly soups, stews, gravies, and cooking veggies or rice in! When your whole chicken is done cooking – whether that be in a slow cooker, oven, or Instant Pot, just strain the juices off and you’ve got yourself a nutrient packed stock for cooking with – without having to buy it at the store!
Let’s talk BBQ Sauce before we get to the chicken!
For this post, and for most of the summer, I like to use my super quick 5-minute BBQ Sauce. It stirs up in a jar in literally minutes, and it tastes so good! If you prefer a more fruit sweetened sauce, try my date sweetened BBQ Sauce here – it blends up in a blender in just minutes without cooking too! Or, if you have a store bought version that doesn’t have a bunch of junk ingredients, that works too! There are plenty of brands out there now that have made BBQ sauce from the store healthier without using high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives. Since we are talking a bit about budget saving in this post, I’ll recommend trying to make your own, and saving the money!
The Method :: Cooking the Whole Chicken
My goal in this meal prep recipe is to make the prep part as simple as possible, so that you will want to do this regularly, instead of just one time! Since the purpose of this whole chicken is to be shredded up with BBQ anyway, I don’t even spend time fussing with seasoning the chicken. We are essentially boiling/poaching the chicken plain. That way, the meat stock leftover in the pot is a perfectly beautiful, unseasoned but flavorful blank slate that you can use for anything you want. To get started, fill your Instant Pot liner with a couple cups of water and fill with carrots, onion, and celery – this veggie mix along with the chicken will flavor the stock beautifully. Add the chicken to the water and veggies, and pressure cook on the poultry setting for 28 minutes. After the chicken pressure cooks, let the pressure release naturally for about 15 minutes before opening the lid and getting the chicken out. Be sure to strain off the liquid (meat stock) to use for soup or cooking veggies/rice in this week!
The Method :: Shredding the Whole Chicken
Once the whole chicken has been cooked, you can pull the meat off the bones as soon as it is cooled off enough to handle. Sometimes I don’t have the time to wait, and I’ll use some tongs or put some rubber gloves on to get it done! Put all of the meat from the chicken into a large bowl and shred with 2 forks. You could blend with a hand mixer if you want too – it really does work!
The Method :: How to Turn the Shredded Chicken Into BBQ Shredded Chicken!
The only thing left to do is stir in the BBQ sauce at this point! Use as little, or as much as you want! For this 5 pound chicken, I did use an entire pint of my 5-Minute BBQ Sauce. You may also need to salt and pepper your chicken to your taste since we did not season the whole chicken, and chicken tends to be bland without. It is truly a blank slate – make it taste how your family likes it!
How to serve your shredded BBQ chicken!
For this post, I’ve shown you how to use the BBQ chicken for sandwiches, but there are a couple other ways I like to serve it too! One of the girls’ favorite ways is over baked sweet potatoes. It changes up the starch from bread, and adds a veggie in there too! My kids will eat the chicken cold in a lettuce wrap as well. Another option is mixed into a salad, or you can go with the classic bun (we like the GF buns from Trader Joes’), pita (we like the GF pitas at Costco from BFree), or wraps!
Prep Day Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken
- 2 cups water
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks of celery coarsely chopped
- 1 Whole chicken between 4-6 pounds, rinsed
- 1-2 cups BBQ sauce of choice I like to use a pint of my 5-minute BBQ Sauce
- Sea salt & pepper to taste
- Put 2-3 cups of water into your Instant Pot liner, along with the veggies, and then the whole chicken on top.
- Close the IP lid, seal the valve, and press "Poultry." Bring the time up to 28 minutes. The IP will start on its own, taking about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 28 minutes of pressure cooking time.
- Once the chicken is done pressure cooking, let the IP sit for 15 minutes to naturally release some of the pressure. After waiting 15 minutes, release the rest of the pressure from the valve, and transfer the whole chicken to a large dish or plate to de-bone. Strain the juices (called meat stock) and use those for any soups, stews, stir fry, or cooking veggies/rice in another time!
- De-bone the whole chicken, and then shred the meat in a large bowl using 2 forks. Once the chicken is shredded, stir in the BBQ sauce, and then season with salt and pepper to your taste.
More real food recipes you might like!
- If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can cook your whole chicken using the slow cooker, or the oven!
- Instant Pot Bone Broth
- Instant Pot Potato Salad
- How to make Prep Day Hard Boiled Eggs
- Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken
- Veggie Loaded Taco Meat for Taco Night
- Mahi Fish Taco Loaded Buddha Bowls