Dealing with inflation in the kitchen? Put down the chicken breasts

Beth Dooley says to buy the whole bird — and make this soup

Inflation continues, with prices up 8.5 percent last month over a year ago. And you probably didn't need federal data to confirm what you've seen on the receipt from your last trip to the grocery store: food prices are up closer to 9 percent.

So we asked Beth Dooley, a James Beard Award-winning food writer in the Twin Cities, to share some of her tips for dealing with inflation in the kitchen.

She said to stop paying for all that packaging, processing and advertising. Opt for beans and grains from the bulk bins in your supermarket. In the meat aisle, choose a whole chicken instead of parts that have been processed and packed separately.

“We eat a lot of whole chicken here, because I can roast a chicken up and then I can cut it up and use it in tacos, or maybe a stir-fry. And then I’ve got these wonderful bones,” she told MPR News host Tom Crann on this week’s Appetites. “I hang onto the bones and throw them into the freezer. The same thing with vegetables, maybe odd and ends of carrots, maybe half an onion.”

Dooley said she then uses the scraps to make a stock and, later, chicken soup.

“And you can doctor it up in all kinds of different ways so you don’t feel like you’re eating the same darn soup every night,” she added.

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Get creative with lemongrass and ginger. Go French with tarragon and thyme. Or just follow the recipe below.

For more tips, click play on the audio player above.

bowl of chicken soup
Food writer Beth Dooley recommends her Old Fashion Chicken Broken Noodle Soup recipe for inflation-weary home cooks. Using leftover chicken, bones and vegetables, it can help you stretch ingredients while still providing a healthy, flavorful meal for your household.
Mette Nielsen

Old Fashion Chicken Broken Noodle Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 carrot, scrubbed clean

1 stalks celery, leaves included

1 small onion, peeled and cut in half

1 bay leaf

Bones from 3 to 4 pound roasted chicken

2 carrots cut into coins

1 sprig fresh thyme

Large sprig fresh parsley

½ cup cooked spaetzle or broken egg noodles

½ cup fresh or frozen peas

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Put the the carrot, stalk celery, onion and bay leaf into a large pot and add enough water to cover. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Skim off any of the foam with a shallow spoon. Simmer until the liquid is removed by half, about 45 minutes. Remove and discard the bones. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot. Taste and if the flavor is not rich enough, return to the heat and simmer to further reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavor.

Cut the remaining carrots into bite-sized chunks and add to the pot along with the thyme and parsley. Continue simmering for about 15 minutes. Add the cooked spaetzle (or egg noodles), peas and cooked chicken to the pot and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Optional seasonings – try these seasonings alone or in combination:

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Several shakes soy sauce
Shake or two of dark sesame oil
Shake or two of hot sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
Substitute 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro for the thyme
Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream to enrich the soup