Meat is easier to store for the long term than many people realize. Chicken in particular is extremely easy to store in several ways. You probably already know that you can simply stick a whole chicken in the freezer, but this requires planning ahead of time to thaw and cook. The best way for this to work on a busy day is to stick it a crock pot early in the morning. But even that may not be convenient enough on those days when everything goes wrong or if the power is out. Here are some other ways to store chicken for best convenience.
Storing Chicken in the Freezer
Cooked chicken. Whole chickens or turkeys can be cooked, maybe several at a time, and the meat picked off to be placed in freezer bags or freezer containers. This way, there is less thawing time and it is already cooked and ready. Then the carcasses can be boiled down again to make and freeze wholesome broth.
Individual breasts. Bags of chicken breasts can be purchased at most grocery stores. These are easy to store as is, or you can freeze each breast separately for individual portions. Be sure you don’t let the meat thaw all the way before freezing – raw meat should not be frozen more than once.
Outlet chicken. Poultry outlets sell cooked, diced and maybe seasoned chicken in large bags. These are very easy to store in the freezer. The pieces are flash frozen, meaning each individual piece is separate from the other pieces. This makes it easy to scoop out a portion to add to some soup, stew or a casserole.
Whole dinners. Chicken dinners can be frozen already cooked. Think about it – even fried chicken can be purchased in a ‘TV Dinner. Chicken casseroles and soups can be frozen after they are cooked. How easy to thaw them out on crazy days! And if the power is out, since they are already cooked, they can be eaten without cooking or even reheating, if necessary.
Canning Chicken for Storage
Canned chicken can be purchased at the grocery store, but it is about twice as expensive as home-canned chicken and has more preservatives and sodium. Chicken can be canned the same way as it can be frozen: cook a whole chickens and pick off the meat, then put the meat in jars and process. As with the freezer method, this is labor-intensive. But if you choose this method, don’t forget to make rich, wholesome chicken broth. This will be wonderful on cold winter nights, or as a medicinal broth. In emergencies, stress goes up, which causes the immune system to go down. Having some jars of rich chicken broth could be a wonderful antidote.
The easiest way to can chicken, however, is to purchase the big bags from a poultry outlet. Lay the bags out the night before you intend to can, and then simply stuff the jars! Easy peasy! Why can it rather than freeze it? In case the power is out! You don’t run the risk of losing the meat if the freezer thaws, and you can eat the chicken straight from the jar.
When you chicken and/or broth, it’s just as easy to add some vegetables and noodles. Now you don’t only have chicken on the shelf to pull down if the power is out, but you have chicken soup ready to take to a sick friend without disrupting your own day.
Freeze Dried Chicken for Emergencies
There are several companies that sell freeze-dried meat. My favorite is Thrive Life. Freeze-dried is the easiest of all the storage methods; it is also the most expensive. However, choose this method if you do not have the time or the resources to can your chicken at home. Freeze-dried chicken lasts many years, and you never have to worry about a power outage or other emergency. To use, just scoop out the desired portion and toss it into your soup or casserole. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.
The need for stored food is not just for Zombie Apocalypse Preppers. Something as simple as a sick child can throw your daily schedule into a frenzy. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to provide a sick or stressed friend with a home-cooked meal on a moment’s notice – and without neglecting your responsibilities to your own family. And if a storm does cause your power to go out, your family will be less stressed with better morale if you can provide for them the meals they are already used to and enjoy. It truly becomes comfort food! See my book, The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared for more on preparing for the unexpected.