When I first stumbled into the food blogging world, the first thing I found were some short films on how to use a whole chicken. Since then, I have only purchased chicken parts twice. Once was for a party where I was slow cooking a lot of drumstick and thighs. The other time was on a vacation with a few other families. We bought a really big and cheap package of boneless skinless breasts. The difference in quality of the pre-packaged chicken breasts to meat taken off a $7 to $9 whole bird was astounding.
I've tried a few different brands of chickens - Plainville Farms sold at Price Chopper, BJ's all natural brand, Murray's that I got at Cardona's, and the Nature's Select at Hannafords are the brands that come to mind. From these, I prefer the Nature's Select brand.
I'm not kidding myself that these are all natural free range chickens that roamed outside searching for bugs. I'm pretty sure they are all commercial farmed birds, but I believe they are a slightly better class of commercial farm. I might be kidding myself there. While pricier than the cheapest chickens you can find in a supermarket, they are clearly superior in quality. They smell better, look better, and taste better. I imagine a $20 chicken from a farmer's market is great. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, I am too cheap to buy a $20 chicken.
I used the last of our chicken last week so I picked up two from Hannafords. The cost was about $18.
When I break the birds down, I start with the legs and thighs. The legs and thighs from both birds get frozen together and usually end up on the grill. The breasts and tenderloins from each bird are frozen separately. I used to save the wings and when I had enough, there would be a wing dinner. The kids wouldn't eat it (I'm not positive they are related to me). The wings, the rest of the bones and skin go in a bag for making stock. Homemade stock will greatly improve anything you cook using a box or can of stock. It is amazing how much better stew gets with some of that stock. If my a visit from my brother is coming up, I save the livers and some fat for chopped liver. Here are the chickens broken down.
Before we butchered our first cows, every family got a FoodSaver. I seal the legs & thighs and the breasts before they go into the freezer. The more I do this, the faster I get. Last night, the time from opening the packaging of the first chicken to all cleaned up with meat in the freezer was just under an hour. Above average meat for three meals for a family of 4 (usually with leftovers) for about $6 a meal. Plus, that stock goes into a lot of other meals. Not too bad.