Much has been made of the lifehack of creating a uniform for yourself and simply wearing it every day, from Steve Jobs’s black turtlenecks to Barack Obama’s closet full of navy and gray suits. In the ridiculous modern struggle that is keeping a family fed every week, I’ve turned to the same strategy to fight decision fatigue at the grocery store.
It started with Taco Tuesday and homemade pizza on Friday nights. Just having two meals that were roughly the same each week greatly reduces the brainstorming and back-and-forth that my husband and I engage in to plan meals. Adding a roast chicken to the mix not only answers the question of dinner for an additional day a week but, in our house, also forms the basis for two other meals.
You can make it even easier on yourself—without making dinner more expensive—by skipping the roasting part and just grabbing a rotisserie chicken on your way home from work. Add a salad and you have dinner, and a healthy one at that.
In my house, there are two adults with fairly big appetites, a baby who eats some solid food, and a toddler who sometimes eats nothing and sometimes devours an adult-sized plate full of food. We tend to eat the white meat and the wings, which the three-year-old calls dragon wings, on the first go-round, then turn the thighs and legs into tacos, barbecue chicken sandwiches, chicken pot pie, or soup, for a second meal.
My husband is an expert stock maker, and puts the picked-clean chicken carcass in our Instant Pot with a few celery ribs, a handful of baby carrots, and a quartered onion for a base for soup, stew, or risotto. That one chicken forms a basis for several other meals in this way. It’s not just thrifty, it also makes the most of the bird.
As far as specific recipes go, we tend to let the chicken dry out in the fridge for a few hours, for crispy skin, before dusting with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning and popping it in a hot oven for about an hour. This simple, stripped-down recipe from chef Thomas Keller is a good version to try if you want to go simple. Martha Stewart has a recipe called Every Week Roast Chicken. Samin Nosrat’s buttermilk chicken recipe requires a few more ingredients and a little bit of planning, but is a nice alternative. The fewer flavorings you use, the more possibilities there are for leftovers, and making a chicken stretch as far as possible has become a bit of a chef-y challenge.
And seriously, don’t second-guess yourself about going rotisserie chicken on this. They’re designed to barely break even for the store to draw you in to buy other items with a higher margin. They’re almost always super delicious, and you can employ the same leftovers and stock strategy to make them go even further. Think of them as a secret dinner weapon.