Over the summer we took a Knife Skills class at ICE in New York. Not only did I find out that I’ve been holding a knife wrong for 25+ years, but we also learned techniques for slicing, dicing and chopping quickly and safely (as well as some REALLY COOL maneuvers for peeling garlic cloves and slicing cherry tomatoes).

But the most valuable tip we walked away with had to do with making chicken stock. Essentially, that you can make it with food scraps you’d be throwing away anyway, freeze it for months, and have an endless supply of free and tasty chicken broth.

We made our first batch in October (when we were supposed to be on our honeymoon but were delayed because of Superstorm Sandy…long story) and since then, we’ve probably saved at least $50 in not buying chicken stock. Plus, we’ve used it a lot more frequently, like for cooking rice, because we have it on hand. It’s also not nearly as salty as some of the store-bought brands, which our arteries like.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Start saving vegetable scraps in a big ziploc in your freezer. Besides the typical carrots, celery and onion, we’ve used parsnips, green pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Oh, and save the onion skins too, because that’s what gives the stock its golden color.
  • Make a small roast chicken every once in a while, which is easy and money-saving on its own. Freeze the carcass, and any legs/feet that happen to come with the bird.
  • Make the stock: put the frozen chicken bones and vegetables into a big pot, cover with water, add some whole peppercorns, thyme and other spices, bring to a boil, and simmer for 6+ hours. (I’m still playing with the proportions of food:water…just enough water to cover the scraps seems to be good). Add some salt to help bring out the flavor. I’ve found that freezing & thawing also enhances the flavor for some reason, so don’t go overboard.
  • Strain, fill plastic containers, let cool and freeze. We typically go through our stash in about 3-4 months. At that point, you’ll probably have more than enough new scraps, so feel free to toss the old and make new.

Pretty close to life-changing. And so simple.

Have you ever made your own stock? What are other money-saving tricks you use in the kitchen?