Get ready to save money and rock your recipes

By Stacey Ballis
Updated September 08, 2020
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Chicken always feels like a budget-conscious move, whether you’re baking it, shredding it into soup, or stir-frying it into spicy family meals. But I’m here to let you in on the best budget chicken move you can make—one that in fact will also deliver the tastiest punch.

Go all in on bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

Why? No single type of chicken will save you more money or be a better investment for meals down the road. As of today, these budget friendly pieces are going for $1.29 per pound at my local Costco—the same per-pound price as whole chickens, which are always the least expensive way to buy chicken. Boneless-skinless breasts? As much as $6.09 per pound. And the boneless skinless thighs are still more than twice as expensive at $3.49 for regular and $5.49 for organic.

So why stock up on bone-in, skin-on thighs?

They offer serious flavor

For starters, they are delicious. The most forgiving cut of chicken, thighs stay moist and tender in cooking, especially on the grill where white meat tends to dry out. Unless you are buying farm-fresh chickens, you may discover that grocery store chickens are bred for quick turnaround and therefore have very little real chicken flavor. If you have ever tasted a home-raised chicken, you know that the white meat tastes more like grocery store dark meat! So, if you’re shopping supermarket chicken, you’re getting more actual chicken flavor with the thighs than with breasts.

They’re super versatile

Thighs are the most versatile piece of the bird. You can use thighs with confidence in any style of cooking. From baking to braising, grilling to sautéing, stir fry to deep fry, the thigh works beautifully in any recipe and flavor profile.

You can break them down yourself if you need to

Thighs are also are the easiest part of the chicken to break down yourself. Have a recipe that calls for boneless skinless? With just the one central bone to remove and a simple piece of skin to pull off, you can prep these yourself with minimal fuss, and save the upcharge for convenience at the market! This also allows you to make my favorite style of thigh, the boneless skin-on thigh, which I love for grilling. You’ll get all that crispy skin, with fast cooking and no struggling around a bone on the plate. Even better, ground chicken thigh is a better non-red-meat ground product for flavor and texture than ground breast or ground turkey, and you can make your own in your meat grinder or food processor. If you want it extra juicy, keep some of the skin in when you grind.

Buying strategies to save money and time

Buy your chicken thighs at a big box store like Costco for the best deal. Look for the package with the farthest out best-by date, and then come home and re-package. I will pack up freezer bags of two to four thighs each, usually an even mix of as-is, boneless skin-on, and boneless-skinless, since it is easier to prep before freezing. Bones get saved for stock, and I render trimmed skin and fat into chicken fat for future matzo balls.

Bottom line? Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs are the ultimate dinnertime win/win: the most delicious and versatile cut of meat for the lowest price. Your wallet and your taste buds will thank you in equal measure.