Tag Archives: thanksgiving

6 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

I was reading an article the other day that said about one third of the turkey meat bought for Thanksgiving is thrown out after. This doesn’t include the bones. That sounds bad, but not as bad as it could as U.S. food waste is at 40% overall. Even so, it’s a good target to practice at wasting less food.

It’s also important to understand that in the regular food supply, not all of that waste happens in the home. That number comes from the entire food stream, such as losses in transporting food to the store. That’s a bit different from the food waste that comes from throwing out leftover turkey.

1. Freeze the Excess

I don’t let my family get too tired of turkey. I freeze the extra meat first. That means I have quick supplies on those nights that I don’t particularly feel like cooking. This point usually comes after a few days. I just haul out the knife and start carving up whatever is still on the bird.

2. Send Leftovers Home With Guests

If you had company over, offer some of the leftover turkey for the ones who live close enough to take home. You can’t guarantee that they’ll eat it, but some will be quite glad to have it.

3. Toss It In the Skillet

You don’t have to serve plain turkey as leftovers. I find it goes very well with turmeric and cauliflower. Simmer the ingredients together on the stove, possibly with some other vegetables, and it’s pretty good. There are lots of leftover turkey recipes online.

4. Make Turkey Sandwiches

Kind of a classic here, I think. Bread, turkey, and whatever other toppings you enjoy can make an excellent sandwich.

5. Add to Salads

A bit of turkey goes well into a salad. Mix up your favorites, and it’s good for at home or on the go.

6. Turkey Soup

Even though the waste statistic doesn’t include the bones, I prefer to use them up. It’s very easy to make turkey soup. Get a large pot, put the bones in, add a lot of water and start simmering. I usually start mine in the morning, and take the bones out in the midafternoon, by which point the remaining meat comes off very easily.

I even have a bag of frozen vegetables to add in at the start for flavor, ones that would have otherwise gone bad before I got to them in the fridge. Chopping and freezing them means I have great vegetables for homemade soup of whichever variety. Just one more way to cut waste.

The turkey soup needs to be spiced up however you like, and have more things added, depending on your tastes. I find barley works well, as do potatoes or rice. Lots and lots of vegetables, usually beyond my “frozen just in time” supply.

Tips for an Eco Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is getting pretty close already, so it’s time to start planning. I posted last year on having a green Thanksgiving, and now it’s time to revisit the topic and see if I have any thoughts to add to it.

Hmm, no, not really. Guess I got it perfect last year.

Kidding folks, kidding.

Last year I suggested decorating with things you have on hand, using natural decorations, organic turkey & produce, less excess, borrowing, limit carbon from travel or stay home, recycle, compost, be thankful for what you have and sharing with the less fortunate. If you want the details, go read last year’s post.

What to add, what to add?

How about a reminder to bring your reusable bags when you go shopping for Thanksgiving supplies? It’s a crazy time of year, but don’t get so behind that you forget the little details like that.

Also consider turning your heater down just a couple degrees if you haven’t already. Sweaters are good for helping you to cope, and having company warms the house a little too.

If you’re buying a turkey it’s kind of hard to take the focus off of it, but do your best to have interesting side dishes that don’t include meat. All that meat can be used in smaller quantities for a number of meals if you don’t go through it in one nights. Just cut up the excess and freeze it for later use to avoid the inevitable turkey boredom.

The Eat Well Guide may help you find the right kind of turkey and produce in your area. It’s nice when you can get free range or organic. LocalHarvest.org is another good resource.

Candles are a popular decoration at this this time of year. Try to find beeswax candles rather than the usual paraffin ones. Beeswax burns much cleaner.

And of course, just do what you can to minimize waste. It’s easy to get caught up in the tradition of having too much, so just try to be sure that your “too much” isn’t so much that the leftovers won’t get eaten before they spoil.

How to Plan a Green Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a fun holiday for getting together with family and eating a really impressive meal. But then you have all the leftovers and mess to clean up.


I suppose it’s a good thing that only the eating part is heavily commercialized. At least, I don’t know anyone who decorates for Thanksgiving the way people do for Halloween or Christmas.

Planning a green Thanksgiving isn’t too complex. It’s about thinking about your choices and not going overboard. Here are some of my ideas.

1. Decorate with things you have on hand.

Odds are you already have plenty of decorations that will make your table look nice for the holiday dinner. A tablecloth, your good dishes and so forth will make a very nice presentation.

If you haven’t started using cloth napkins, now is a great time to start. They look more elegant. Organic cloth napkins can be an excellent choice if you need to buy some. They really aren’t that much harder to deal with than disposables.

2. Add in natural decorations.

If you live in an area where the fall leaves have some great color, they can make wonderful Thanksgiving decorations. You’ll need to pick carefully for any that you put on the table, of course.

3. Think about your turkey.

If it fits in the budget, go for a free range or organic turkey. These cost more, so don’t feel too bad if you don’t feel up to buying one.

However, you can be sure to use up as much of the turkey as possible after the holiday. Yes, the turkey leftovers can get boring. However, you can freeze the excess to spread things out a little.

Don’t forget to really mix things up. In my family there’s a recipe we call Quitting Cold Turkey. It uses turmeric to help the flavor, along with various vegetables. Very simple to make.

And of course there’s turkey soup to be made from the bones and scraps. You can get a lot of soup from one turkey, and know that you aren’t wasting anything you can eat. I generally freeze my excess soup in batches so I can take out just enough for daily meals when we want it.

There’s also the option of having something other than turkey. Some families prefer something else for the main dish. Others cannot stand the thought of skipping their annual turkey. If you really aren’t that enthusiastic about turkey, what would you like?

4. Buy organic produce for side dishes.

Whether or not you were able to buy an organic or free range turkey, try to go organic or local for your side dishes. This will be more challenging in some areas than in others, but it’s a step worth taking.

5. Make less excess food.

Yes, people love to overeat on Thanksgiving. It’s one of those days that few people worry about their diet. But if every year your family is groaning about how long it’s going to take to finish the leftovers, you’re probably cooking way too much. Cut back a little.

6. Borrow rather than buy.

My sister called me the other day, and while we were talking she mentioned that she needed to get a new mixer before Thanksgiving. She always makes a lemon meringue pie, but her mixer doesn’t work anymore.

I pointed out to her that mine is just fine, and I am a very short detour on her way home from work (less than a half mile). She was quite delighted that I am willing to loan my mixer out. It saves her a bit of money and lets her get the job done.

7. Plan travel carefully.

This is a huge travel season. Many people will drive long distances to have a family Thanksgiving, and many will fly.

If you fly, consider buying carbon credits or even just planting a tree in your area. There’s not a lot you can do about the emissions created by airplanes otherwise. At least at this time of year you can be fairly certain of a full flight.

Driving is better. Check your tires, get your oil changed if it’s due, and be sure your car is overall in good working condition. Don’t pack more than you need to bring, as this will bring your mileage down.

If you have the time, there’s always the train. The time required can be a bit hard to deal with, but if it’s practical for you, trains aren’t a bad way to go.

8. Consider having Thanksgiving at home.

No, not as exciting as seeing all the family you get to see at the big gatherings, but sometimes celebrating Thanksgiving at home is plenty of fun too. You may be able to invite friends over who also aren’t traveling to see their families.

If your family has a strong tradition of getting together for Thanksgiving this can be a hard one to break. But it can also take a lot of stress out of the holiday.

9. Recycle and compost.

Do your best to keep the trash in the trash can and separate out all the stuff that can be recycled or composted. If you’re preparing fresh vegetables, there will probably be plenty of bits for the compost bin. You may also have cans and other containers for the recycle bin.

10. Be thankful.

If you have the money to celebrate as you like, if you have a roof over your head, even if you’re struggling financially, you’re doing much better than many others.

If you’re away from family, give them a call. Write a letter. Even just send an email to let those you love know how much they mean to you.

11. Give to the less fortunate.

No, nothing really green as such, just one of the best ways to show that you care about those who are less fortunate at this time of year. There are plenty of food drives going on at churches and even grocery stores. Our local Henry’s, for example, has pre-bagged foods for their food drive. You just pick the one that has the amount you’re willing to pay and they ring it up for you.

Don’t forget the food banks the rest of the year. Many of them struggle to provide food to needy families during other times of the year.