Cooking A Turkey: Saved money, used less plastic and finally felt at home.
November 29, 2019
Happy Thanksgiving and Indigenous People’s Day to everyone from the Plastic Picker family. Today was one of those milestone days. Like riding your first bike, aceing an organic chemistry midterm or draining your first abscess – today drplasticpicker cooked my first Turkey! It was a 7 1/2 lb bird and it was glorious!
One of my middle management friends is male, older and wiser and always says, “For those that have great strengths, they have great weaknesses.” My great weaknesses are some of the practical matters in life. I became a good driver late in life, and now in my mid-40s I cooked my first Turkey and I am beyond bursting with pride.
For the actual turkey recipe, it was the first one I googled “Easy, No-Fuss Thanksgiving Turkey” https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/easy-no-fuss-thanksgiving-turkey/. Thank you internet!
Being a second-generation American and married to a first generation American, Thanksgiving was always a complicated holiday for me. I grew up watching Thanksgiving on TV with those 1980 sitcom families, and that was what I thought “Thanksgiving” was supposed to be. Then going off to college, living away from my nuclear family for 15 years, marrying a first-generation immigrant from New Jersey whose family also did Thanksgiving a bit “off” compared to TV shows, and then having children while still doing medical training and feeling that I should be providing them a sort of tradition that I never had myself.
But this Thanksgiving, dear readers, I really feel we did it right. I realize now that Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday, especially for Indigenous people and it is a day of mourning for some. Much of what I thought was “right” has been a societal construct, and even green bean casserole was a marketing gimmick from Del Monte to increase their sales of canned green beans. So I think of Thanksgiving as really the day I eat Turkey, eat the dishes I love (turkey, stuffing and pie), do something good for the earth and spend time with loved ones.
So this year was the first year our family cooked. We live about a mile from my parents, and it was just us this year. So 4 adults and 2 near-adults (my teenage son and middle-school daughter). I did the turkey, highschool son did the stuffing, and my middle-school daughter did 2 pies (apple and pumpkin). We brought over the finished and still super warm pies, turkey and stuffing to my parent’s house. They provided bread and salad and beverages.
It was a simple Turkey dinner, and the turkey, I have to smugly admit, turned out fantastic and very moist. The smaller bird took only 2 1/2 hours to cook. My parents are picky with their food, and they were adequately impressed. We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving with the six of us. We ate more than enough, but did not stuff ourselves. And there are more than enough left overs for the next day. We only cooked what we thought we would need, to reduce food waste.
So this was the breakdown of what we actually purchased. We had apples, onions, lemons, and butter already in the house – so I did not account for those. We went to Food4Less as we were already in the vicinity. Read here about how we returned to this grocery store after five years https://drplasticpicker.com/how-8-cash-found-on-the-beach-became-80-meals-and-a-daughter-mother-outing/. Our grocery total was $22.11 and that comes out to only $3.70 per person. That is amazing!
|Pillsbury Ready Made Pie Crust||$2.00|
|Frozen Turkey (7 lb)||$7.89|
|Carnation Evaporated Milk||$1.25|
|Libby Pure Pumpkin||$3.49|
I’ve ordered plenty of Thanksgiving dinners in prior years for the family and office – and I never thought we could do a nice dinner that was that tasty for such a bargain! I think because I bought the bird just 2 days before, I got a good deal. We were also not stressed over providing an ideal dinner but just trying to do the best that we could do.
We were initially thinking about going to a nice fancy restaurant but that would have been in our city about $60 a person and with tip, would have been $432. I think that would only have included one kind of pie, whereas my daughter made two kinds of pie. My millenial brother went out for dinner with his steady girlfriend to what looks like a very nice place, and he said it was $30 a person in their little Northern California town. That would have been $200 with tip for a party of six. Even at Denny’s, their Turkey and Dressing Dinner with 2 sides is $11.99. And that does not include any pie or coffee. So for 6 people including dinner, desert and tip, it would have easily been over $100.
The nice thing as well, is that now since we actually cooked dinner, we still have left overs but we make sure to use everything. We only cooked what we thought we would eat, but we still have enough turkey to add about 2oz of turkey protein per person to 3 meals for our nuclear family of 4. I also saved the bones and will make turkey stock and soup tomorrow. I have made chicken soup but this will be my first turkey soup. I am excited to use the pasta noddles I still have in the pantry. We have half a pie left, which will be nice with coffee for the next week for breakfast and salad enough for my next several lunches or wraps.
We also reduced our plastic use and helped the environment by cooking at home. These are several ways.
- Used what we had at home. For the vegetables that my turkey was resting on, I actually just used what we had. Onions, asparagus, and chayote (new vegetable I had bought and not yet tried). My daughter chose apple pie, because we actually had apples that we needed to get through. I thought we had minced garlic for the herb butter rub, but our stash of minced garlic that grandma usually maintains was not there! Grandparents went to spend Thanksgiving with Mr. Plastic Picker’s sisters so my minced-garlic supplier was on vacation! We actually had dried garlic in a seasoning shake, and it worked out great. We were trying to avoid going to the store last minute.
- Small Turkey/Small Aluminum Serving Dish: Since we chose a smaller bird for our first turkey, the online recipe said we could use a medium aluminum serving dish. A new carbon-steel non stick roaster on line runs $15, and a new disposable one is about $4. We always value aluminum and we had several “disposable” ones we have washed and kept. So we used 2 in the process, and washed them. One is now at its end, and being recycled and the other is still doing well and placed back in our stash.https://drplasticpicker.com/aluminum-cans-the-high-yield-salvagable/
- Avoided Plastic Containers: Used all real serving trays and containers, and covered most things in aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap on transport.
- Short Commute: Drove only 2 miles total in our trusty Prius to my parent’s house and back, and they didn’t need to commute at all.
- Food Waste: Reduced food waste, we did this by buying the smallest turkey I could find that was still a good price. Took all the left overs home and preplanning next weeks’ meals with them. Bones were kept for soup. Even the little bits of turkey left over on the fancy serving tray (I made sure to remove the bones), I let our black crazy puppy lick. Wow, she licked that thing clean and had a nice Turkey snack herself. She was in heaven. I figured less methane. Otherwise we don’t usually feel her human food.
We saved anywhere from $80-400 dollars, minimized food waste, reduced plastic use, but more importantly had a very nice meal. We spent time as a family and it cost very little, amused us as we were having new experiences in our kitchen, and we weren’t stressed about having the ideal “Thanksgiving.” My parents were touched that we actually took the effort to cook and bring over dinner. For them Thanksgiving is an odd holiday as well, because it is not something they celebrated growing up.
But this honestly was one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever had. The Wednesday before, I spent time with good high school friends over Persimmons and jasmine tea https://drplasticpicker.com/a-rainstorm-persimmons-and-childhood-friends/. The actual Thanksgiving day, time was passing very slowly, and I noticed all the small moments of the kids having fun in the kitchen and the interplay between brother-sister as they were finishing their dishes. Mr. Plastic Picker was watching his football games while we cooked, and the Macy’s Day parade was in the background. And I enjoyed rubbing the herb butter mixture on the thawed 7 lb turkey. Yes I felt a bit bad about not being vegan, but at least I knew I had not driven to pick up the bird and there was a good chance we would eat the entire bird since it was a reasonable size. And I wasn’t stressed because if the turkey was undercooked or not edible, my mom could whip up fried rice quick.
But indeed, I did a happy dance when we brought over the still warm 7lb herb butter roasted turkey to my parent’s house. When my parents ate the dish, and smiled and praised me – I was amazed. We did not need fried rice that night. This plastic picking journey has continued to bring me closer to my family and my community by refocusing on what is important – the beauty of togetherness, the earth and our shared life stories – and not things. And definitely for Black Friday, the Plastic Picker family will be opting outside. I have to go to work anyway, and the kids will be working on some summer applications and projects.