Food Stamps Cooking Club: Maxine is Talkin’ TURKEY!

November 1st, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

Maxine has all the lowdown for us and is talkin' turkey!

Hey!  It’s November…time to talk turkey!  Maxine, one of our faithful members has graciously come forward with her best effort regarding old dead turkeys and how best to deal with them!

We are so fortunate to have this information, particularly if we use Angel Food Ministries or have an EBT card from WIC or SNAP.  Some of us are users of food commodities and some of us have goods from a food pantry. Still others are simply frugal and want the most for their food dollar-and who can blame them?

Here is what Maxine tells us:

“It’s November—let’s talk turkey!

I’ve got lots of good ideas, but I know you know things I haven’t even thought of…so, together, let’s write the definitive book!

I always buy at least two turkeys at Thanksgiving, when they are dirt cheap. Although we don’t normally eat turkey at Christmas, this is the time to buy the Christmas bird, because turkeys are never cheaper than they are at Thanksgiving.

If you don’t have a freezer, ask a friend or relative if they’ve got room for your extra bird.

Let’s talk first about what to buy. My in-laws, who were in the restaurant business, taught me that turkeys 20 lb. and larger are a much better buy because they have more meat relative to bone.

My mom taught me this: if the turkey is too big, have the meat cutter saw it in half for you. They can do this frozen. If the thingy that holds the feet together is metal, they can saw right down to it. When you get the turkey home, leave it on the counter for an hour or so, and you’ll be able to pull out the thingy with a pair of pliers before the bird thaws.  Re-wrap and freeze.

I usually buy one big bird and one smaller one. Often I will cook a 13- to 15 lb. bird for Thanksgiving, and freeze both halves of a 20+ lb. turkey for later.

When it is time to cook the bird, what are you going to use for a pan? If you don’t have a roasting pan, don’t waste $5 on a disposable foil turkey pan.  Discount stores will have roasting pans on sale that you can wash and use forever for as little as $10. They often have a rack inside, which is nice. If you don’t have $10, just use the broiler pan that came with your stove, and cover the bird with foil during part of the roasting time. I’ve done that a few times with great success.

I’m using the turkey pan my mom bought in the 1950s, and I expect my grandchildren will be roasting their turkeys in it, too.

Most turkeys come with a pop-up timer to tell you when the turkey is done. The one I bought last year didn’t have one, and I couldn’t find my meat thermometer. A friend who was visiting told me she always just follows the roasting times printed on the turkey label. That’s what we did—and that turkey was perfect!  So don’t sweat it if you don’t have a meat thermometer  Or can’t find it.

We’ve bought the bird-and an extra, too-and roasted it…what’s next?

Eating it, of course! Here’s to the big Thanksgiving feast, and many more to come! I’ll let you choose your own menu.

By the time dinner is over, you may find yourself getting nervous about the leftovers. Dealing with the leftovers needn’t be daunting. You just need a plan.

The first thing to do is to strip the meat off the bones. I do this while I am cleaning the kitchen after dinner. Some men are good about this—makes ‘em feel like Attila the Hun or Henry the Eighth–so if you get an offer of help, don’t turn it down. I try to remove the breast in one big piece. It’s nicer for slicing.

Once you’ve removed all of the meat you can, put the bones and skin in a stock pot, cover with water, add onion and celery, and simmer until the meat literally falls off the bones. If you don’t have a stock pot, use your roasting pan and make the stock in the oven. A big Crock Pot works really well, too. You might have to break the breast bones to make them fit in your pot.

When the stock is done, cool it and remove the bones, meat and skin. Skim the fat from the broth, either by refrigerating it overnight and removing the hardened fat from the top, or by using a gravy separator-one of those plastic cups with the spout coming up from the bottom.

  • Pour off a small amount of broth and save it to make extra gravy. Just use flour and water thickening. No, it isn’t quite as good as gravy made from the pan drippings, but it’s waaaaaaaaaay better than what you can buy in a jar or foil envelope, and a heckuva lot cheaper. I freeze a couple of cottage cheese cartons full of broth for this purpose—another tip I learned from my mother.
  • Pick the meat from the bones and discard the bones and skin. Use the meat and the rest of the stock to make a vat of turkey soup. We like turkey noodle, turkey rice, turkey vegetable…you name it, we like it. You might have enough meat for a batch of turkey and dumplings.

Sometimes I get started on the stock while I’m doing the Thanksgiving dishes, and sometimes I make it the next morning. Sometimes it takes all day for me to get everything done. No worries—I’m just puttering, not putting forth any serious effort. I’ve found the really important thing is to start dealing with it right away, before anyone has the opportunity to get tired of the leftovers.

You’ve still got a ton of turkey meat, right? Save out enough for another meal and maybe a few sandwiches. Then, before anyone has the opportunity to get sick of turkey, cube all of the leftover meat and freeze it in 2-cup packages. Why two cups? Nearly all recipes call for 2 cups of chicken or turkey.  Thanks to PaulaF at The Frugalista Files for this tip! If you’ve got a small or extra-large family and typically use less or more in your recipes, that’s how much to put in each package.

I use quart-size zippy freezer bags for my turkey. You can make a decent vacuum by sticking a straw in the top, closing the zipper to either side of the straw, and sucking out all of the air.  Pull out the straw and seal the bag the rest of the way.

In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, we will typically eat leftovers on Saturday and make clubhouse sandwiches on Friday or Sunday. Then we are done with the bird, until I start using what is in the freezer. Often I will freeze all of the soup, too, although sometimes we eat it with the clubhouse sandwiches: turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato between 3 slices of bread, cut in quarters and held together with a toothpick.

I would hate to guess how much turkey gets thrown away in this country because people put the carcass in the refrigerator, eat on it intermittently for about a week, and throw away what is left. Shoot, I’ve done that myself! But never again.  Now I view that soup and those packages of cubed meat as money in the bank. Especially toward the end of the month.

Just a reminder that you can substitute cubed turkey in any recipe calling for chicken, and that turkey makes excellent Mexican food!

Now it’s your turn to share more tips and recipes!”

Jeepers!  Creepers!  What a boatload of info!  Even seasoned cooks can find many good tips in this message!  THANK YOU SO MUCH, MAXINE! For those of you who have not yet cruised on over to visit Maxine at Frugalista Files, please treat yourself and do so today!

Mother Connie has some off the topic notes for you, as well.  My good blogger pal from iamtheworkingpoor has a contest going on. I so hope you will cruise on over to HER adorable blog and get in on the fun! She has some interesting books that will appeal to those who are interested in living frugally as prizes, so please visit her at your earliest convenience, won’t you?

Well, we offer three cheers and a toast to Maxine for all her wisdom and for sharing here today.  I just can’t WAIT to see all the tips and ideas the rest of you pour into the mailbox:

Enjoy the ride, kids!  Life is so short

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.



  1. Great hints and helps! I need to print this one off! Thank you.

  2. Webmaster says:

    Glad this was as helpful for you as we would hope, Anita!

    *Hey, Maxine! YOU DID GOOD, HUH?

    Hugs to you both!
    Mother Connie

  3. Sounds delicious! I just came back from Mexico last week and find myself addicted to these incredible enchilada recipes now!! Must go back next year sometime, I think, and this time head off of the beaten road a little. Looking to reading more!

  4. Webmaster says:

    Thanks, Martha! I took a quick peek at the recipe site you mention and I believe it will be a good resource for using Maxine’s turkey leftovers…

    ***See what you’ve STARTED, Maxine? WOOHOO!

    Mother Connie

  5. My husband and I could not believe our good fortune when a couple of times, at previous jobs, he was given a frozen turkey for a Thanksgiving gift. Definitely a fading custom.

    I have cooked two turkeys on my own with the “turkey in the oven bag” method. Yes, call me lazy. But for someone who is inexperienced in turkey, that method was easy and it worked!

  6. Webmaster says:

    Yes, it IS a fading custom, Paula, and it’s too bad. I am so old I remember people getting a ham AND a turkey. Those days must be the Good Old Ones…

    Now, about you being LAZY. I am not buying that, sweetness, and neither will any of the other club members. Right, gang? Right.

    Hugs and Grins and Gratitude
    Mother Connie

  7. Maxine says:

    Thank you for all of the compliments. Keep ’em coming, LOL! About that gravy made with leftover turkey broth, you might want to add a little garlic powder when you make it. I also usually put garlic in with the bones when I make stock…but then, I really like garlic! (I think an Italian must have gotten mixed up with all of those English and Scotch-Irish forebears!).

  8. Webmaster says:

    Oh, you are more than welcome, Maxine! And now that you mention GRAVY, I am reminded that just a touch of perked coffee makes a wonderful rich looking brown turkey gravy. Sometimes poultry gravy can look downright anemic; this puts some character into it. I did that back in the day when I sold cookware on the dinner party plan!

    I agree with you about the garlic. Can’t vouch for any mix up though! HA

    Mother Connie

  9. Carol M says:

    Max-I could have written your post! : )
    I do one thing a bit differently: I always deglaze my cooking pans with water, broth from steaming veggies, wine if I have it. I add this a pot of simmering bones, skin and don’t add any veggies to make my stock. Come out rich, flavorful. I bring it to a boil, then simmer 1 hour, strain, cool, refrigerate, remove hardened layer of fat and freeze in 2 cup containers.
    I also leave the breast whole, if possible for sandwiches. The remaining meat is divided into cut cubes (future stews, and turkey and gravy dinners); shreds for soups, etc.
    For leftovers, I often do the following:
    -turkey in gravy over a starch
    -turkey tacos
    -turkey chilli
    -turkey waldorf salad as is or in sandwiches
    -turkey stir fry
    -turkey salad as is or in a sandwich
    -BBQ turkey sandwiches (dump some cooked turkey in the crockpot along with a bottle of BBQ sauce and let cook all day; shred with 2 forks and serve on buns with coleslaw-great use for the meat and not at all “turkey” in taste
    -pot pie
    -hot, open faced turkey sandwich
    -turkey club sandwich
    -turkey tetrazini
    -turkey soups of all kinds


  10. Carol M says:

    Forgot to add: to make my pan gravy, I use some of the reserved turkey fat, and add flour to make a roux. I add salt, pepper and Bell’s poultry seasoning. Using a wire wisk, I blend in homemade turkey stock. If it’s too pale, I add Kitchen bouquet.

  11. Webmaster says:

    Hey, Carol! Glad you have you check in! TOO BAD YOU DIDN’T BRING SOME GREAT IDEAS WITH YOU! Just kidding, of course. We at the Club House can ALWAYS depend on you and others for GREAT COMMENTS and we dearly appreciate it!

    I love to use Kitchen Bouquet, too, but the coffee trick is much more cost effective for this household. I say use whatever works and what you like best.

    Boy, Turkey Day-and beyond-is sure gonna be thrifty and tasty for our Club Members, don’t you think so, too?

    Thanks again, Carol. Now, if only I could be as prolific as you with your blog!

    Mother Connie

  12. Carol M says:

    Hi Connie,
    Forgot also to mention that I have seveal posts on turkey, as well as URL’s to sites about cooking/serving turkey. I will be posting about Thanksgiving preparations, with a mind towards economy, on my blog.

  13. Webmaster says:

    Oh, Thanks, Carol. Keep us in your loop, won’t you? If you like, I can post your URL on this blog so everyone in the Club will be apprised. It’s gonna be a GREAT Thanksgiving holiday, thanks to all the good advice we’re getting from EVERYONE.

    Mother Connie

  14. Maxine says:

    Just had to share a turkey story with you. About 15 years ago, I was thawing my turkey in my “second refrigerator”–my garage. (This is not uncommon for those of us who live in cold climates). Thanksgiving morning, I went out to retrieve the bird, and it was half-eaten! Chewed up with big chunks of it gone! Then I remembered chasing the neighbor’s Scotty out of my garage the day before… When I called the neighbor (laughing so hard I nearly cried), she offered to buy us another turkey, but I wouldn’t let her…it was the best laugh we’d had in weeks! I bought a fresh turkey and cooked it (BTW, couldn’t tell any difference between fresh and frozen).

    Another time, I decided to cook a turkey on my Weber grill. I invited my parents over for dinner. Well, this was the first time I’d ever cooked something like this over charcoal, and I didn’t realize that the fire had gone out. That turkey just wouldn’t get done! In the meantime, my father–an extremely irascible and demanding man–got tired of waiting and began threatening to go out and buy hamburgers. I was literally in tears by the time I put the turkey in a 450 degree oven to finish roasting it QUICK (not recommended, LOL). This was when I realized the fire had gone out… Anyway, my dad was never a good dinner guest, and that’s the last time I ever invited him to eat with us. (I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have come if I had).

    Yet another time, I was given a fresh turkey by an employer. We were getting ready to drive 700 miles over the river and through the woods to my inlaws’ for dinner. A friend mentioned that they were storing a freezer for a friend, and would I like to put my turkey in it? I would and I did. But when I went to pick it up two weeks later, we discovered that they’d forgotten to plug in the freezer!

    Finally…I saw a flock of wild turkeys yesterday. They are fairly common where I live (northern Idaho).

  15. Webmaster says:

    What a riot, Maxine! You really should consider writing a book…a cook book with anecdotes and how-to’s. I’m ordering an autographed copy now, please!

    Your turkey stories remind me of the time I wanted to please my husband’s boss and his wife. We invited them to come to our newlyweds’ home for a turkey dinner and we made a big to-do over the carving of the bird. Because we were newlyweds it never occurred to either of us that the giblets would appear, wrapped in their little paper package, right there at the dinner table for all to see! I remember crying out, ‘So THAT’S why there were no giblets for the gravy!‘ I still remember the politely stifled laughs and the very red faces of our guests, who tried DESPERATELY not to have too much fun at our expense. I will bet that they talked about that every Turkey Day after that, just like we did!

    Great stuff, Maxine. Keep it coming!

    Mother Connie

  16. Maxine says:

    Oh, yeah, I’ve done that, too–fortunately, we didn’t have guests to catch me at it. I did it the first time I cooked a turkey, and I did it two years ago, too! Also, I cooked the turkey in an open pan a couple of years ago (don’t remember why) and when I went to take it out of the oven, I dropped it! Slung turkey all over the kitchen floor! Heck, yeah, we ate it–I’d just scrubbed that floor! LOLOLOLOL

  17. Webmaster says:

    Oh, brother…just what you needed, scrubbing a floor when a meal is being prepared! ARGH!

    Such is life, eh?

    We all have those great stories and they make for great memories and good, hearty laughs for years and years to come!

    Mother Connie

  18. Yay it’s turkey day at Connies site. First of all thanks for the mention. 🙂

    Now first a turkey story and then a weird recipe. My brother was born on Thanksgiving. He is twelve years older than me so I am going by the story my mother told me. She went to the hospital to have him. This was in the days when they kept you a week instead of just overnight. When she came home she went into the dining room to find a turkey still on the table. It was green and had one piece sliced off.

    When my kids were little, I tried something different. I made a terriyaki turkey. I made a stuffing with snow peas and baby corn and bamboo. I basted the turkey in terriyaki sauce. It turned out good, but my dad (a turkey traditionalist) complained loudly so the kids refused to eat even though they had eaten similar dishes before.

    Great ideas Maxine. When the kids were little and we had more freezer space we used to stock up on turkey. We usually skip a meal on the actual day though because I usually work.

  19. Webmaster says:

    Oh, MY STARS AND GARTERS! I cannot imagine coming home with a new baby and finding a green turkey minus one slice! She must have been mortified! And the turkey was almost mummified, I betcha!

    Your dad was looking for comfort food, huh? Oh, my…he was not the food adventurist his daughter is, I guess!

    You are welcome for the shout out, kiddo…it’s what makes the blogosphere so much fun.

    I think Maxine really started something here. I can’t WAIT to see what she has for us at Christmas time!

    Thank you so much for coming by with your turkey talk and leaving us some of your good energy!

    Mother Connie

  20. Carol M says:

    Hey Connie, feel free to post a direct link. : )
    Thanks for the shout out.

  21. Webmaster says:

    No problem, Carol! Here, all you members, is the link to Carol’s adorable blog, replete with all the pragmatism you can imagine:

    By jove, I think that URL got messed up by the WEBMASTER here…ahem…sorry about that, Carol. Thanks for the heads up! I have corrected it in my back office. I HOPE

    Mother Connie

  22. Carol M says:

    Mildred, that link didn’t seem to work. Here it is: