The bonus turkey.

thIf you’re still seeing good prices on Meleagris gallopavo in your local supermarket, buy an extra one. In fact, buy the biggest one your freezer can hold.

Here’s why.

Last month we bought a bonus 20-pounder, i.e., one not for Thanksgiving. After DF cooked it on the Weber we wound up with 18 pounds of meat and more than a quart of broth for future soup or gravy.

We gave ourselves extra Frugal Points for skimming the cooled fat off the top and freezing it for future sautéing purposes, and for picking tiny bits of meat off the boiled-down carcass. Hey, we got enough for three turkey salad sandwiches – and we ate them that week, because we weren’t sick of the bird yet.

That’s because it was the week before Thanksgiving and we hadn’t already undergone an unending series of turkey leftovers, hot turkey sandwiches, creamed turkey, turkey soup and turkey surprise. Those 18 pounds of bonus turkey went first into quart-sized canning jars and then into the pressure canner.

Each jar of shelf-stable protein contains enough smoky turkey for our version of stroganoff (which I call “fauxganoff”) plus at least one batch of soup and some sandwiches. We could also opt to drain out the turkey broth (made with the neck and giblets), turn it into gravy, slice the bird and cook some sides. Instant mini-Thanksgiving!

It doesn’t get much cheaper

At 79 cents per pound, that was some darned affordable protein. We rarely eat red meat these days and always wait for sales on chicken or pork. Any meat/poultry we do consume is done in relatively small amounts, with two or three sides.

A low-meat diet is a healthier way to live but we’re not interested in renouncing carnivorism altogether. Instead we pounce on specials, especially in what DF inelegantly calls “the used-meat bin,” and stretch the protein as far as possible.

For example, just a small piece of last year’s home-canned turkey diced with a small piece of on-sale sausage link flavored a very nice pot of soup recently, when added to stock made from the boiling bag and fleshed out (as it were) with our home-grown potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbage and dried kale.

Not everyone can preserve food, or wants to do so. But since the freezer is a simple alternative to the pressure canner I’d urge you to grab at least one more turkey while they’re still cheap. This is an awful lot of protein for an awfully small amount of money, even if you don’t stand there scraping at the carcass once it’s given up its broth.

A week ago I saw turkeys for 88 cents a pound and bought a 14-pounder. But that’s it for this year, because we already have a lot of preserved fowl and because there’s not much room left in the freezer.

Readers: Have you finished the Thanksgiving bird yet? Are you buying another one?

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  1. Bought and ate one at Thanksgiving ~ still have some soup from that in the freezer for “grab and go” lunches. Bought a second turkey which is in the freezer. Would love to get at least one more if I can make freezer space

  2. The deal of the month for me was found last week when I overheard a woman in Walmart talking on her cell phone about something in the case being 50 cents a pound. I went over to see what it was and found fresh turkey breasts and fresh whole turkeys for 50 cents a pound. I bought the 4 largest breasts – I’m the only dark meat eater and I doubt I’ll ever see turkey breasts for that price again.

    We’ve cooked one and the other 3 are in the freezer. The carcass will be picked clean and then boiled for soup or broth.

  3. My mom cooked this year, but I still ended up with leftovers enough to eat plain, in sandwiches, enchiladas and soup. I put two bags into the freezer for future curries.

    I’m voting for lasagna for Christmas.

  4. I’ve bought an extra turkey in the past – this year I didn’t have any room in the freezer, and am actually trying to “shop” my freezer rather than grocery stores, in an effort to use what I have

  5. I usually just have a turkey breast since I only eat breast meat. For the last five years, I have cooked a whole bird and have given all the dark meat to exbf. It seems now that I have developed a new appreciation for the dark meat.

    This year, I had had a broken water line for a month, so I didn’t have any desire to shop for a dinner I was not going to cook. I had enough dirty dishes anyway. There is still no water here, so I may not cook Christmas dinner.

    Lisa’s prices are my kind of prices.

    I have been known to have four or five turkeys in the freezer. I like to cook them during the year minus anything that makes it seem like turkey. I have one now from last year. It will be eaten if I get the water line fixed.

    Having Thanksgiving dinner for a week is no hardship for me. As I run out of sides, I just add a different side.

  6. My hubby cooked up a 23 pounder that we got at Kroger for 59 cents a pound for our Friend’s Thanksgiving. We hosted 17 people, so there was only about a pound of leftovers. That was used in sandwiches. We still have a 15-ish pound turkey in the deep freeze for later and will be grabbing another one or two turkeys if we see similar deals in the next week or two. We’re eating the meat and pasta out of the deep freeze this week to make more room. 😉

  7. This Thanksgiving, DH and I bought a “day after T-day” sale turkey. DH cut it in half. We packaged and froze each half breast w/wing and separate packages of thighs and drumsticks. Then we used the rest for broth and soup.
    We used much less precious freezer space and look forward to turkey meals with plenty for several days each time throughout the winter.

  8. I never would have thought to “can” turkey…what a great idea. We managed to get a 20 pound turkey free from our full service grocer from the “rewards” program. It fed 6 for dinner and has and will continue to provide many a meal. I find it amazing how far these birds go! DW just made a delicious turkey “pot pie” with some of the turkey and a bag of mixed vegetables I got free with coupon. Turkey prices here jump…big time after Thanksgiving. I’m afraid we didn’t get the “yield” that you did on your 20 pounder…18 pounds of product from a 20 pound bird is excellent…

    • Tina in NJ

      Remember, you need a pressure canner for poultry. (I just have a water bath canner.) Poultry isn’t acidic enough to can using a non-pressure canner and still be safe to eat.

  9. Tina in NJ

    Around here, Shoprite runs a promotion where you get a free turkey if you spend $400 the month before. That was Thanksgiving, and leftovers went home with the guests. Broth for about 3batches of soup is in the freezer. I haven’t seen anything like 50 cents a pound, but I haven’t been looking for that.

  10. lostAnnfound

    I get two turkeys for Thanksgiving. I cook one the day of the holiday and one a day or two before. the first one is carved up and put into containers for my family to take home some leftovers to enjoy. I then take all the drippings and make my gravy ahead of time. the carcass is boiled down and the stock put into the freezer for future use. The second turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving and then my Mom gets those bones to make up stock for her after Thanksgiving soup, a family tradition. We got lucky this year in that my husband’s current employer handed out gift certificates for a free turkey!

  11. We only got one, but it was 23 lb, so our freezer is bursting.

  12. We’ve run through the turkey leftovers, except for some veggie soup we made with the stock and a container of stock that I really need to split up and freeze.

    I’m not sure if we’ll get another this year, because freezer space is tight and I don’t know if we’ll catch a really good deal – but we’ll be watching for sales on ham for Christmas. Turkey isn’t my husband’s favorite, though he’s okay with it in enchiladas, gravy, soups, etc, particularly the dark meat. I could really go for some turkey salad sandwiches, myself…

  13. I *might* have been able to fit one into my freezer, but I prioritize the space for things like milk and food made in advance that I can just heat up.

    It might be frugal to buy the cheap protein, but I just didn’t have it in me this year. My dirty little secret is that I even threw the bones away instead of making stock: I make it every year and, you know what? I don’t even like it.

    I feel a little guilty at being so wasteful, but I needed to do some self-preserving pruning of my to do list. I have 3 more days of classes and a week of engineering finals to get through, so that’s where I am putting my very limited energy.

  14. I have cleared just enough space in the freezer for cookies. And trust me, I think that making a turkey would be way easier than making all those cookies. Again, I’m a Scrooge. But I am trying. I told Den to crank the Christmas music while we decorated. Hey for me, that was a big step. I’m leaving Den in charge of the cookies and I will be the helper this year. If I think about it as helping and not another huge job for me to tackle, I don’t get grumpy. Oh hell, who am I kidding, I’ll be grumpy.

  15. Mirabella

    Honestly, I don’t like roast turkey and have sworn off eating the stuff for any holiday meal. I attribute this unreasonable dislike to an entire childhood of being forced to eat turkey leftovers for weeks after Thanksgiving, only to be confronted with several weeks more of leftovers after Christmas. I don’t like the texture of roast turkey, so this brought me no holiday joy.

    I will, however, stock up on whole chickens when they’re on sale (89 cents/lb.) and toss them in the freezer, either whole or carved and bagged in separate pieces. Thanks to this blogsite, I am learning the joys of making my own stock with the leftover bones and my very own “boiling bag,” to be used for future dishes.

    • I got my 20 pound turkey free at Giant Food Stores. My daughter would only take enough home for one other meal. My hubby and I ate turkey practically the whole week and could hardly stand another bite, so we put nearly all of the breast in the freezer for casseroles,etc. Two days after I picked up my turkey, an older gent that my husband helps out, came with a 14 pounder. UGH-my hubby and I do not even want it for Christmas yet, so it will be in the freezer for whenever. I am thinking maybe Easter, although we usually have a ham then. I probably won’t eat turkey again until next Thanksgiving unless I am somewhere that this is all they serve.
      The same thing happened with this man last year and we had no room in our freezer, so we passed it on to this lady we knew that had two teen boys. She said the 3 of them polished it off in ONE sitting as the boys were big eaters. Wow!

      • Mirabella

        What an ingenious way to get rid of unwanted leftovers–find a family of hungry teenagers!

  16. The stores around here had turkey breasts very reasonable. There are only four of us at the table. It was plenty for dinner, leftovers the next night and some for mother’s freezer.

    I also bought a couple of extra breasts for the freezer. And then I bought two whole turkeys very cheap. I cook both and canned them. Lots of casseroles and soup next year!

  17. Well done on all of your frugality regarding the turkey. I work full time and am tired when I get home and generally spend my weekends catching up with housework etc. When looking for cheap protein I usually opt for beans, pulses or sausage. I would be interested in knowing how long you spent on preparing, cooking etc that turkey.

    • Donna Freedman

      DF smoked it on the Weber, which takes a couple of (non-supervised) hours; meanwhile, we were simmering the neck and giblets for broth to go into the jars. Working together, the two of us had it cut up, in the jars and in the canner in about half an hour or so. ]
      When I do big holiday dinners I cook the turkey the day before; while it’s cooking I make coleslaw and any other do-ahead sides. Then I cut up and store the turkey meat and boil down the bones for soup. If I haven’t already made the pies, I do them then.
      The turkey drippings plus the gravy stock made from neck/giblets cool overnight; in the morning, I skim off the fat and make gravy. The only other things I do that day are cook potatoes and any other vegetable we’re having and then heat up the meat and stuffing.
      Cook in a couple of installments, eat for days: My idea of a good time.

      • You have me convinced. I will give it a go over the Christmas holidays.

        • Donna Freedman

          Good luck! Remember, you can always freeze the meat if it starts getting too repetitive.
          Personally, I think turkey breast meat is dry so I like to use it in chili or throw it into soup.

  18. I used last year’s rain check to get this year’s Christmas turkey for 59 cents per lb. I used to always have an emergency turkey in the freezer. They have at times lasted 2 yrs (not cooked).

  19. We bought 4 this year! 59 cents a pound. We cooked one for Thanksgiving and put the others in the deep freezer. We make one about every three months. We make broth from the bones, and eat up the meat in a variety of meals. If we aren’t able to eat it all quickly, we’ll freeze the cooked meat for a later date. We do the same at Christmas time with hams. Love it!

    • Donna Freedman

      When hams go on sale DF smokes them on the Weber (he loves the taste of fire), slices them thinly and freezes the meat in reasonable portions for sandwiches. (Gotta love a guy who always packs a lunch.)
      We don’t have room in the freezer for more than one because we have other meaty specials stashed, along with a ton of raspberries and rhubarb from the back yard. As more things get eaten we’ll be keeping an eye out for good prices. Honestly, I don’t know how people are feeding their families when the price of even the 80 percent hamburger is almost $5 per pound.

      • Punkin Pye

        Donna, I ask myself the same question. We eat a lot of beef, pork, and poultry because I buy it for rock bottom prices. I just don’t understand how people can afford to buy these at full retail price.

        • Donna Freedman

          We also buy at rock bottom and because we have a decent stash (and a whole lotta beans!) we can afford to be patient and wait. Someone who’s shopping for the week’s groceries with not much in the freezer…Well, I hope they know how to cook meatless meals or dishes with relatively little animal protein. Can’t imagine trying to fill up a couple of teenagers with food prices going up so high.

  20. Punkin Pye

    My wonderful husband age me a small chest freezer for an early Christmas present. I already have two big 89 cents a pound turkeys and two $1.49 a lb hams. I will be using these for my husbands lunch. It sure beats paying $9 a pound or more for stuff from the deli.

  21. We specifically bought a small chest freezer this year to freeze cheap turkeys. We have 9 turkeys (at $.59 per lb.) and so far, 5 hams. It’s a good thing that we like turkey! Ground beef prices have gone up so much ($4.99 lb. here in Florida) that we cannot afford to eat as much of any kind of red meat.

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