Living through the Great Depression made its mark on my grandmother. She'd been through the hardest of times, and out of necessity she learned to be cleverly resourceful.

Some of her resourcefulness struck us as a bit wacky: I thought washing and reusing plastic food bags was silly, and her huge box of used twist ties seemed a bit "hoarder-ish!" Her refrigerator was filled with unidentifiable leftovers she'd deem "just fine" as I, wide-eyed, would politely refuse.

Even so, I've adopted several of her recycling ideas because they're simple and make smart money sense. Here are some resourceful Thanksgiving tips to help save money and stretch meals further:

Re-use it

Grandmother saved containers that held sour cream, bulk ice cream, deli-meats, mayonnaise, etc. to re-use for storage. They are often just the right size for leftovers and can be easily labeled with masking tape and a marker, and they also freeze well. They're ideal for sending soups, beans and small portions of casseroles home with my young adult children because I don't worry about having them returned.

Freezing tips

Don’t let leftovers go to waste. Stretch them into future lunches and dinners by using the following freezing guidelines:

  • Liquids: Leave room for expansion: ¾" space at the top in smaller containers, and 1" for large containers.
  • Solids: ½" space at top is adequate.
  • Allow liquids to become lukewarm before packaging.

Bare bones

There's a noticeable difference when tasting soups made with authentic homemade stock. Grandmother would NEVER throw a chicken or turkey shell away until it was, as she might say, "milked for all it's worth!" The holidays are perfect for turkey, and turkey bones make fantastic stock (even bone-in breast).

When I first tried, I was impatient and didn't allow the shell to simmer long enough. It takes hours, so my initial attempts were bland. I've since learned to add pizzazz:

  1. Save gizzards/neck to include with the carcass.
  2. Cover bones with 2" water, or just enough before they begin to float. Much will evaporate (I use a 16 qt stock pot, about 1/3 full).
  3. Add several whole cloves, the end of a celery bunch (or other veggie discards such as carrot peelings, squash ends, green bean tips, etc.), and half an onion.
  4. Off-set the lid slightly to avoid foam boil-over. Skim off the foam and discard (it will stop after 30-40 minutes).
  5. Bring to a rapid boil, then lower heat and simmer 5-6 hours. The longer, the better.

Homemade stock adds depth to soups that canned broth doesn't accurately replicate, but often I'll combine them, getting the deeper flavor while stretching it further.

Drink up

Bring a bag-lined container marked "empties," place in a noticeable spot and watch the pennies add up!

The recycling center near my home is currently offering:

  • Cans: $2.00 1bs
  • Glass: $0.12 lbs
  • Plastic: $1.05 lbs
  • Or $0.05 for containers less than 24 oz and $0.10 for containers greater than 24 oz

There'll be little complaining on my part if “Uncle Drinks-a-Lot” keeps filling my wallet!

Before visiting the recycling center make sure bottles are marked with the CRV designation. On cans, it’s usually near the pull-tab; bottles are marked on the label by the nutritional information or by the UPC code. These are part of the CRV program: Carbonated sodas, carbonated and non-carbonated water, beer; wine coolers; sport drinks; fruit juice (except 46 ounces or larger and carbonated fruit drinks); vegetable juice of 16 ounces or less, and coffee and tea drinks.

Through my grandmother's example I've found ways to save money at Thanksgiving. It costs nothing extra to use the turkey shell (I take a cooler with me, grabbing the bones before they're trashed) or bring along a container for empty bottles. Though my kids may snicker at me now for sending them home with soup in sour cream containers, I know that, as with my grandmother, I'm teaching them resourcefulness while smiling at those extra dollars in my wallet.

 This is a guest post by Manya from Upland, CA
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