The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 7, 2016

An (Almost) Plastic-Free Thanksgiving Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving came and went.  We gathered with friends, gave thanks, ate food, and took lots of pictures.  Well, I took lots of pictures to share with you.  Because the only thing better than preparing and eating beautiful food is looking at pictures of it, right? I mean, just ask your Facebook friends.


Our Thanksgiving meal was not entirely plastic-free and zero waste, but it was as close as we could get and still have a turkey.   And while Thanksgiving won’t be back for another year, Christmas, Hanukkah,  and other winter festivals are right around the corner.  What ideas will you implement to create a waste-free holiday meal?

The Menu

We hosted a Thanksgiving potluck, which meant we didn’t have to make the entire meal ourselves.  That said, we did prepare a hefty share of it:

  • Roast turkey
  • Gravy
  • Cheesy mashed potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Baked yams
  • Appetizers
  • Dessert
  • Fizzy water

Our friends brought:

  • Yellow squash casserole
  • Sauteed kale
  • Cranberries
  • Beet salad
  • Curried chickpeas
  • Homemade rolls
  • Wine and sodas

So yeah, we’ve been feasting for weeks.

Holiday Grocery Shopping

I’m thankful for my smartphone because I always have my camera handy when shopping.  The cotton net bags contain loose green beans and mushrooms.  The rest of the produce is bag-free.  I don’t bother with produce bags when unnecessary.


Green Bean Casserole

When I was growing up, green bean casserole was a Thanksgiving favorite.  My mom pretty much followed the Campbell’s Soup recipe, which calls for canned or frozen green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, and onion rings.  Here are photos of the fresh, plastic-free ingredients in my updated green bean casserole, which is basically green beans, homemade cream of mushroom soup, extra sauteed mushrooms, milk, and soy sauce.

I buy milk in a returnable glass bottle, but there is a small plastic seal around the neck.

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

My mother never made mashed potatoes from a box, and I don’t either.  This year, I added cheese after being inspired by this recipe from the NY Times.  I didn’t use quite as high a proportion of cheese to potatoes, but they were delicious nonetheless.

I cooked the potatoes in my pressure cooker before mashing them.  Yeah, I still love my Duromatic  stainless steel pressure cooker since I bought it over two years ago and use it regularly.

The cheese is from Bellwether Farms and if I buy the whole wheel, I can get it plastic-free.  Read more about buying and storing cheese without plastic here.

Baked Yams

Michael’s recipe calls for yams, maple syrup (glass bottle), and orange juice (fresh squeezed).


We served cut veggies and tortilla chips with homemade guacamole dip. The chips come from a local taqueria.

Fizzy Water

Fizzy water provided by our Penguin soda maker, still going strong after eight years!


Our small BN Ranch turkey was not plastic-free.   During the rest of the year, I buy meat without plastic.  But there was no way we could find (especially since we live car-free) a plastic-free turkey.  There were two bags: the outer bag and the small bag inside holding the giblets.

Of course, we could have opted not to serve turkey at all, but we made an exception for this once a year treat.

To avoid additional waste, I roasted the turkey in a durable roasting pan that I got from a guy on Craigslist last year.  It has a lid, so we didn’t need to use foil, parchment, or any of the other disposable products often recommended.


That’s easy.  Gravy is just pan drippings with added cornstarch, which we buy from a bulk bin.


Michael made apple crisp with ice cream.  Here I made a tough decision.  I brought my reusable container to Tara’s Organic Ice Cream to get ice cream without packaging.  But when I got to the store and saw that the price was $11 for a pint, my heart sank.  I just couldn’t do it and opted for Straus Organic instead, which comes in a cardboard carton for $5 a pint or $8 a quart.

The Meal

Here’s where I have a big photo failure.  I got so involved with serving the meal once the guests arrived that I completely forgot to take pictures of the finished dishes!  No beautiful golden-brown turkey to show you.  But I did take a photo of my plate of leftovers the next day.


Here are all of our Thanksgiving leftovers in reusable stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic, and Eco Lunchbox.  (Note: Your purchase through these links supports My Plastic-Free Life.) No plastic Ziploc bags here!

Our friends brought their own containers with them to bring leftovers home and we provided reused glass jars as well.

Thanksgiving Plastic Waste

Here is my final Thanksgiving waste tally: Two bags from the turkey, butter wrapper, milk container seal, and ice cream carton.  (This doesn’t include any plastic that might have been used by others.)

Planning for the Next Holiday

What suggestions do you have for a zero waste, plastic-free holiday meal?  Please leave your suggestions in the comments.


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6 years ago

I wish I could find milk in a returnable container, in upstate NY its in plastic throw away container, so I hardly have mile any more.

6 years ago
Reply to  greg

I’m in upstate NY as well (near Albany) and I get mine from Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany. They even sell orange juice in glass bottles. You should see if there are any food co-ops near you. Also, my local Hannaford sells it because we’re not far from a farm that makes it. Sometimes they show up in the strangest places – I think it’s becoming more popular!

Miser Mom
7 years ago

yay for trash-minimal Thanksgivings! There’s a lot of overlap between your dinner and mine — from the plastic ring around the milk cap, to the plastic wrap on the turkey, to the mesh green bean bag. (In fact, last year, I gave my grown kids mesh bags and cloth bags for their dry goods, on the off chance that they want to try to emulate their eco-nut mother).

Unlike you, I tend to go for glass container rather than metal. I’ve fallen in love with canning jars, although I also use Pyrex-like containers. Canning jars are inexpensive, and the lids are only two sizes, and I can see in them. Part of me lusts after your lovely stainless steel containers, too, but every time I see the price of them I shy away. I’d be glad to hear if you think they’re really worth the cost.