Using Leftovers

Everyone has leftovers to use up every once in a while. Finding a way to make use of leftovers in other meals is a great way to prevent food waste. This is a guide about using leftovers.

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Tip: Leftover Cafe

By Anita 2 7

Need a fun way to get your family to eat leftovers? We have a "Leftover Cafe" night once a week. We decorate the table with fake flowers and candles, and play some music in the background.

Taking turns each week, one of my daughters sorts through the fridge for leftovers from recent meals. Another makes a menu listing each food available. My little one just draws pictures, while my older daughter writes descriptions similar to what you might find on a fancy restaurant menu.

One is the waitress, taking everyone's orders on a pad of paper and bringing them to the table with a French accent. I am, of course, the cook and am in charge of reheating everything. The kids think it's a blast, and actually eat more leftovers this way. Plus, it's great family time.

Who knew eating leftovers could be so fun?

By volvomom from San Diego, CA

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Tip: Stretching One Meal Into Five

By Coreen Hart 78 376

This is one of those meals that keeps on giving and changing into something new. It's the way I have been using roast beef. We love a good roast!

  1. The first night, cook it as a pot roast, using plenty of water and some onions, potatoes, celery and carrots. Season well. I like Cajun seasoning, but salt and pepper are great.
  2. The second night, slice it thin and serve it next to mashed potatoes and green beans.
  3. The third day, have it for lunch. Make a sandwich with good whole wheat bread, guacamole and thin slices of beef. Have an apple on the side.
  4. The fourth day, you should be able to pull it apart after all that heating and chilling. Shred and put into warm tortillas. Add cheese, salsa and whatever you like for tacos. Or, saute some onions and peppers and wrap them with the meat in the tortilla and serve as a fajita. Sour cream is nice, but so is plain yogurt, so use what you have on hand.
  5. This night, there are only scraps left, but still plenty of broth in the pan. Thicken the broth with a mixture of flour and water, then add a little milk if you want. Taste it for seasoning. Stir in the little bits of roast beef, scraping up the browned pieces on the bottom of the pan, and serve over a slice of bread or a biscuit alongside potatoes (which enjoy a bit of gravy on their own) and maybe some corn with butter and salt. Sometimes I mix in a tad of sugar if the corn isn't very sweet on its own.

That is how two people made five meals out of one roast this week, and didn't get tired of it even once.

By Coreen from Rupert, ID

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Recipe: Congratulations Casserole

By melissa 275 423

Why the silly name? I put this together with leftovers and pantry items for dinner. My 6 year old who loves cooking and recipes asked me if I followed a new recipe or I made this one up. When I told her it was my own, she quickly responded;"Congratulations, it's very good!" I just thought that was too cute.:)

That being said, it passed the test with 4 kids. Not a single complaint, I have to admit it is really good, comfort food. The best part about it, I used leftover ground beef and potatoes that would have been tossed otherwise.

I find it very helpful personally to keep some basic pantry staples on hand for those times when you want to whip up something quick.

Congratulations Casserole

Approximate Time: About 10 minutes

Yield: Around 8-10


  • 3 1/3 cup Ground Beef
  • 1 envelope Taco or Burrito Seasoning
  • 3 15 oz. cans Drained Mixed Vegetables
  • 3 10.5 oz cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 3 1/2 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 1/4 cup Mashed Potatoes
  • Dash of Basil

My ground beef was originally prepared with an envelope of taco seasoning added. I would suggest adding this to yours as it gives it great flavor!

I imagine this would also turn out quite tasty with leftover chicken if that is what you happen to have. Just use up those leftovers, it's like getting a free meal! :)

*You could easily half this recipe for a smaller casserole*


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, taco or burrito seasoning, mixed vegetables and mushroom soups.
  2. Spread into a 13 by 9 inch casserole dish.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Spread potatoes over all, sprinkle with dried basil. It tastes good and makes it look nicer.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and enjoy!
  7. Congratulations Casserole

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Tip: Salad Night to Use Up Leftovers

By Carolyn 21 3

When we have salad night, we put out leftovers like corn, carrots, chickpeas, cold meats such as roast beef or chicken. We put them all in separate bowls and put out the salad lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, pickles, and onions, whatever you like in a salad. This is called the salad bar. All of the cooked foods can be served cold and used in your own making of your salad dinner. I have five dressings. It make the night personalized, and is a family favorite.

By Carolyn from Chilliwack, BC

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Tip: Using Leftovers For A Different Dinner

By diane szlucha 7 12

While growing up, I watched my mother as she always made food for all of us. Somehow she always had enough even if extended family or friends showed up.

She would take leftover vegetables and put them in a plastic container (an empty plastic ice cream bucket works well, or even a smaller plastic container) that had a tight fitting cover. She put in anything that would go into a soup. Even tomato sauce can go in if you are making a 'kitchen sink' soup.

To this day, when I make a meal, I make more than enough for the two of us now that we are retired. I am always thinking of a way to make one meal into another.

  • We had baked ham the other day. We buy a large one, then I can also do scalloped potatoes and ham or ham and macaroni and cheese.

  • If I have scalloped potatoes left, I warm the leftovers a bit, mash them with a masher or an immersion blender and add a few things to make a wonderful bit of potato soup.

  • Warm the mac and cheese and ham and put it over hot dogs or hamburgers in a bun, Rachael Ray style.

  • When I am frying onions and peppers for sausages or some other meal, I fry enough to use some for a breakfast omelet.

  • Extra lasagna can become a wonderful soup as well. Cut it up and put it in a chicken or beef stock and add more tomatoes and more seasoning and you have an Italian soup with pasta and veggies. Use up some left over zucchini in the soup as well if you have it.

Just keep thinking of ways you can make one thing into another. If a recipe has common ingredients, you can use a leftover to help make it.

By Diane from Owego, NY

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Tip: "Clean Out The Fridge" Dinner

Have a "clean out the fridge" meal. Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and combine foods. I use old Salsa on noodles with left over cheese. This cleans out your supplies and rotates your cupboards.

By Lisa from WNY

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Tip: Organizing and Using Leftovers

Tips from our readers for organizing leftovers and ways to use them. It is possible to use every bit of leftovers in a different way so there is no waste.

Organizing and Using Leftovers

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Tip: Remember The Leftovers Instead Of The Drive Thru

By badwater 263 654

When out running errands, it is so easy to think about going thru the drive thru at my favorite restaurant, on the way home or halfway through my errand trip. If I've finished my errands and am going home, I try to remember what's in my fridge as leftovers. This usually curbs my intent on going to the restaurant, as I always have leftovers I can have for a quick lunch. It might be a bit of tuna salad, some cold sauerkraut, a stick of mozzarella cheese and an applesauce cup, etc. It might not sound as appetizing as a fast food sandwich or my favorite hot pizza slice, but it's already paid for and ready to eat.

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Tip: 5 Things To Do with Leftover Stew

By dorothy wedenoja 170 111

Make a big batch of stew, enough for leftovers. For a quick and easy meal pick one of the following and serve the leftover stew on top of cooked rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes. Super good and filling. You could also bake with biscuits on top or top with dumplings. Have fun with it. Good on a cool night and when you want a quick supper.

By dwedenoja from New Creek, WV

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Tip: Ways to Use Up Leftovers

By Camilla North 20 75

Here are some strategies for leftovers:

1) For pasta leftovers, like spaghetti, beat with eggs and cheese for Shipwreck. It doesn't take much pasta to make a meal of this.

2) For a small amount of leftover meat, chop it fine and make Egg Foo Young. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Beat 3 eggs until thick and lemon-colored. Heat oil in large skillet. Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Stir in 1 cup bean sprouts, 1/2 cup chopped, cooked meat, 2 tablespoons onion and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Pour 1/4 cup mixture at a time into small skillet. With broad spatula, push cooked egg up over meat to form a patty. When patties are set, turn to brown other side. Serve hot with gravy or sauce.

3) Keep an ice cream bucket or plastic coffee can in the freezer and add leftover veggies. You can also add leftover meat. When the bucket is full, thaw it out and dump it in the Crockpot for a delicious soup.

4) Larger amounts of leftover meat can be ground up to make meat salad. Add mayonnaise, mustard, relish and hard-boiled eggs to taste.

Source: Egg Foo Young recipe is from My mom made the Shipwreck for us growing up. All the rest are from my own experience.

By Camilla from Atchison, KS

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Recipe: Easy Leftover Soup

By Jackie H. 134 12

Living frugal? Try making two meals for the price of one. I make the commonly known American Chop Suey. We have that for two nights, it's always best the second night. Then we still have leftovers.

Approximate Time: Very little, 20 minutes ??

Yield: 6-8-10


  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped,
  • 1 diced tomatoes
  • 1 dark red kidney beans.
  • 2 beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 water
  • can Seasonings: a little black pepper, season salt, garlic, basil


  1. I take the leftovers, put them in a soup pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook all this together and let simmer until the onions, celery and green pepper are tender.
  2. Wha-La- Enjoy! You can top each bowl of soup with any shredded cheese!

Source: My own streching the dollar!


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Tip: Counting on Leftovers for Another Meal

By Virginia B. 4 6

I like to make up a boxed mix like Rice-a-Roni, then with leftovers I can always add more veggies, next time to what's left. I can also add the appropriate liquid, like tomato juice, milk, or mushroom soup to make soup.

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Tip: Incorporate Leftovers Into the Next Meal

By Tammie 32 63

When cooking a meal, look for ways that you can extend or incorporate that meal into other meals. For example, I boil my pork ribs before baking them with barbecue sauce.

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Tip: Use Left Over Fries in Stew

By Carol from Iowa 14 41

I already had leftover pot roast to which I added cooked carrots and heated all in thinned leftover gravy. To this mixture, I added the cut up leftover french fries. Voila! The fries were just like regular potato pieces in the stew.

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Tip: Indulge in a Snack Meal

By Diana 91 30

My children have always enjoyed snacks and would gladly eat them for a meal if I would allow it. Occasionally I do indulge them in a snack lunch or dinner and they think they are really getting a big treat!

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Tip: Baked Potatoes With Leftover Toppings

By Bobbie 166 11

Last night for dinner, we all used leftovers with a baked potato as the starter. I had several leftovers in the refrigerator. You can come up with you own leftover toppings. We will continue to do the same at our house. I covered my baked potato with leftover broccoli and cheese.

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Tip: Reheating Leftovers In The Crockpot

By Sheila Shepardson 1 8

I had a lot of small containers of leftovers after Thanksgiving; and wanted to heat everything at once with not enough pans to do the job.

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Tip: Leftover Pizza Toppings In Omelets

By Betty 4 2

When ever we have pizza, we get it with onions, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, sausage, ham, cheese, and tomatoes on it. We save the leftovers to use the next morning in omelets.

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Tip: Eat Your "Encores"

I had a friend who used to call her meal leftovers "Encores". She said the word "leftovers" sounded bad and would make others dread having it for the next meal...

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Tip: Make Plans for Your Leftovers

Plan weekly menus with two large cuts of meat to roast and then plan leftover dinners with the leftover meat. Also, use leftovers for sandwich meat for lunches. - Joan

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Tip: Save Containers for Leftovers

By Jackie H. 134 12

Save containers from: Chinese Won-Ton Soup, frozen dinners, cold cut meats, to go meals, whipped topping tubs, dollar store plastic ware, etc. Perfect for packing leftover dinner for lunches the next day.

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Tip: Delicious Add-ins From Leftovers

By VeronicaHB 87 12

How many times have you opened the refrigerator and stared at an assortment of leftover items that needed to be used before they spoiled? I have a tight grocery budget and don't want to waste any of the items I purchase.

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Tip: Make And Freeze Leftover Soup As Casseroles

By Jess 132 771

I find that when I make a soup with pasta in it, the pasta gets very soft when trying to serve the soup as a leftover. When I have a lot of leftover soup, I will now put it directly into a casserole dish and freeze it.

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Tip: Make Soups With Any Leftovers

Soups are a great way to use up small amounts of meat and left over veggies. Fresh herbs that are starting to wilt can often be salvaged in these dishes.

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Recipe: Junk Pie

By Sue 2 1

After raising my four children, I am now "down" to one (and one who keeps coming back!) My daughter and I don't eat meat, so it's always a challenge to come up with good, fast, healthy, and yummy meals. I made this concoction last night, and it's a hit! I call it Junk Pie

In a pie plate, spread some sauce, Burger crumbles made from soy, then layer cooked pasta of your choice, Asiago cheese, some leftover cream of mushroom soup, (thinned with rice milk), more pasta, a little sauce, a different cheese. Top with some (quickly cooked in the microwave) broccoli florets, some sauce, and cheese. Bake in preheated oven (300 degrees F) for about 20 minutes. Remove, let cool a bit, then serve with a salad, and a favorite bread. It's delicious! And you can use whatever you have on hand, other veggies, or different kinds of cheeses, etc. Enjoy!

By Sue from Oneonta, NY

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Tip: Using Leftover Dips

By Bobbie 166 11

Leftovers need never go to waste. Cheddar and salsa dip goes well in macaroni and cheese, and on broccoli. Salsa alone is good in spaghetti sauce and over chicken breast...

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Tip: Conscious Decision to Have Leftovers

As I was preparing dinner Saturday night, I made a conscious decision to have leftovers. I was sauteing chicken breasts for our meal and included one more than I would need, planned to cook frozen peas and included as a side dish a box of chicken flavored rice.

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Tip: Planned Leftovers with Mac and Cheese

Left-Over Mac and Cheese makes great planned-overs.

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Tip: Keep Leftovers In Small Containers

Before putting something in the fridge as a leftover make sure it is in the smallest container it can be, so it will take up less space and cost less to keep cool. No sense in keeping cool a whole crock pot when there's only one bowl left of soup. By Melanie

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Tip: Trading Leftovers with Neighbors

Most of us have leftovers. Few of us have families willing to eat them. Turn your leftovers into a "new" meal. Make sure you've cooked a double batch, then trade your leftovers with a neighbor who has also cooked a double batch.

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Tip: Using Leftovers For Dinner

At the end of a meal I always seem to have enough left for one more serving. I put it into a divided serving dish and freeze. At the end of a week or so the cook gets a day off. Thaw and reheat. Everyone can choose which meal they would like to eat.

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Tip: Using Up Leftovers

By sherrye 10 4

Use leftover white gravy in dishes that call for white sauce. Extra benefit, if your gravy is the seasoned type, your white sauce will already be seasoned.

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Recipe: Pasta a'la Leftovers

By Stephanie 155 243

I had leftover noodles from last weeks mac 'n cheese, and sauce and cheese from homemade pizzas sitting around needing to get used up, so I came up with this tasty dinner.


Approximate Time: 30 Minutes

Yield: 8 servings


  • 8 cups cooked pasta
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 lb Italian turkey sausage
  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


  1. Brown turkey sausage and onion.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Mix pasta, sausage, onion, spinach, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Top with Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until top starts to brown.

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Tip: Add Flavor to Casseroles

By it' 168 254

I use the leftovers in the refrigerator to create a one-dish casserole-type recipe. I gather the leftover veggies, meat/poultry, and pasta/rice/noodles. I usually add something wet, like broth ...

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Tip: Make An Omelette with Leftovers

An omelette is a great way to use up bits of leftovers-any cooked vegetables, meats and cheeses can be tucked inside. By Linda

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Tip: Sandwich Spread from Leftover Meat

Here's a tip that my DH actually taught me (lol). He grew up with having his mom take whatever leftover meat (not hamburger) and put it through the blender or food processor to grind it up

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Tip: Clean The Refrigerator Soup

I take all of my leftovers for the week and make what I call, "Clean the Refrigerator Soup". I always make my own vegetable, and chicken broths, so I have lots of stock on hand.

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Tip: Taco Dip From Leftovers

By HerkDia 35 132

A quick taco dip and making good use of leftovers. After we enjoy a meal of tacos, we usually have ingredients left over. Instead of putting all of them away in different containers to re-use for tacos, I got the idea of making a taco dip with them.

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Tip: Using Leftover Party Food

By Lynn 25 3

Normally I make sure I take an extra box of resealable plastic bags to family events. I choose between sandwich and quart size. There are always a lot of left-overs and the family that prepares the food usually has enough saved.

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Article: Recycled Dinners as Easy as 1-2-3

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Recycled Dinners as Easy as 1-2-3

Recycled Dinners as Easy as 1-2-3

As grocery prices rise, the skill of recycling leftovers becomes even more valuable (as if it weren't already crucial in most family meal planning.) To ease the strain of grocery shopping as well as meal planning, try a 1-2-3 recycling plan to lengthen the life of your leftovers.

Step 1

Step 1 involves making a meal large enough to provide substantial leftovers for steps 2 and 3. It wouldn't be frugal to make more than needed; instead, think of meals that already offer leftovers. Roasts, chickens, and cookouts usually put some leftovers in a family's refrigerator.

After a cookout, save the leftover hamburgers from the grill in a large Ziploc bag for a Step 2 meal. The next step will require crushing them, so if one fell apart during flipping, it's perfect for this plan. Grilled chicken can also be used for a meal; just store it in the freezer a bit longer or save it for the end of the week.

After the company leaves one thing always remains at my cookouts - leftover buns. These are perfect for Step 2; save them in a Ziploc bag as well.

Deviled eggs are difficult to save. However, deviled eggs can be utilized later in meals. Save them in a storage container, and don't bother to preserve them intact. Crumbling them or chopping them will work for the recycling. They won't stay long, however, so try to use them immediately instead of waiting for a Step 3 meal. Red beet eggs can be saved and eaten later or recycled into another meal as well.

Step 2

Step 2 occurs a little later in the week. This is the typical 'leftovers' step that uses leftovers from one meal to create another. Use the hamburgers left from the cookout to make chili. Even if the hamburgers were heavily seasoned, it will only add to the flavor of this new meal. Another alternative is to make sloppy joes from the hamburger. Again, the extra seasoning is a bonus.

The next evening, another Step 2 meal can be made from the leftovers of the cookout. The rolls that were saved can be torn into pieces for stuffing. Cook a roast chicken dinner complete with stuffing to create a Step 2 meal. Save the leftovers from this meal to create a Step 3 meal.

The deviled eggs that were saved from the cookout should be used as soon as possible. The extra zest of the devil filling adds to the flavor. Add the chopped or crumbled eggs to tuna, potato, or macaroni salad. If you saved red beet eggs, these add a nice flavor to garden salads, but they can also be added to the previous mixtures for an unexpected surprise and a dash of color. Of course, egg salad can always be made from the leftovers as well.

Step 3

Step 3 meals are made from leftovers' leftovers. While Step 3 meals often are smaller 'quick' meals or even lunches rather than dinners, they can be hearty meals if planned well.

Look at the leftover chicken from the roast chicken dinner (Step 2) or if there was leftover chicken from the cookout (Step 1). This can now be chopped to create a batch of chicken salad, chicken tacos, or chicken Caesar salad. Any extra spices from the cookout won't affect these meals, and the roast chicken works nicely for all three as well.

For a more hearty Step 3 dinner, save the leftovers from the chicken dinner in a different way. Chicken pot pie can be made with purchased pie crusts or even phyllo dough (aka: filo dough). From the chicken dinner (Step 2) save the leftover chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Layer in a baking dish the chicken and vegetables. Add some cooked potatoes and more vegetables if needed (a can or bag of mixed vegetables works nicely.) Pour the leftover gravy on top of the mixture. If more is needed, a can of cream of chicken soup substitutes well. Finally, cover it with a pie crust and poke holes or layer philo dough on top and coat with butter as directed. Bake at 350 degrees F until it is heated through.

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Tip: Using Leftover Scalloped Potatoes

Leftover scalloped potatoes that won't be used up quickly? Load them in your blender, add milk and blend to smoothness, adding milk as necessary.

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Tip: Make Your Own Frozen TV Dinners

Looking for ways to use your leftovers? Place individual portions of meat, veggies and dessert if desired on freezer and microwave-safe plates, cover tightly with foil, and freeze.

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Tip: Make Vegetable Broth with Leftovers

Keep a gallon size freezer bag in your freezer, and as you cut off tomato ends, carrot ends, have leftover onion tops or celery, place them in the bag. When the bag is full, pull out and make up a batch of vegetable broth.

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Tip: Clean the Refrigerator Soup

I take all of my leftovers for the week and make what I call, "Clean the Refrigerator Soup". I always make my own vegetable and chicken broths, so I have lots of stock on hand.

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Food and Recipes Food Tips LeftoversOctober 27, 2011
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