Soup is a particularly good way to finish up all those leftovers in your fridge.

By Kathryn McLean

One way to waste less food is to use it up. I know that seems obvious, but I don’t just mean use what you buy, rather try to use up all the leftovers.

Soup is a particularly good vehicle for leftovers because you can cook vegetables that are getting a little wilty, and include other leftovers that are not enough for a serving.

The last baby carrots, a partial bunch of spinach, a few roasted potatoes, a small piece of cooked chicken (shredded or chopped) or a few chopped shrimp will go a long way in soup.

Here’s the guideline for homemade soup that will use up whatever you have, along with a few fresh items, to make a new dish.

First: go through the fridge pulling out ingredients and leftovers, and collect them on the counter. Now, as you decide which items to use, consider the end result.

Do you want to make a thick vegetable soup, adding leftover chicken? I think any vegetable you like will go with that. Go ahead and add any rice or noodles you find in the fridge, too.

Are you hoping to use up the extra shrimp? Think about what type of shrimp soup you want. A tomato base with Mediterranean herbs and rice? Something brothy with chili garlic sauce or hot sauce, some soy sauce, green onions and plenty of noodles?

Choose the vegetables and other ingredients around what sort of soup you want to build, or what makes sense with what you have. Is there some leftover ground beef seasoned for tacos in the fridge? Add some beans, and any of the vegetables you’d put in a chili or taco salad to make a simple soup.

The base for most soup starts with a finely chopped onion, cooked in a little oil until soft. Use a medium- or large-sized pot over low heat. If you don’t have any onions, but do have a leek, use that instead. Mix and match raw and cooked veggies.

If you have a package of raw ground turkey, an uncooked sausage or other raw protein that you need to use up, feel free to add that into your soup now, too.

While the onion (and meat etc.) is cooking, add any other raw veggies that you want to use, such as carrot, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, kale or spinach.

Once the raw vegetables have cooked until soft, add the leftovers: cooked vegetables and any cooked protein you want to use. Take a look in the freezer, too. Do you want to add corn or cubed frozen squash?

Now is the time to add any grains, like rice, quinoa or noodles. If you’re adding uncooked grains, be sure to include additional liquid to account for what those grains will need to be cooked through without using up all the soup’s broth. A quarter cup of rice will need an additional half cup of liquid.

Check the pantry and spice cabinet for other add-ins. Lastly, add liquid. Start with two cups of broth or water if you have approximately one-to-two cups of ingredients, and stir to combine everything.

Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Then remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, barely simmering, for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check the soup. If the vegetables aren’t cooked through, give it a little more time. Do you need to add salt or more broth? If it’s not as thick as you’d like, simmer the soup a little longer.