There are few better feelings than walking in the door on a weekday afternoon and knowing that dinner is already done.

The hour or so normally spent hustling over a hot stove can instead be spent in the garden, in the backyard, or just on the couch taking a refreshing pause before tackling the evening’s chores.

One way to get that hour back is to break out the slow cooker and the Julie Kay recipes. Another is to combine your cooking and plan out how to use leftovers. To me, there’s something satisfying — beyond getting the most bang for your buck — about using every bit of your groceries.

Roasting a whole chicken for one meal yields a carcass that can be boiled down to make a rich stock that can be used for soup, gumbo, or chicken and dumplings. The leftover meat can be eaten on salads, in tacos or sandwiches, or combined into other dishes, like a casserole. A beef roast from the slow cooker can be eaten as is, then recycled into barbecue sandwiches or remade into a topping for a baked potato. The same treatment is also very successful with a pork roast. When making spaghetti sauce, I try to make extra for stuffing bell peppers or for a homemade pizza later in the week.

The trick with all these recipes is to keep the first one pretty basic so that you can add more and different flavors later without too much trouble. This keeps some variety in the menu while still using up all your leftovers. Bonus: Your family will think you’re a magician.

Just smile and nod knowingly.