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Are you using everything up?

photo source: BigStock

Jeni emailed in the following:

I was raised by a fabulously frugal homemaker mom who is also an incredible cook. Nothing went to waste in her kitchen.

Any bits of pie crust left – not enough to make another pie – were cut into pieces, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and baked on a cookie sheet. My siblings and I thought “pie crust cookies” were a marvelous treat.

Any frosting left after the cake was frosted was spread on graham cracker squares to make delicious sandwich cookies. We learned that a batter bowl was not really empty until it was scraped mercilessly with a rubber spatula – this could yield another one or two pancakes or fill one more cupcake paper.

We were taught to use things up. Of course, this idea goes beyond the kitchen.

For example, the facial moisturizer I use comes in a pump dispenser. When it is getting close to empty and product is not coming out through the pump anymore, it doesn’t get tossed in the trash yet. I take off the cap and tap the remnants into the palm of my hand. I can get a good two more weeks of use this way, and nothing goes to waste.

Being conscious of the way we use products in our home every day can help us waste less, and ultimately save us money. -Jeni

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91 Comments

  • Kim says:

    You said it so well. I cannot begin to count the number of uses I have salvaged from a shampoo, lotion, conditioner or moisturizer bottle by taking off the cap.

    Also, if you use lotion that comes in a tube, cut the top of the tube off (the end opposite the cap) and you will be amazed at how much is left after it appears empty. I then just take the portion I cut off and fit it back over the remaining tube to keep it from drying out. Sometimes I need to keep cutting it down depending on the size of the tube, but it is worth the time and effort.

    • Patti says:

      I do the same thing! It is amazing to get another week’s worth of toothpaste, makeup, or moisturizer that way.

    • WilliamB says:

      So true. There’s a lot of toothpaste, hand sanitizer, or shampoo in an empty container. Especially the opaque ones.

  • Lisa says:

    So true! I want to get even better at not wasting and have been trying hard. I want to wait to purchase a new “something” until the last is completely gone. Otherwise it is too easy to just open a new one-that is where a stock pile for me can be bad. Same in the kitchen I am trying to be very creative and use up what has been down in my freezer and pantry-or donate it (which is wasteful that I bought it and then never used it). Everyone should strive for this-we live in such a throw away society. Plus it would really help our budget to stretch what we have already spent time and hard earned money on.

  • Brittainny says:

    Love this post! We do the same thing. Since we garden and have a compost pile, we have much less trash because it is all compost! Lots of things have double uses. One example is using dryer sheets as dust rags or in place of paper towels for cleaning.

  • J says:

    Funny about scraping bowls. My mother was into bowl scraping and by the time we got it there was nothing! We were always so disappointed. A bit slow at learning there never would be. lol

  • Juletta says:

    So true..I have been on myself about this for some time. I feel like this will be something I try to continue to improve. It is sometimes easier to just buy a new one, but then you are forced to get better sales and deals at the store the next time to stay in budget…I believe we should all be good stewards of the money that God allows us to have and this is one place I need to improve. Use everything until it is gone as some do not have.

  • Melissa says:

    I was raised by my grandparents, who were alive during the depression. My husband and my college roommate both got such a kick out of watching me use up a tube of toothpaste the first time they experienced it! I have cut open many a lotion bottle/tube in my life to get the last bit out! My children also love pie crust cookies! Thank you for your article!

    • Sarah says:

      I too was raised by a Grandmother who raised 12 children during the depression, let me tell you the lady knew how to live. She lived life with gusto and she new how to make every penny scream!

  • Rachel says:

    I’m thinking that your mom and mine MUST have been related because my mom does the exact same things!

  • Mel says:

    I LOVE this post! Couldn’t agree more! One thing that stood out to me is that you came from a mother who made this a part of your thinking…..and it stuck with you for life. I am thankful to say that my mother is extremely resourseful and she always made this a fun challenge for my brother and I.

  • Becky says:

    This is great! Just this morning I finished up the last of a (free) sample bottle of shampoo. There wasn’t quite enough shampoo left to wash my hair so I just filled the bottle up shook it and poured it over my head. I did this a couple times and then added the shampoo I had already poured into my hand. My hair is completely clean, the bottle is rinsed for recycling, and I didn’t have to get out of the shower to find another bottle of shampoo! 🙂

  • Camille says:

    I once heard someone say what the farmer brings in by the wheelbarrow the farmer’s wife throws away by the tablespoon. Not in my house either. We’re a bunch of bowl scraping, add water to the bottle shaking, and find another use for the thing fools around here. I guess fools would be the wrong word…the wasters are the fools. 🙂 Thanks for the additional inspiration to not waste.

  • Jennifer says:

    Me too! It just pains me when I see people just toss their Rubbermaid containers in the trash after they feed the dog in them —like they are disposable! Or the first time I ate Thanksgiving with my in-laws and they were only going to serve the white meat on the turkey and toss the rest with the carcass! Now they know better and save the dark meat with the bones for me to make stew with 🙂 Even today, I love going home and seeing my dad made a squirrel buffer for his bird feeder by using an old hub cap. When he sawed off a dead tree, he left the trunk and nailed a piece of old counter top to it and uses it as a fish cleaning station. Nothing EVER went to waste in our house!!

  • Helen says:

    I have resorted to carefully cutting open lotion bottles – you would be simply amazed at how much is left once the pump stops working.

  • Michele G says:

    We do this at our house too! Everything gets turned upside down shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and roll-on deodorant. We get two or three more weeks out of deodorants by doing this. I will also add a couple of drops of water to an almost bottle of shampoo, conditioner or dish soap to get that last little bit out. At first my family wasn’t too happy but now everyone is on board!

    • Lacey says:

      Thats what I do too. Turning them upside down makes getting to what’s left a whole lot easier. Works really well on my pump foundation.

  • Jennifer says:

    Now that I’m on a roll… just thinking about TODAY. I cleaned out my deep freeze and organized it by reusing old cat litter pails. You may think EEWWW… but seriously the cats never touched the pails and I scrubbed them out good with bleach and soap after they were empty. I held on to them knowing I’d need them and I DID. They fit perfectly in my deep freeze. I used one for chicken products, one for beef, one for seafood and one for pork. Now I no longer have to dig around hunting for frozen hot dogs when I need them —or WORSE, forget I have them and buy more! Some people like to toss items it they find no immediate use, and that is fine, but my house is neat and organized so we can afford to hang on to things to re-purpose 🙂

    • We sue the litter containers to store dog food. We can buy the biggest bag to save money and it fits perfectly in two big plastic Tidy Cat pails. the food stays fresh and the plastic resists pests. We keep ice melt in them too!

    • Chris says:

      I have to admit, when I first read “cat litter PAILS” in your post what jumped into my mind first was “cat litter PANS” (the ones they actually do their business in) and yes, I was thinking EEWWW! I use the pails for all sorts of things myself, but I hadn’t thought about the deep freeze. I am short and have a terrible time reaching things at the bottom, but those pails would be just the trick to solve that problem. I could just kiss you right now! 😉

    • Andrea says:

      Excellent idea–my chest freezer is awesome to have, but it’s also a pain. Our empty cat litter containers have oregano and tomatoes growing in them (we drilled holes in the bottom).

  • sarah says:

    Hee, hee, I think we wouldn’t be harmed in wasting a little frosting and pie crust around my house!

    • Susan says:

      I was thinking the same thing. 🙂

      I’m all for not wasting things, and I too will scrape every last drop of lotion, toothpaste, soap, etc, out of a container, and I rinse and reuse my ziplock bags.

      But as for foods, here’s another perspective …

      As one who has struggled with my weight since adolescence, in my opinion, putting every last bit of food into my stomache is just as wasteful as throwing it away. Worse even. It took me a long time to change my mindset from “there’s a few cupcakes left from the party — better eat them or they’ll go to waste” to “better toss those last few cupcakes now before I eat them and they go to my waist.”

      Saving leftover portions for meals is great, and we do that, but I don’t scrap bowls or keep pie crust remnants. Making extra pancakes to have for another meal is great, but as for that one extra pancake from batter scraped from the sides of the bowl — okay, if someone is still hungry and wants one more pancake, scrape the bowl clean. But otherwise, there’s no sense in making one more pancake that will either rot in the fridge or be added to someone’s plate after we’ve already had plenty. Portion control is huge for anyone trying to lose weight, so I say toss toss those extra tidbits, don’t worry about scraping the bowl clean, and don’t feel guilty about it.

      • You are so right! I’m working on losing over 100 pounds and that has been a really key concept for me to accept. it’s OK for me to waste a little food. I don’t have to eat everything on my plate. I also don’t have to finish a restaurant meal. I just eat an appropriate serving and only bring home the extra if I know someone else is going to eat it. Once I wrapped my head around that idea, losing got easier.

      • Aimee says:

        One of the things I’ve started doing is sharing part of the baked goods and desserts I make. Our family of 4 doesn’t need a dozen cupcakes so we can save a portion for our family and treat a neighbor family with the others. Then you aren’t wasting but you’re also not a human garbage disposal. 😀

  • Heather says:

    I was shocked when I went to college and saw how my roommates didn’t scrape the bowl after making cookies.

    • WilliamB says:

      I agree. Let all that tasty dough go uneaten?!

      The family still tells the story of when I was 5, I stuck my head so far into the cake batter bowl that I had batter on the back of the crown of my head.

  • It’s amazing how even the smallest amounts of food left over can create an entire lunch for the next day if you really get creative! I also save some jars and containers that can be re-purposed for a variety of cool things! My husband doesn’t particularly like that I save some things, but you never know when an old jar will come in handy! Great post!!

    • Monika says:

      I have a thing about collecting jars and containers, and my husband teases me about it! He said he’s going to make me find uses for the ones that I have before I go saving any more! LOL

      • Monica says:

        I started collecting glass jars. I don’t know why! So far I have 6 and just recently finally use one and put homemade salsa in it. =)

        • That’s awesome! Yeah I started collecting the Marie’s salad dressing glass jars and now I use them to store homemade salad dressing! I even saved a large Jif PB container – I have no clue why!! 🙂

        • Andrea says:

          I use glass spaghetti sauce jars to freeze a couple servings of soup or chili for a week or two. Makes a good weekend lunch for my husband.

      • Beulah says:

        My husband teases me about saving the tubs and jars also. They come in handy when we have a family dinner. I always use them to send leftovers home with everyone. Unlike expensive storage bowls, I could care less if I get them back or not, and we don’t have to worry about the food going bad before we could get to it.

  • Martha says:

    What is a good way to use up all the slivers of bar soap? My mom used to make one big bar out of all of them, sadly I wasnt paying attention to how that is done and Mom is no longer here to ask.

  • Karen says:

    My daughter was abosutely thrilled the first time she had pie crust “rolls”. We would flatten the left over dough, butter it, put sugar/cinnamon on it and then roll it up and slice them like cinnamon rolls. She has asked me to just make them as a treat!

    • SMS says:

      We make frosting for graham cracker cookies if we’re hungry for them. We really only do cakes on Birthdays. My son brought them as his Birthday treat to school one year. He said everyone ate them unlike the usual cupcakes that get the frosting licked off and tossed in the trash.

    • Jen says:

      My grandma always did this… pie crust cinnamon rolls, and we LOVED it! I still do it to this day. 🙂

  • Another great way to get the rest of a product (moisturizer or conditioner) out of a container is to take sharp kitchen scissors and poke a hole in the container and then cut a slit in it and then open it up by cutting it to the right and left a bit. I do this all the time with my moisturizer and get another weeks worth out of it.

  • Thanks for the advice! I agree. My husband laughs because I save the shampoo and conditioner until there’s not a single drop left. I just add a little water and shake it, then apply it to my hair. This past month I refused to buy new shampoo and conditioner until I used every one of the free samples I had received in the mail.

    I also keep the plastic and glass containers that foods come in. If I get too many, I recycle them, but they come in handy for all kinds of things. My husband also thinks it’s funny that I wash and reuse ziploc bags. My mother, too, taught me to “waste not, want not.”

  • When I first started coupon shopping I ended up with a good stockpile of items. I found myself thinking I don’t need to take the time to get all of the toothpaste out or I don’t need to add water to the last of the shampoo because I already have a few more in the cupboard.

    But I quickly changed my tune, I thought to myself why should I not use that little bit up. I had always before I started coupon shopping been very thrifty with using every last bit in the bottle or tube. So I couldn’t believe I caught myself thinking that way. I had to check my way of thinking, even I get the toothpaste for free after coupon it still cost me money to go to the store to get the item. The less shopping I do the more I can save.

    I really agree with your post about scraping the bowl. I will dirty a new spatula just to get at little bit out of the bottom of the bowl when making pancakes and I even scrape the spoon rest. It may only mean one extra pancake but it is better than rinsing it down the drain.

  • Lori Ewart says:

    I totally agree…My husband was an only child; I was one of seven… I still haven’t convinced him to be less wasteful, so I quietly remove the “empty” bottles from the trash can, rinse them off, and use them up!!!

  • Lori in NC says:

    An empty pimiento jar works great to hold my son’s shark’s teeth from the beach!

  • Sandy K says:

    We reuse are glass jars all the time. Especially wide mouth ones they can hold washed vegetables ready to serve in them. The plastic jars hold buttons, screws and any little items that like to slip and slide away. Always put water in the shampoo bottle when know more wants to come out. Not only are we using what we have to the max but a few pennies are
    saved .

    • SMS says:

      I have a cosmetologist friend get me my favorite shampoo on sale with her discount. I have been refilling the same bottle for about 20+ years. I know I had it before I move here.

  • Marsha says:

    In addition to these suggestions, I always freeze the carcass’ from when I make whole chickens or turkeys. Then, when I have about 5 or 6, I make a batch of homemade stock- just add some carrots, celery and onions.

    • Amanda says:

      I do the same thing, making stock from chicken bones. Recently, a friend gave me a great idea to make the stock even more frugal; she always saves the ends of onions, celery, & carrots, and throws them in a freezer bag. Then when she has enough, adds them to the stock pot, and it is basically free!

    • Jen says:

      Don’t forget to save ham bones, and throw them in the crockpot with beans for soup! It is so delicious. I remove the bone towards the end of the cooking time, let it cool a bit, then remove all the remaining ham. It usually falls off the bone. I throw the ham back in the soup, and toss the bone. I have a few ham bones in the freezer now, and I might just have to make soup tomorrow.

  • Charity says:

    I love these common-sense-type tips, because, let’s face it, common sense isn’t that common anymore! Waste not, want not…our children will surely tire of hearing these words in our home, but will definitely learn the benefits from living this truth out. 🙂

  • Wendy says:

    Thanks for the tip on pie crust! I made a pie crust this afternoon and rolled the leftovers in cinnamon & sugar like you suggested. It really is good. I never thought of doing that.

    • Lauren says:

      I really hate the labels on so many things now, “take and toss” SO wasteful! Even if you lose the lids, old plastic containers can be shelf organizers, seed planters, etc… No need to toss them just because they don’t serve their original function any longer.

      My mom is half hoarder/half queen of resourcefulness. She will save things that probably do not need saving, but can be incredibly resourceful. She is always reminding me to cut off the bad parts of fruits and veggies, and to really consider whether something is truly bad or not. I’m pretty sure my stomach lining is iron due to her “thriftiness” She has tips like- soak old raw meat in vinegar before cooking to make it okay to eat :S Not sure if it is luck or what that none of us ever got food poisoning!

      • Lauren says:

        sorry! I didn’t mean to reply directly to this reply!

      • K* says:

        I definitely do not recommend soaking old meat in vinegar – it does NOT kill the bacteria that makes it rotten! Yikes! I think it’s luck, although my fiance grew up similar to you, and now I get violently ill whenever I eat dinner at my FMIL’s house. LOL

        (She believes that dairy never goes bad, yogurt never expires, etc. …. very bad for me! lol)

  • This made me smile because my DH says I can get 3 weeks of toothpaste out of an empty tube…and he’s right! When the shampoo is empty, I fill the container with water, and rinse and use it in the washing machine…same with, well, pretty much everything!

  • Sarah says:

    My favorite use-up, is pouring the leftover stain remover into the new bottle, once the old is too far down to spray out anymore!

  • Kim says:

    I am working at losing 121 pounds. I don’t buy many processed foods anymore, but I buy a LOT of fruits and veggies. I have found that I can blend just about any fruit or veggie into my daily smoothie and it tastes good. That’s how I use up anything left in my produce drawer.

    • Susan says:

      Good for you! I know first hand what a struggle it is to lose a lot of weight.

      I like to blend up fresh veggies — whatever I have on hand — in my Vitamix for a quick vegetable soup and add some taco seasoning. It never seems to matter what veggies are in there — it always tastes good. For a full meal instead of a side dish, I’ll add pre-cooked chopped chicken, beef, or pork, or some precooked beans. Yummy and healthy.

      My favorite smoothie “recipe” is very simple — yogurt and frozen berries, and that’s all. If I have fresh berries I’ll use them and add ice cubes, but with frozen berries there is no need for ice.

  • Lana says:

    A tube of lipstick will go many more days with a lip brush to get the last of it.

  • This is exactly how I grew up! When I was a kid I was absolutely embarrassed by it all. Now – well – let’s just say when I do something like this, I smile and think of how proud my parents would be of me to see it! They live across country so they don’t get to see it on a daily basis, but my Mom laughs every time she visits and sees me doing something that I’d once-upon-a-time sworn that I would “never” do!

    Loved reading this!
    Lea

  • WilliamB says:

    Most people use less soap with bath poof (? the net scrubbies that sometimes come with fancy soap) then by sudsing up in one’s hands.

    Only the dirtiest of hair needs to be washed twice. If you have motor grease in your hair you’ll need a couple washes; for everyone else “lather, rinse, repeat” is just a marketing slogan.

  • Anitra says:

    My biggest “use-up” discoveries have always been with food. I’m a bit squeamish and will not hesitate to throw out food that is bad. HOWEVER, I’ve found that vegetable ends give more body to chicken stock (we buy a rotisserie chicken every few weeks, and it makes dinner, lunch, and stock from the bones), and many, MANY vegetables can go into stew or chili that we wouldn’t eat otherwise.

    We always save leftovers unless it’s just a bite or two (and sometimes even then). Sometimes I’ll have a few different small leftovers for lunch after my kids go down for a nap.

    Stale bread makes great breadcrumbs or croutons – or garlic bread. Sour milk can be a substitute for “buttermilk” in most recipes – I have wonderful recipes for brownies and coffee cake that use sour milk.

    If we have a barbeque and end up with leftover hamburger or hot dog rolls, we use them to make other sandwiches, or I turn them into bread pudding or “french toast casserole” for breakfast!

  • Carla says:

    Love the post and all the replays. Thanks! I really try to do most if not all of the ideas. My husband does not “get it” but that is okay! :). God bless you all.

  • Sakura says:

    Ketchup or catsup drives me nuts. There will be a half an inch in the bottom of the jar and someone will open a new one. I’ve taught my kids to grasp the bottom of the jar and whirl it around like a windmill. Magically it all moves to the spout and they can squirt it out . We also store some things upside down to get all of it out. My husband is the best at using everything up, I’m always learning from him.

  • Rebecca says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Using things up until they are completely gone makes a lot of sense for saving money. I often cut open bottles of pump lotion near the bottom and can get another few weeks of use out of them too. When shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and dish soap bottles are empty, I add some water, shake up, and can get several more uses of these items. With salad dressings, you can add some milk or water near the end to thin it for another use or two. I definitely do not throw out any edible food and will repurpose it into another recipe if it’s past its original use. If someone in our household doesn’t eat all of their food at a meal, I will wrap it and save it for them to eat later. I believe every little bit helps.

  • Karina says:

    Growing up we always saved empty containers to reuse. I also remember having to wash and clean plastic bags and foil for reusing. Never heard of cutting the tip off of tubes, I’ll have to try it. When my mom made banana bread it was almost more of a treat to get to lick the egg beaters!

  • Lori E says:

    Hi – Great tips!! I also cut down tubes, add water to bottles, save jars and containers to reuse, wash out zip lock bags or reuse bread bags – I always try to get the last little bit or use something twice. My grandmother taught me the pie crust cookie trick – I like them almost more than the pie!! My other grandmother taught me to use the last bits of mayo or ketchup by putting a little milk and seasoning in the jar, swirling around, and making a dressing for salad. I use reply envelopes that come in offers I do not want – great for grocery lists and coupons fit inside!! and – I never met a box that I didn’t want to keep!! We need those frugal, waste-not ways to become a standard in this country. We will create less trash and save more resources & money!!

    • Andrea says:

      The envelope idea is awesome–never thought of that!

      • Lisa says:

        I use them for deposits (my husband drops them in the night deposit) vs a new envelope. You aren’t mailing it so who cares if there is a clear address label opening.

        • SMS says:

          I use the envelopes for school -notes to teachers, lunch money, book money, etc. I just cross off the mailing info and write my son’s name on it, the amount and what it’s for.
          For shopping list to tuck my few coupons into and errand list too.

  • Kristie says:

    Great post!!! My mom taught me the same things. I was surprised recently when having dinner with a group of ladies, and a young lady came to me with my bag of bread (with just one piece remaining) and said, “Do you want me to throw this away since there’s only one left?” I realized then how much my mom had shaped my thinking. Never. Throw. Food. Away. Great article!

  • Kayla says:

    I add a drop of water to shampoo/conditioner/body wash too. I also do that with spaghetti sauce – pour out the sauce – add just a little water, put the lid on, shake, and add to the rest of the sauce. It is surprising how much you would throw away otherwise!

    Also it seems like we always end up with a ton of almost empty ketchup and bbq sauce bottles in the fridge. So when we get too many I buy a big thing of hamburger when it goes on sale and then make sloppy joes. I set the bottles upside down to drain all the ketchup/bbq to the top and then add those to the cooked hamburger (with a little chili powder and garlic powder) and we have a lot of meat to eat for dinner and my husband’s lunches, it got the bottles out of my fridge, and I didn’t waste anything!

  • Renee says:

    Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. 🙂

  • Becky says:

    Have any of you read Living More with Less? I think many of you would like it from your comments and there are some great ideas in it!

  • Melissa says:

    “Waste not Want not!” That was my mom’s mantra. 🙂

  • Rebecca says:

    Love this post. We do the same thing. It’s so second nature that I can’t even imagine not doing it. Such a waste not to.

  • Christen Kieffner says:

    Glad to know I am not the only one who does that with their moisturizer! 🙂 My mom did something similar with the left over pie dough. She would coat it with butter, then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on it, roll it up and bake. Yum! I now do that with my kids. 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      My friends were in town visiting for two weeks , I took them out everyday they were amazed at how many things we were able to go and do and how much money we saved. Day one we went to Subway they used the subway gift cards they had and I already had packed chips and drinks so they ordered $5.00 subs and split them at the picnic tables. Next we went to play putt putt ( I had discount coupons so it was only $3.00 each person) On the way home we stopped at the store and picked up Ribeyes that the meat manager just discounted right in front of us so they were now half off. So the husbands grilled them. And we had an amazing evening by the indoor pool and jacuzzi with some drinks .
      Day 2 we started off with some homemade muffins I had pre done and we stopped at Starbucks with coupons that the local store gave me so we had four drinks and we shared them with the kids (the store even pitched in extra cups so we could share. We ran off to a friends attraction and she generously let us all whitewater raft for $4.00 each person!
      On the way home we stopped and picked up lobster tails for the adults and a pizza for the kids (Papa John’s gave us a great deal and we only spent $5.00 for two large pizzas)
      The dinner was amazing ! It was less than $40.00 for all four of us and the pizzas for the kids. We headed out late the next day , after we had a outstanding brunch at a friends home with an amazing view that day for brunch and she made an amazing spread next we did two attractions at deep discounts with coupons. We did this for 10 days of the vacation, when they got ready to leave they had $1,500 that they expected to spend on the vacation and they did not have to so they graciously offered this to me and my family. They said that I taught them how to have fun and save an amazing amount in the future. I shared the funds with the two friends who were so gracious with the time and efforts and they greatly appreciated it, but they did not expect it at all. We all help each other as we are able too.
      Keep you eyes open plan ahead and make friends with folks that barter. Vacation can happen on the cheap and right in your own back yard! Plus , just celebrate a typical tuesday on the cheap but in an outstanding way and see how grand life can become. My friends are all amazing people!

  • we started cutting the toothpaste tube when it was done – my husband rolls his eyes, but it is what we do. He thinks it is silly bc we get toothpaste for free, but my thought is there is no sense in wasting right? 😉

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