An afternoon of chopping vegetables and marinating meat flows into an evening of easy conversation and compliments to the chef. But when the last slice of chicken and half a plate of vegetables are left and no one has the capacity to stuff anymore down their systems, only one question remains: now what?
Often, the extra food is thrown away without a second thought. On average, discarded food takes up half of a Singaporean household’s daily wastage. There are ways to utilise leftover ingredients without repeating the same old meals the next day.
Read on for creative ways to reinvent your leftovers to save on your budget and at the same time, do your part for the environment.
Why should I save my leftovers?
In 2019 alone, Singapore generated about 744 million kilograms of food waste – enough to fill 51,000 double decker buses. Rice, noodles and bread were cited as the most common types of avoidable food waste discarded in Singapore.
Avoidable food waste refers to edible food, of which wastage could be prevented if managed purposefully. Unavoidable food waste are the inedible parts of food such as egg shells.
By buying, preparing, and consuming food more consciously, pressure on our waste disposal systems will be lessened and so will our carbon footprint. Hence, cutting down on avoidable food waste can trigger a positive snowball effect on our dwindling resources and subsequently help heal our environment.
2. Save on your finances
Most restaurants charge customers a 300% mark-up on meals due to the enhanced dining experience offered by its ambience and service. Safe to say, eating at home will cost less in the long run than dining out.
So, why not maximise your finances further by planning out your grocery list too? Instead of buying ingredients in bulk at one-shot, focus on buying ingredients per meal. This not only decreases spending but also minimises the chances of preparing excess food.
3. Learn a new skill
Cooking is a life skill that can be picked up by anyone, regardless of age or any preconceived worries about their culinary abilities.
Besides being able to whip up better tasting meals, mastering the art of cooking has a slew of other benefits. Including improving kitchen safety,adopting cooking as a hobby, stress relief or even a future career path.
What can I do with my leftovers?
Now that we’ve dished out the cascading effects that saving leftovers can have on the individual and society at large, here are some of the best ways to transform last night’s course into something you can look forward to devouring even tomorrow:
1. Freeze, store and eat again
The first way is to adopt proper storage methods. Though simple, some tend to overlook its importance. All this step requires is reusable glass or plastic containers and zip top bags.
Packing leftovers into transparent containers is not only sustainable and cost-efficient, but also allows for a convenient viewing of what’s stored inside them. This can help in the brainstorming of what to pair the food with next or how to switch them up.
Those who do not own clear plastic or glass containers can instead make it a habit to label leftover containers with the names of their respective contents to achieve the same effect.
Additionally, consider buying food products that come packed in large quantities. Through thoughtful portioning, opting for such products can reduce the time spent browsing the grocery store and preparing meals. They can also be major money savers in the long haul.
For example, allocating a few slabs of jumbo-sized meat for one dinner and freezing the rest lets you save the remainder for lunch the next day. Similarly, bread loaves can be portioned and the rest stored in the fridge until the next time you need a carb in your meal plan.
2. Delegate a leftovers meal time
If leftovers are expected after a big dining occasion, assign another day or days in the week to finish the uneaten food. This could be the next day’s breakfast or lunch, for instance.
For the perpetually busy, a bonus of living by this routine would be the precious time saved from only needing to reheat these meals, grab them and go.
3. Reinvent them
In the world of food, the sky’s the limit. Today’s stir-fried kai lan could be tomorrow’s vegetable soup. Here are some creative ways to revamp 5 basic ingredients:
Rice, the staple in an Asian household. It’s ever-present but sometimes never finished. Instead of dumping the extra rice, store it in the fridge and have them again the next day as fried alternatives.
Accidentally went crazy with the aglio olio servings last night? The leftover noodles can be rescued.
Whatever the craving, leftover noodles could probably be remade into their soup versions owing to the endless variety of soup bases that exist.
Reimagine extra noodles as a bowl of mouth-watering, warm ramen by adding garlic, eggs, shredded bamboo and sliced meat. Alternatively, grab some Laksa paste from the local marts (or: make your own) and recreate the hawker experience in the comforts of your home.
Other than the portioning practices mentioned earlier, bread can be altered into a multitude of meals, transcending occasions and cuisines.
For example, extra butter bread loaves from dinner could be made into a hearty french toast breakfast or mini garlic bread slices to complement the new day’s lunch menu. They could also morph into sugary treats such as bread pudding.
Meats, with their diverse categories and methods of cooking, possibly provide the most room for creativity in the kitchen.
Some ideas include inserting them in sandwiches, tossing them with leafy greens to make healthy salads and stir-frying them with other ingredients or sauces. Browse these easy chicken recipes for your next leftover makeover.
Did you know? Chicken bones can also be kept and patiently boiled down to create soup broth for your next hotpot.
Similar to meat, there’s a variety of ways to reinvent leftover vegetables.
A hassle-free recommendation is to sprinkle a light dash of salad dressing and mix in some chilled pasta, if you’re feeling fancy.
Those with more time on their hands can stir-fry or boil them to make wholesome soups, like the crowd favourite ABC vegetable soup , or tasty stews.
Lastly, greens could also be topped off with seasonings of your liking and served as a side dish.
4. Prevent them
Those who don’t want to mull over what best to do with their leftovers can prevent them from existing to begin with.
This entails being more conscious when making food purchase decisions and making an effort to properly plan meals – make portion calculators your best friend.
To conclude, consciously choosing to save and eat leftover food has significant economical and environmental benefits. Moreover, it cultivates creativity, a sense of discipline and sustainability – values that can be transferred to other parts of life, propelling you towards your ideal lifestyle.