11 Innovative Ways To “Re-Purpose” Leftover Food At Home

Picture this: You are hungry, so you proceed to open the fridge and look in, but can’t really see what is inside as it is too packed. You reach your hand all the way inside the fridge and just grab whatever your hand happens to land on.

So what are you holding on to? Jam that expired a year ago? A rotten fruit? You might not recall when you bought this item that you grabbed from the fridge. You might even be shocked as to what you are holding onto as it has decayed beyond recognition.

Oftentimes, due to our busy schedules, we are guilty of placing leftover food, over-ripened fruits or just buying whatever we think we need and then leaving them in the fridge, with the intention of consuming them “tomorrow” or “next week” or “soon”. But that day never comes, and the food turns bad, and we end up throwing them away. In 2019, National Environmental Agency (NEA) estimated that 0.61 million tonnes of food waste was generated in Singapore but only 18% of the food waste was recycled. This translates to each individual in Singapore generating about 130kg of food waste a year. Hence, we have simplified the process of how you can easily start and cultivate these habits.

Tips for re-freshening food

  1. Stale bread
    - Using a microwave: Wrap the bread in a slightly damp towel, place it on a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 10 seconds. Do keep a lookout so that the bread doesn’t burn and the towel doesn’t catch fire.
    - Using a toaster: Toast slices of stale bread to release water from the starch crystals of the bread to make bread crispy and great for consumption.

  2. Wilted potatoes
    - Wash and peel the potato. Remove any dark spots from the potato then immerse the clean, peeled potato completely in a container of cold water.

  3. Limped vegetables
    - Carrots: Cut off a small portion of the bottom of the carrot and place upright in a glass of water until crisp. For cut carrots, place them in a bowl/jar of water.
    - Vegetable leaves: Place peeled vegetable leaves in a bowl of water to regain texture.
    - Broccoli: Trim bottom of broccoli and place in a bowl or glass of water or cut florets and place in a bowl of water until crisp.
    - Celery: Cut the bottom off the celery and place in a glass of water until crisp. You may need to add more water, depending on the extent of wilted celery.

Turning leftover food into new food

  1. Excess bread
    - Make croutons: Voted as one of the most favourite leftover bread hacks. Not only is this simple, it tastes great too! All you need will be what you probably have in your kitchen.
    - Make pizza: Try an alternative pizza crust aside from the ones from pizza places. DIY your own pizza with your favourite ingredients as well!

  2. Using leftover vegetables to make soups
    The steamed or grilled vegetables served the night before can become a bowl of soup on another day. Check out some simple ‘leftover ingredient turn soup’ recipe here.

  3. Stash scraps of vegetable
    As an alternative to composting the spoiled/excess vegetables, freeze vegetable scraps (e.g top and bottom of carrots, ends of leeks, stems of corn cores etcetera) in a zip-lock bag. Defrost the content of the zip-lock bag when filled, dump into a pot and add water to cover the content. Simmer for 2 hours and strain afterwards. You will then have vegetable stock ready to make any other meals out of it.

Turning excess into other uses

  1. Deodorize With Coffee Grounds
    After making your morning cup of coffee, spread the wet coffee grounds on a baking sheet in a thin layer and place them in a 250°C degree oven until dry. Once done, store the dry coffee ground in an open container or jar and place it anywhere there may be unpleasant odors in your home (e.g the bathroom).

  2. Essential oil made with orange peels
    Remove as much pith of orange as possible. Dry the peels and cut into small pieces. Pour vodka over peels just until covered and shake a few times a day for at least 3 days. Strain the mixture and keep uncovered to allow alcohol to evaporate. You’ll be left with a great smelling citrus essential oil.

  3. Re-planting or growing some fruits & vegetables
    Consider replanting some fruits and vegetables that have expired, rotten or in excess. By doing this, not only are you reducing food wastages at home, you are enjoying fresher fruits & vegetables as well. Here are 25 fruits & vegetables you can re-plant and grow.

  4. Remove scratches on your wooden furniture using expired walnuts
    Rub the scratches on the wooden furniture with a walnut to mask the damage.

  5. Expired vinegar does have several cleaning functionalities
    Clean your windows, carpet and dishwashers with expired vinegar. However, there are some items that should never be cleaned with vinegar.

Change is long overdue. We all know that it makes sense environmentally, socially and financially for everyone to make full use of the food that we purchase. But unfortunately, more often than not, we do not act on it as we do not know where and how to start. Nearly ⅓ of that food waste happens because we purchase, cook or serve more than we consume.

If every individual can get into the habit of using up our leftovers, with our accumulated effort, we can significantly reduce the amount of food waste generated yearly. If you find this useful, do share these tips with your friends and family, and perhaps you can experiment around and come up with new tips yourself!