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Simple Ways To Turn Your Leftovers Into New Meals

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

by Rachel Yeoh |

Here’s my confession - I cannot do food prep.

Technically, I can prep food for a few days (I’ve done it a few times) but I won’t feel like eating the same food I prepped. I open up the fridge, see what I’ve prepared and eaten the day before, and my stomach decides “I feel like Char Koay Teow today.”

And Char Koay Teow it is!

My prepared food just sits there...

By the time I psyche myself to eat it, I start thinking if it still can be eaten, because it has been in the fridge for THREE DAYS! I want to save money and save time, but my tastebuds are entitled sensory beings. I know, first world problems, right?

However, there is a cheat code to work around it. All I have to do is to recreate new meals from leftovers. Here are some ways I create new meals with my leftovers that you can try as well.


When it comes to food, nothing should go to waste. Save scraps to make a delicious meal later.

I like to have a pot close by when I am chopping up my vegetables, garlic, onions, etc. I dump the odds and ends in to the pot (but please wash them first). Then, fill the pot with water and let it boil for about 20 minutes. Drain it into containers with a sieve, and VOILA, you've got vegetable stock!

Do the same with chicken bones and you’ll have chicken stock!

Freeze it in the freezer to be used later. It’s cheaper than buying them from the supermarket.

Food that’s about to go bad

There’s only my husband and I at home. Sometimes, we can’t finish the food we have before it goes bad, and I hate throwing food away. Every time I do, guilt enshrouds me and I can imagine my parents shaking their heads in disapproval of me.

So here’s how to be the saviour of the broken, the beaten, and the damned (food).

Bread - I never understood why my husband would chuck the whole loaf of bread into the refrigerator. I didn’t want to eat cold bread. But I later found wisdom in doing that. Because there are only two of us, we sometimes can’t finish the bread we buy before it gets mouldy. Plus, being a bread-snob, I like my sourdough, artisan, and aiyah, the ‘atas’ (high-end) kind of bread lah.

Now that we have more-or-less extended the lifespan of the bread, here’s another way to make something new out of old stale bread.

My personal favourite is bread pudding. It makes for a great dessert, especially when it involves a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love this Bread Pudding recipe by Spend with Pennies. I usually add half a cup of chopped walnuts and mini chocolate chips on top. After it comes out of the oven, I’ll drizzle caramel sauce and homemade chocolate ganache.

Okay, maybe you don’t like desserts (omg, what are you?), you can make breadcrumbs instead. They are great when it comes to coating chicken and fish (think baked butter chicken) and it is so easy to make!

Just tear a few pieces of your stale bread, dump it in the food processor, and pulse it a few times until it is crumbly. Pop it in the oven at 170℃ for about 10 to 15 minutes. Use immediately or bottle it up and keep it in the refrigerator for about a month.

Banana: another fruit with a short shelf life once it is ripe. This easily bruised fruit happens to be my favourite, and hence, I have found other alternatives to savour it.

You can make banana bread! I love eating it for breakfast with milk, tea time with tea, and supper with ice cream. You do not have to follow my foodie lifestyle but do follow this Banana Bread Recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Alternatively, with a blender, you can quickly whip up smoothies (bananas, yoghurt, milk, and ice as the base, then add whatever else you please) and pancakes. I’ve been using this super easy Banana Pancake Recipe by A Mindful Mom for a while now and it has never failed me. Just remember to let it sit before you pour it into the pan - that is the secret to fluffier pancakes (without beating the hell outta egg whites).

If you’ve got leftover vegetables, pack them up, and store them in the freezer. You can add them to your smoothie the next day (along with your super ripe bananas as stated above).

For those who enjoy drinking wine, but can’t finish the whole bottle, have two glass jugs ready in your freezer. One for white another for red. For whatever you can’t empty, pour it into the respective jugs in the freezer. When cooking meat, use about a quarter cup and let it reduce. It’s like broth, but better.

Leftover meals

This is not uncommon but just in case you don’t know...

Rice - leftover rice is THE type of rice you want to make fried rice. You can dump in anything you like (like yesterday’s leftover side dishes), stir it up with a dash of pepper and soy sauce and voila - it becomes fried rice. Crack an egg into it and wah, can become fried rice seller liao!

Here are some fried rice recipes you can try:

  1. Easy Fried Rice Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

  2. Stir-Fried Rice with Leftovers from Food52 (feel free to add, subtract, or replace)

  3. Sambal Belacan Fried Rice from KYSpeaks (for those who like a spicy kick)

For those who order takeout and you’ve got some leftover roasted chicken, tear the meat off the bone and dump it into your congee. You can try this super easy, rice cooker Chicken Congee Recipe by Chinese Recipes For All.

Or try making chicken wraps. Grab an easy heat-up paratha or chapati, arrange the shredded chicken, add a sauce of your choice (mayo, ranch, BBQ), tomatoes, lettuce, scrambled egg, and cheese. Wrap it up and devour!

With any other type of meat, drain the original sauce and make curry - yes, from scratch. You can try this Easy Chicken Curry Recipe from Veena Azmanov. I don’t usually have ALL the ingredients but I’ll just add what I have and finish it off with coconut milk. Though my curries never taste identical, it’s almost always lip-smacking delicious.

Pasta people, if you have leftover pasta sauce, make pizza! Buy or make a pizza base, spread the pasta sauce, and add your toppings.

If you’ve got leftover pasta, be sure to coat it with a little oil before you pop it in the fridge. The next day, you can make Mee Goreng (watch this Spaghetti Goreng Recipe by Dapur Kota Singa) or bake a frittata (like this one from NYT Cooking).

Leftover party food

You know it and I know it. If there is a potluck or some kind of dinner party you are invited to, there will be leftovers (most of the time lah). AND MOST OF THE TIME, people will decline the leftovers. They will say things like, ‘No need, we got a lot of food at home,’ or ‘Aiyah, only me at home, cannot finish wan, you better give other people.’

Now I tell you - TAKE IT HOME.

No need to paiseh. Please save the food from being thrown away!

If there is leftover bee hoon or mee, re-fry it the next day with added chilli padi or tom yam paste. If there is leftover fried chicken (or any chicken without bones), make chicken sandwiches. If there is leftover pizza, well, you can toast it OR, make pizza fries.

Yes, just cut the pizza into strips, toast it over the pan (without oil) and serve with a dip. If you can eat churros, you can eat pizza fries - trust me!

Now that you have got several recipes to try with leftovers, which ones are you interested to cook up? As with everything else, food-making gets better with practice. Now would be a great time to save that dime and cash up on that cooking time.

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