Making the most out of leftovers from Chinese New Year

Excess food and items are often the by—products of the holiday season after a robust month of cooking, eating, visitations and gifting. Tempting as it is to shove them into storage or toss them out, it is a terrible wastage of perfectly useable products and does your wallet a great injustice. There are some things you can do to get these out of your house.

First and foremost, make sure that your surplus food and items are in good, edible or useable condition. Check the expiry dates on food containers, and toss out food that has already expired or smell and look strange. Take note of items that are approaching their expiry dates and place them in more noticeable and accessible areas as those are items you would want to utilise first.

Appropriate storage is crucial to ensure that your items retain ‘ their quality as much as possible while you ‘ work on reducing their presence in your house. Festive goodies should be kept in air-tight containers and stored in cool cupboards. Left-over cooked food items should be stored separately in the fridge in airtight, leak-proof containers or wraps. Uncooked meat, fish and chicken should be kept in their original store wrapping. They should also be placed on trays or plates to prevent liquids from dripping onto other items below. Fruits and vegetables should be kept in separate, unsealed and perforated bags. Do not place different fruits and vegetables together as they give off gases that can cause other items to go bad. Do not wash before refrigerating as dampness can cause mould. Ensure that there is space in the refrigerator for cool air to circulate.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Offer your snacks, drinks, hampers and other unused items to neighbours, friends and colleagues. But don’t forget to be sensitive to their needs. I recall a neighbour who wanted to throw out their plant a year ago. Today the plant is growing well in my office because there are green thumbs here. If your neighbourhood has a Facebook account, that is a good place to ask if anyone would like your surplus.

Charities are often inundated by item donations post- holiday season and some of them may cease accepting these until further notice. This is a strong indication that we buy far more than we should and we really ought to watch what we are buying! That said, some smaller and less-funded charities, orphanages and homes might appreciate food and functional products that are in new condition. Do contact the charity beforehand to check if they will accept your donations. www.giving.sg has a relatively comprehensive list of all charities and homes in Singapore. If you have bulky items like furniture and electronic appliances to give away, you may try http://www.passiton.org.sg to find a suitable match for your donation. The Food Bank Singapore has been taking in new, unopened Chinese New Year goodies for distribution to beneficiaries.

If you wish to monetize your items, local selling platform Carousell is handy for all sorts of items. But considering how easy it is to purchase items for cheap online or get them at low cost or even free from those who have bought too much, you might have better luck with a give away.

Last but not least, take note of how much you actually use during the holiday season, and refrain from buying more than that amount next year. Adopt sensible buying habits so you never have to cope with the heartache of wastage and spending excessively, and the headache of managing your surplus.

Picture by Alpha

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Book Review: Known and Strange Things

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

Known and Strange Things is a collection of 55 short non-fiction pieces from an approximately eight-year travel period of almost constant writing. Many of these have been published on mainstream publications, with some going viral. They span across a wide variety of topics covering books, movies, photography, travel, politics, personal accounts on race, war, and colonialism.

Cole grew up in Nigeria, has travelled extensively, and currently resides in the US. He is well-versed in the arts and politics, and his writings are fiercely intelligent and highly-opinionated. Cole is a person of colour, identifies as internationalist, and has a deep affiliation with Western culture. As such, his essays on politics and travel are a fascinating and reflective read.

There is a section on photography, and interestingly enough, that turned out to be the most outstanding section in his book, as agreed by other readers. Who would know that the beauty of photography could be conveyed in text? In these essays, Cole shares about the history and aesthetics of photography, virtually rendering a crash course on the background of this art form. Social media enthusiasts will no doubt be interested in what he thinks about lnstagram and Snapchat.

But not every essay might be one’s cup of tea. Certain essays and chapters felt particularly technical and may require multiple reads to digest the information. Even then, they may be over-whelming. Some articles may be deeply appreciated by art enthusiasts and historians, but would otherwise be akin to playing piano to the cow. 0n the other hand, I really enjoyed the ones about his personal experiences related in his accounts of his travels and life. Anyone who enjoys travelling or learning about the world through others eyes are likely to concur.

That said, not everyone would enjoy every piece of writing in the book, but finding at least one enjoyable essay should be easy.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.