When I cook meals at home, even for my large family, I always try to be sure there are plenty of leftovers. I love leftovers, either as is or to create something fun, exciting and different from the original meal.
By Dawn Harris, WorkitMom.com Contributor WorkitMom.com is a blogging community and resource center for working moms by working moms. Check out Work it Mom for parenting tips, career advice, craft ideas, quick kid friendly recipes, and more.
I’d like to think that in the five years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, things have changed. It seems people are more conscious of eating healthy, pins on Pinterest of easy and fun food made at home are more popular than ever, and everyone can save a few bucks. Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out, and it’s no secret that it can sometimes be a healthier choice, as well. When I cook meals at home, even for my large family, I always try to be sure there are plenty of leftovers. I love leftovers, either as is or to create something fun, exciting and different from the original meal. Even though I’m no longer in the workplace, my husband is, and he only gets a 30 minute lunch. He works at facilities that are difficult to get into in terms of security, and they’re far away from civilization, making it tough to leave the vicinity and head somewhere to eat in just thirty minutes time. So I make his lunches, and while he loves sandwiches and can never get bored with them, I do get bored making them. I’ve compiled some ideas to incorporate basic leftover foods to create fun and exciting lunches that will keep you excited about lunch and happy to avoid the fast food temptation! Bowls. It could be any kind of bowl: a burrito bowl, a rice bowl. Take something as simple as chicken and brown rice, put it in a bowl with some salsa or sauce, some veggies, like broccoli, olives, tomatoes or corn, and add maybe some low-fat cheese or tortilla strips. You have a fun and delicious new meal! I recently did this with some leftover Southwest grilled chicken strips and rice. I topped the rice with the chicken, added some green enchilada sauce, some rotel tomatoes, bell pepper and corn. I topped it with low-fat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, hot sauce, some sliced olives and tiny tortilla strips, and it was like an entirely new meal! Salads. We all know how versatile a salad can be. You can use a pre-packaged salad mix, top it with some lean chicken, pork or steak, and add some of your favorite additional veggies, like carrots, bell peppers, even kidney beans. You can use a simple rice vinegar or a creamy low-fat dressing, and there you have it! A whole new meal. The possibilities are endless with this. Sandwiches. I mentioned that my husband is a huge fan of sandwiches. A few slices of ham, some cheese, reduced fat mayo and mustard in between two slices of bread: BORING! You can cut up some tomatoes, lettuce and all the fixings and pack it separately so the bread doesn’t get soggy, then build your sandwich right before you’re ready to eat it. Better yet, you can make some amazing combinations of ingredients and make a grilled cheese sandwich. For instance, after Thanksgiving, I make a grilled cheese that includes leftover turkey, stuffing, low-fat pepper jack cheese, reduced fat mayo & salt and pepper. It’s the most amazing grilled cheese! Get creative with your simple leftovers; grilled cheese sandwiches reheat beautifully, so no boring sandwiches here! Wraps. Along the same lines of the salads and the bowls, wraps (and burritos) are easy and versatile. Have some leftover roasted potatoes and scrambled eggs? Cut up some low-sodium ham and throw everything together in a whole wheat tortilla with a little cheese and salsa, and it’s a wonderful breakfast burrito! Or instead of that boring sandwich with lunch meat, throw it in a whole wheat tortilla with some veggies and wrap it up. It’s a delicious alternative, and when our food looks different from the norm, we get a little bit more excited about it! Jars. If you frequent Pinterest and Instagram as much as I do, you’ve seen those amazing meals in a jar. There’s the layered salad with the dressing, beans, bacon or whatever on the bottom, and lettuce on the very top so it doesn’t wilt. You dump the jar onto a plate or bowl, and like magic, your meal is served! There are so many varieties and ways to make this. There are oatmeal mixes and yogurt parfaits. It’s a fun and innovative way to serve your meal and requires very little prep work! My main goal is to get creative. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your lunches when you’re on the go. When you’re excited about your meal, it’s something you look forward to, and you might just inspire your coworkers to do the same, so there’s no more loneliness in the lunch room!