Back when I was a working mom I was so disorganized. I was lucky to just get the kids out of the house and on time to school, in addition to being on time for work. Thankfully they received breakfast and lunches at school, and often I’d stop on the way to work for a coffee and a muffin. Lunches were always away from work, whether alone or with a coworker, and usually spent in the fast food drive-thru. Occasionally we’d get together and head to a diner, but I rarely took the time for myself to pack a healthy lunch. My very last job before I became a stay at home mom I tried to do better. I’d bring healthy lunches and sit alone in the break room with a book while the rest of my coworkers left for the lunch hour to get their lunches together. There’s just something about leaving the workplace and surrounding yourself with something other than that office environment that is so appealing. Even more-so when you like the people you work with and you can get together somewhere.
I’d like to think that in the five years I’ve been a stay at home mom that 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 could save a few bucks. Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out, and it’s no secret that it’s a healthier choice as well.
When I cook meals at home, even for my large family, I always try to be sure there’s plenty of leftovers. I love leftovers, either as is or to create something fun and exciting and different than 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 with security and it’s far away from civilization so it makes it difficult to leave the vicinity and head somewhere to eat on just thirty minutes time. So I make his lunches, and while he loves sandwiches and can never get bored of them, I do get bored of making them.
I’ve compiled some ideas to incorporate some basic leftover foods to create fun and exciting lunches that will make 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 rice, put it in a bowl with some salsa or sauce, some veggies like broccoli, olives, tomatoes or corn, and add maybe some cheese or tortilla strips. You have a fun and delicious new meal! I recently did this with some leftover southwest grilled chicken strips and white rice. I topped the rice with the chicken, added some green enchilada sauce, some rotel tomatoes, bell pepper and corn. Topped it with cheese, sour cream and 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 chicken, pork or steak, add some of your favorite additional veggies like carrots, bell peppers, even kidney beans. You can use a simple rice vinegar or a creamy dressing, and there you have it! A whole new meal. The possibilities are endless with this.
Sandwiches. I mentioned my husband is a huge fan of sandwiches. Literally a few slices of ham, some cheese, 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, pepper jack cheese, mayo & salt and pepper. It’s the most amazing grilled cheese! Get creative with your simple leftovers, grilled cheese sandwiches reheat beautifully, 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 ham and throw it all together in a tortilla with some cheese and salsa, it’s a wonderful breakfast burrito! Or instead of that boring sandwich with lunch meat, throw it in a whole wheat tortilla with a little bit of veggies and wrap it up. It’s a delicious alternative, and when our food looks different than 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’s so many varieties and ways to make this, they can be vegetarian or full of protein. There’s 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!