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Healthy Brown Bag Challenge: Leftovers for Lunch

It seems that leftovers have gotten a bad rap over the years. While it’s true that some meals are less than appealing as next day’s nosh, a little planning and creativity is all it takes for leftovers to be delicious, nutritious and give you a new lease on lunch!

In my new-mom, always planning ahead–but always running late–world, leftovers for lunch is my lifesaver. With leftovers, I simply portion contents in to-go containers and make it part of my post-dinner clean-up ritual.
If the very idea of leftovers does not appeal to you because of how the reheating process may change your once-delicious meal, consider repurposing your dinner. For example, a roasted, whole chicken with veggies (a dinner staple in our household since it’s so easy) becomes a perfect topping for tomorrow’s lunch salad greens. Slice it cold, add a little balsamic dressing, and voila!, you’ve got a completely different meal.
Soups and stews, another dinner staple in our house, are oftentimes, tastier as leftovers since the flavors and spices have had time to meld. One of the soups I make is a very chunky bean chili (sometimes vegetarian). Although perfectly tasty reheated, it can also become a great next day dip for baked tortilla chips or filling for a whole-wheat tortilla with some baby spinach and cheese sprinkled on top. Note: When you’re packing this up, make sure you scoop out the contents of the chili and leave the liquid behind; pack the chips and/or tortilla in a separate baggie or container so they don’t get soggy; and, heat the leftover chili first. Avoid microwaving chips or tortillas since the quick zapping process can make them spongy and chewy.
Need more ideas for how last night’s dinner can become today’s lunch? Check out ways to repurpose your dinner at Epicurious. We would love to hear your ideas too…how do you turn today’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch?
A Word on Savings
Another reason I love leftovers is the savings! I figure I save about $30 a week by not eating out (based on an average of about $6 per meal); plus the money already spent on dinner meals is not going down the garbage disposal. Thirty dollars a week for 52 weeks is substantial–approximately $1,500 dollars for the year. That’s certainly a great incentive to continue bringing leftovers!
Written by Marjorie Lanier, MPH, Project Coordinator, Healthy Places, Active Spaces, NC Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch
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