5 Tasty Lunches You Can Make From Leftovers

Even if you like to cook, minimizing the amount of meals you have to plan and shop for is always a good thing. For busy moms, leftovers are the perfect solution. You spend less because you're re-purposing food you've already bought, and you're often saving yourself some hassle because you're "up-cycling" things that you know your kid already enjoys.

The key is to remake meals that taste good cold, because most schools won't have a place for your kids to reheat their lunches. And a note about health and safety: A recent study found that more than 97 percent of the food in kids' lunches at a Texas day-care center had become too warm to be safe by lunchtime (although, to be fair, no children got sick). Use at least two ice packs to "bookend" the food in your child's lunch, and put the insulated lunch bag in the freezer overnight so it starts out cold. And make sure to wash hands and clean counters before making lunch.

But what to put in that chilly lunchbox? Here are some ideas:


Chicken: Try a chicken "burrito" from leftover cooked chicken. Put chicken, avocado, and cheese in a tortilla, fold in the sides, and roll up. Pack small containers of sour cream, salsa, and shredded lettuce to top it.

Pasta: Save some pasta from whatever you're making and toss it with a vinaigrette, bits of cheese, vegetables, and beans for a hearty and delicious pasta salad.

Vegetables: Grilled or steamed vegetables make a great sandwich topped with goat cheese, feta, or Havarti.

Pork: Slice it up and make a Cuban sandwich with deli ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Dress it up with a half-and-half mix of mustard and mayonnaise. Grill it, mushing it down so it's flattened, or use a panini press or George Foreman-type of appliance if you have one. This is the rare grilled sandwich that tastes good cold.

Beef: Slice the beef and make sandwiches with it, or do lettuce wraps (this works best with beef that's been marinated or even ground beef left over from tacos). Put Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves in a sandwich bag with a paper towel to keep it from getting soggy, and let your child wrap the beef in the lettuce and eat.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with just packing up the food from the previous night and sending that along! Casserole types of dishes, soups, and stews tend to stand up pretty well, as does pasta. Keep these kinds of lunches warm by putting them in a thermos that you've first filled with hot water and then emptied.

What's your favorite "encore" lunch from leftovers?


Image via elisasizzle/Flickr

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