Since I have been working at home, I have also been eating lunch at home. Here’s the problem: I don’t usually think about making lunch until I am already very hungry and/or I have a hungry baby to feed. That means I can’t usually take the time to cook something just for lunch.
I usually have leftovers in the fridge that I don’t like to waste. But leftovers can often be unappealing for lunch, especially if they are from last night’s dinner. And how many turkey sandwiches can one person eat?
Here’s my new strategy for quickly pulling together an appetizing lunch and maximizing leftover usage. I treat lunch each day as if I’m going on a picnic or browsing the cold buffet at a party. I fill my plate (and the baby’s) with small bites of different things until I have enough to satisfy. I have to admit that I happened on this strategy by watching the baby eat. He definitely prefers the smorgasbord approach to meals; he likes just a few bites of a variety of things. It seems like a healthy way to eat, and you don’t have to face down a plate of last night’s reheated pasta come lunchtime.
Here are some tips for applying this strategy:
- Always have some basic supplies on hand, such as crusty bread, cheese, smoked almonds and fresh fruit, that can be quickly prepared to add to a lunch plate. In the store, think about items you’d like to take on a picnic when deciding what to buy.
- Make extra of certain basics to keep on hand. I always boil a few extra eggs, for instance, or cook an extra chicken breast. It’s also nice to have salad dressing or vinaigrette already made up in the fridge to toss with greens or leftover vegetables.
- Rethink leftovers. I recently mentioned how leftover vegetables can be turned into a dip by pureeing them with some oil and seasonings. Leftover pasta or beans can be transformed into salad by adding some vegetables and a simple vinaigrette. If a leftover dish doesn’t seem appealing, apply a little creativity to see if it can be made into something new.
- Limit servings to just a few bites, just as if you were taking a spoonful of this and that from a buffet line. Add a little fruit, some cheese, some salad, and the plate is full. This allows you to maximize small amounts of leftover foods while still putting together a filling plate. (I always eat a little less at lunch anyway.)
Thinking of lunch in this way has helped me approach what used to be a drab meal with a new sense of creativity and enjoyment. I’ve also noticed that I’m throwing out fewer leftovers at the end of the week.
And if you’re going a little stir crazy, why not get out of the house and have an actual picnic? You already have everything you need!