You Have School Lunches Covered -- But What About You?

September 7, 2018 4 min read

As a new school year begins, many parents become scholars on the subject of lunch. That often means studying school lunch menus to make sure their kids are being served wholesome, hot lunches.

What about you? Does your own busy schedule at home or at work mean you think homemade hot lunches are out of the question? Television commercials for recipe kit delivery service HelloFresh have been touting the addition of 5-minute lunches that are new incarnations using some ingredients from dinner the night before.

More than just reheated leftovers, these are fresh ideas with a lunch vibe. That philosophy inspired my imagination, and my lunch breaks have been "happy hours" much more often since then! The following are some of my recipe ideas. All ingredients are to taste.


From a dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables, heat leftover cooked chicken and vegetables in store-bought low-sodium chicken broth. Add canned enchilada sauce, diced green bell pepper and, when fully heated, top with shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chip strips. Stir well before serving.


From a dinner of macaroni and cheese, fold into leftovers diced cooked ham or shredded ham lunchmeat, chopped canned pineapple with some of its juices, cilantro and diced pitted black olives. Heat in loosely covered microwave-safe dish until fully heated. Stir well before serving.


From a dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, on a half of an Italian or French baguette roll, spread a mixture of cooked leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Lightly top with gravy, and then turkey and the other half of the roll. Very lightly glaze the top of the roll with a mixture of cranberry sauce and either orange marmalade or orange juice and heat sandwich until turkey and potato mixture are fully heated.


From a dinner of meatloaf, crumble the leftovers into a saucepan, add canned baked beans, canned tomatoes with their juices, diced onions and red pepper flakes and, when fully heated, top with shredded Swiss cheese.


Your savvy adult lunch could get its kick-start at the breakfast table. That's just one of the innovative ideas of J.M. Hirsch, the national food editor at Associated Press, in his book "Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go,"published by Rachael Ray Books. Hirsch advises not only gussying up dinner leftovers for lunch but stealing from the first meal of the day as well. Why not make an easy-to-warm-up rolled "sandwich" out of homemade pancakes from breakfast? Such fresh ideas have kept this one of my favorite quick-lunch cookbooks. Hirsch gives ideas for both parents and kids. With recipes like peanut butter-chocolate hazelnut pancakes, there is some tasty crossover as well.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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