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Why Leftovers Are a Logical, Lovable Kids' Lunch

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How does Katie Workman—author of Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook and creator of themom100.com—save time and reduce food waste?

It's easy: She packs leftovers for her boys to take for lunch.


My kids are older now, so if I was going to feel guilty about not packing them lunches with sandwiches cut into the shapes of dolphins, that ship has long sailed—that’s one less parental guilt item to worry about.   

My overriding lunch-packing philosophy can be summed up in one word: leftovers. Whatever is in the fridge from a previous meal is now an option for a portable lunch. Chicken piccata, a piece of frittata, chili, a few meatballs—all of those are lunch, absolutely, all the way.


Jack, my older son is a harder sell on the leftovers-for-lunch thinking. He is not as thrilled to see a few strips of grilled steak and some couscous salad as his younger brother is, and would much prefer a more traditional sandwich or wrap. Jack is also reliably quick to point out that it’s not all that becoming for me to cart leftover salad and shrimp scampi onto a plane when there are perfectly good snacks for sale that involve Pringles.

Amanda feeds her kids leftovers for lunch, too.

Charlie, however, is extremely happy with a lunch of black beans and rice, and maybe some teriyaki chicken on the side. (He is also delighted to see these things for breakfast, as am I.) 

But here’s the solution: Charlie can take the Greek chicken thigh, and for Jack, I will shred the chicken and layer it with some shredded lettuce, mustard, and a slice of provolone in a tortilla wrap. Everyone happy? Everyone happy. So, in the end, chacun à son goût, which is the only colloquial French phrase I know, which means “each to his own.” The one other phrase that I just looked up is, “Peut-être tu dois preparer ton propre déjeuner,” which means “Perhaps you should pack your own lunch.” I will try to keep both phrases handy.

First photo by Laura Agra; second by Amanda Hesser

Tags: leftovers, kids' lunch, brown-bag lunch