Does August's back-to-school mode have you in the mood for bringing your lunch to work? Good idea: not only will you be saving money, but you'll also be making healthier options while you're at it.
If you're ready to brown-bag it, bringing leftovers can be the perfect solution. Making a little extra when cooking dinner is a great time-saver; no need to carve out extra time to make a sandwich when you've already got a meal waiting in the pan, and you don't need to spend extra time planning out a lunch menu before you go shopping. But using leftovers for lunch doesn't mean that there's no preplanning required. Making sure you are safely and conveniently storing leftovers tonight means a happy, healthy lunch for tomorrow, so check out these tips for bringing leftovers as lunch.
Leftover prep. That huge dish of lasagna shouldn't stay out on your counter for too long. You should pack away your food (in convenient lunch portions if it's a big batch) within two hours at room temperature — but note that since Summer days can mean hot kitchens that you should refrigerate leftovers within an hour if the temps reach 90 degrees or more.
Read on for more tips on how to safely and easily bring leftovers at work.
Bulk lunch. Made a whole batch of food to last you through lunch this week? Properly stored leftovers will usually last for three or four days. If you made more than you can stomach within that time, freeze extra portions immediately so you can enjoy them later.
How to pack. The best containers to pack your food in are the ones that stay the safest. Look for BPA-free containers. Or for a plastic-free but still reheatable option, try using glass containers instead — although note that since glass is heavy and breakable it may not be the best if you have a crazy, jam-packed-subway kind of commute. Metal containers also work if you are bringing food that you are eating cold or will be transferring to a plate before reheating.
Reheat right. If you've vowed to bring food from home to your office, chances are the microwave will become your friend. When you reheat your lunch, make sure that the food is completely heated all the way through (leftover meat should be reheated to at least 165 degrees). Food should always be covered since stem heat helps kill any bacteria, and make sure to mix it up to even out any cold spots. And don't dive in right away — letting your food stand for a few minutes after its time in the microwave helps it cook even further.
Make a meal of it. If you've made more than you can eat for dinner but don't think it'll fill you up for the next day, add a hearty salad as your side dish. Topping a salad with fiber- and protein-filled goodies like veggies and chickpeas will help keep you full without feeling like you're starving a few hours later. Here are five tips for making a healthy, filling, and nutrient-filled salad.