Jill Houk, a chef for Sara Lee, says the key to making leftovers a more-attractive lunch option is changing the flavor.
She says, "You can take meals that you're preparing at home, spin them so they don't taste like leftovers and you can really economize."
She showed us how to turn left-over roasted chicken from one night's dinner into chicken chili for the next day's lunch, just by adding a few dollars' worth of items from the refrigerator and pantry.
She chopped the chicken and added onions, cumin, chilies, beans and corn.
The mixture needs to simmer for 10 minutes. She suggests setting it on the stove while you clean up the dinner dishes.
For kids, Houk suggests making extra of their favorite, inexpensive foods -- like macaroni and cheese and hot-dogs -- then mixing them together, for a hot meal, you know they'll eat. The combination can be heated up in the morning and spooned into an insulated container to stay warm until lunch.
As a final money-saver, Houk suggests investing in re-usable plastic containers and Thermoses -- instead of plastic bags. In the long-run, the re-usables are less expensive... And better for the environment.
Here's Jill Houk's Chicken Chili Recipe:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium-sized bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15-ounce can creamed corn
1 3-ounce can green chilies
1 25-ounce can Cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups leftover chicken
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and onion. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
Add bell pepper, garlic and cumin and cook until pepper has softened, an additional 3 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. If you prefer a thinner chili, you may add water or skim milk to reach the desired thickness.
Remove from stove and chill to room temperature. Keep in refrigerator until you're ready to pack your lunch.
Here's the recipe for Mac'n'Cheese'n'Franks
4 hot dogs
Your favorite Mac'n'cheese recipe
Prepare Mac and cheese according to directions.
While the Mac and cheese is cooking, slice each hot dog into 1-inch long pieces.
Stir into finished Mac and cheese and load into your kids' thermos containers
For leftovers, chill to room temperature and store in your refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave for three minutes on HIGH and load into your kids' thermos containers.