Singing the praises of the left-overs lunch

Above is a picture of my lunch today – spaghetti with tomato, peas, cashew cream and basil. I am lucky enough to have time to cook something if I want to, but I didn’t cook this today. It’s last night’s left-overs!

Some people think left-overs are sad, but let me tell you why I love left-overs and think it is a smart way to keep yourself appropriately fed and nourished.

Lunch used to be a real problem for me – my least favourite meal of the day. I would make an effort to eat a hearty breakfast, and dinners were never a problem because I liked to cook a decent meal for the family. But lunch was difficult. I was never really much of a sandwich person, so I was always stuck around what to eat for lunch. I would get hungry, know that I need to eat, but the last thing I felt like doing was making (or eating) a sandwich. So I would postpone and postpone until I would just open the fridge and the cupboards and eat anything. Or everything. In my mindless effort to feed myself, I would over-eat without even noticing that I had done it until it was too late, because none of it was satisfying on a nutritional or pleasure-level. I’d end up full but unfulfilled.

I work with clients who skip lunch, or “forget” to eat lunch because they are just too busy. Certainly people who work in offices generally don’t have time or the facilities to cook or prepare something. Most people are busy during the day, so it is understandable. But when we don’t make time to eat, inevitably the body eventually “screams” FEED ME. What happens when we are very hungry is that we don’t always think straight and make smart choices around what to eat. So come late afternoon, and a teatime treat presents itself, or it is time to start preparing supper for the family, we start snacking furiously. We cannot understand why we can’t stop eating the cake, or the bread or the crisps, or the kids’ food… But it is actually quite simple. We are hungry.

If time to prepare lunch is the problem, one option might be what is known as “Meal Prep”. Meal prep is a popular theme with YouTube cooks. Over the weekend you chop, prepare and batch cook a bunch of things and divide it into portions for 3 or four days. This seems like a good solution. Breakfast and lunch sorted from Monday to Thursday at least. I always think I should meal prep. It seems efficient and sensible. But it does take a bit of planning ahead, and for people like me this is somewhat prohibitive.

Now think about how you go about preparing dinner (perhaps for a family, or a couple and hopefully even if you are just cooking for yourself). Chances are that you are putting some thought and care into your evening meal. You might have thought a little bit about whether it is nutritious, i.e. does it have some protein and healthy fats in it (carbs are easy, we don’t have to think about that too much)… For many people who cook, this is often the most thought-through meal of the day. Which is why I think it will make the perfect lunch too.

You will want to store your left-overs in an air-tight container in the fridge overnight. If you are taking it to work, take it in this container, but also take along a pretty plate or bowl and cutlery if your office doesn’t have these. Don’t eat your left-overs out of the container. When you are ready to eat lunch, dish your food into your bowl or plate. Make it look good. Heat it up if necessary. And then go and find a place to sit, preferably not at your desk or you computer, and take a few minutes for yourself to enjoy your meal mindfully, paying attention the how it looks, what it smells like and the taste of each mouthful. Your body will thank you and you will be able to return to your busy day feeling satisfied and nourished.

Tonight I’m making a chickpea curry for dinner. Guess what I’ll be looking forward to for lunch tomorrow?

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