7 Ways to Turn Leftovers Into Lunch

updated Sep 30, 2020
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Leftovers are the secret weapon of the lunch box. An extra slice of spinach lasagne at supper means you don’t have to lift a finger or spend a dime for lunch the next day.  You can take it one step further and actually plan for leftovers – making more at dinner than you need and tucking the extras into lunch containers before you’ve even cleaned up the dishes. Here are seven simple suppers that transition effortlessly into lunch.

  • Salad – Create a dinner salad that is extra generous and you’ll have the makings for a second meal. Portion off what you need for lunch into a container, top with leftover chicken or steak (if you have it) or add canned beans or tuna for a protein punch. Kid salads may benefit from little add-ons such as croutons, raisins, or crumbled cheese.

  • Kebabs — Meat and vegetables kebabs are a terrific starting point for satisfying sandwiches. Pull the fixings off the skewer and tuck into pita pockets along with a side of plain yogurt or salad dressing to drizzle on just before eating.

  • Pizza – Hot or cold, from take-out or homemade, pizza never disappoints in a lunch box. If making pizza from scratch, double up your dough so you have plenty of extra to slice and store in your fridge or freezer in a re-sealable bag.

  • Grilled, roasted, or sautéed vegetables – Practically any tender cooked vegetable – from red peppers to broccoli raab – is tasty stacked inside a split whole-grain baguette with a smear of goat cheese or cream cheese. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and tuck in some salad greens to finish things off. For kids, you may find more cheese/less veggies is the way to go, especially if this sandwich is a lunch box newcomer.

  • Leftover Chicken  — Repurpose leftover chicken into a tasty sandwich by tossing it with your favorite teriyaki or barbecue sauce, warming it up, and stowing it a thermos. Pack a soft whole grain roll to fill just before lunchtime. If you can find slider-sized buns, these might be particularly appealing to the pint-sized set.

  • Pasta and grains – Leftover plain pasta, rice, quinoa, or other grains can easily evolve into a lunch box main using this simple formula: for every cup of pasta or grain, add 1/3 to1/2 cup diced raw or cooked vegetables and toss with your favorite vinaigrette. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped nuts, scallions, crumbled feta, or chopped dried fruit, if desired.

  • Soups and Stews – Virtually every type of soup and stew works well re-heated and recycled in lunch the next day. Up the interest by serving leftovers with a savory side such as pita chips with tomato soup, diced avocado with tortilla soup, or a spoonful of plain yogurt with a creamy vegetable soup. 
What are your favorite leftovers to add to a lunch box?

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