Easy Weeknight Dinners That Transform into Tasty Leftover Lunches

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CC by 2.0 PureSugar

If you often suffer from the “what’s for lunch?” blues and find yourself hitting the drive-through, it might help if you prepare dinners that make great lunches the next day. Of course, if you are also relying on convenience foods or takeout for dinner, this can feel like a double-whammy: “You mean I have to find time to cook dinner just so I can have a healthy, delicious lunch?” No worries! Here are some simple and easy ideas that you can use to prepare nutritious and tasty dinners that do great double-duty as lunch the following day.

Crockpot Soups

Soup is an excellent way to enjoy comfort food without sacrificing your health. You might not have time on weeknights to chop, simmer and stir soup, so how about using your slow-cooker to make dinner for you while you’re at work?

One of the best things about soup is that you can use whatever you have on hand to get it started. Look in your crisper and see what kind of veggies you have floating around in there. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, celery, zucchini, green beans... use whatever looks good. Chop it up and toss it in the crockpot, along with your favorite broth (you can use homemade stock or buy a few cans of reduced-sodium chicken, beef or vegetable broth for an instant fix). If you have leftover chicken, beef or pork, throw that in, too. Set the cooker on low and it will smell and taste great when you get home later.

All you’ll have to do to serve is season to your liking and add some cooked noodles or rice to your individual bowl, if you want to. As you’re putting it away later, just portion it into tupperware dishes for several days’ worth of leftovers for lunch. Add a ziplock bag of crackers and a piece of fruit for a healthy, simple lunch.

Salads

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring fresh, tasty salads to work? The reality of bringing salad is that they’re often wilted and unappealing by lunchtime. You can have crisp, delicious salads leftover from the previous night’s dinner, though! Here are a few tips:

  • Tear, rather than cut, lettuce. When you cut lettuce, you bruise the edges, and it’s more likely to wilt quickly. Instead, tear the leaves. They will be fresher for an extra day or two.

  • Don’t cut the tomatoes and add them to the bowl. If you like tomatoes in your salad, add them to your individual serving or use cherry or grape tomatoes. As the tomato juice gets on the lettuce, it can cause it to become wet and unappetizing. Cucumbers can have the same effect, so keep these separate, too.

  • Choose crunchy veggies. Try red cabbage, carrots, radishes and celery to add some crunch to every bite.

  • Dressing and croutons on the side, please. Don’t mix everything together before leaving the house. Pack a small container of dressing (or bring a bottle to keep in the office fridge) and put croutons in a ziplock bag to add right as you’re ready to eat, so they stay crunchy.

A Few More Ideas

Some other foods that are very easy to make for dinner and also good for leftover lunches include:

  • Pasta with tomato-based sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or any other type of pasta that has a red sauce generally heats up well and tastes great as leftovers. Cream-based sauces can be iffy the next day if you heat them too quickly, so be sure to microwave for only short periods of time and stir halfway through.

  • Hard-boiled eggs cook up in 10 minutes and are excellent in salads or on their own.

  • Chicken breasts are easy to marinate while you’re gone all day and throw in the oven or on the grill once you get home. They make great chicken salad for the next day’s lunch (toast the bread first so it doesn’t get soggy if you want it on a sandwich), or can go on top of salads.

  • Leftover pizza can become a more nutritious option if you tell the pizza restaurant to add a bit less cheese and you pile it up with veggies.

Packing lunches can seem intimidating if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare dinner the night before. On days that you’re too busy to manage, a lunch from My Hot Lunchbox can provide a tasty and nutritious midday meal for you and your coworkers. Talk to your boss about having hot lunches delivered to your office to keep everyone healthy, happy, and not hungry.