When you have a busy week, leftovers are a lifesaver — they let you enjoy a delicious, healthy lunch without spending additional time in the kitchen. The trick? Finding dinners that make enough for another day, are easy to store, and taste great when reheated.
With the right recipes, you can cook once and end up with lunches (or even more dinners!) for several days.
Pasta is a natural fit for leftover lunches. Whether you make a casserole-style dish such as baked ziti or a big pot of spaghetti, you're sure to have plenty of extras to last through the week.
Most types of pasta reheat easily in the microwave, creating the perfect lunch for the office or working from home. To give leftover pasta a bit of a bite, make sure to cook it al dente the night before.
Stir-fry is a good option when you're looking to use up the vegetables and meats you have in the house. Add your favorite stir-fry sauce, and serve it over rice. It's easy to adapt the dish to suit your dietary preferences or restrictions, and the leftovers reheat quickly in the microwave.
If you're feeling fancy, dress it up with a dash of chili or sesame oil, and reheat it on the stovetop.
When you're looking for versatile leftovers, it's hard to beat roast chicken. Eat the chicken cold the next day, add it to a salad, or make it into a sandwich — you can't go wrong.
Pair it with a complex carb and a vegetable for a balanced meal that will keep you feeling satisfied all afternoon.
If you don't like the texture of reheated rice, a quinoa casserole is a fantastic alternative. Make a big pan with chicken, broccoli, and cheese, or go Southwestern with black beans and fajita veggies.
Quinoa maintains its texture and nutty taste when it's reheated, so it makes a delicious leftover lunch. It's also a great source of protein and fiber.
Is there anything more satisfying than a steaming-hot plate of lasagna? It's fantastic fresh from the oven, and it's also tasty for a few days after.
Use your biggest pan to create extra leftovers for family lunches. Cut carbs by swapping in zucchini strips for some or all of the noodles; you can also swap the meat for lentils for a vegetarian-friendly version.
Chicken soup is a remarkably flexible make-ahead meal. If you like filling lunches, add garbanzo beans or extra potatoes; for a lighter option, stick to veggies.
One tip: don't add pasta to your soup, since noodles tend to get slimy when they sit in the broth. If you want the extra bulk, simply add uncooked pasta when you reheat the soup on the stove.
This summer favorite is a great option when you don't have access to a microwave or stove; it's designed to be eaten cold. The secret to great leftovers? Use a vinegar-based dressing. The acidic ingredients store better than creamy sauces, and they allow more flexibility with storage temperature — perfect when you're on the go and away from a refrigerator.
Eat leftover pasta salad alone for a light lunch, or pair it with leftover chicken and freshly cut veggies for a hearty meal.
With their array of spices and powerful flavors, curries often taste even better as leftovers. Typically, you'll have the best results with recipes that feature hearty, durable ingredients such as chickpeas, chicken, or potatoes. They're less likely to disintegrate upon reheating.
Add a serving of quick-cook rice, or eat the curry with leftover naan.
Chili is another spice-heavy dish that benefits from an overnight stay in the refrigerator. The extra time gives the aromatic flavors a chance to settle in, so they seem more powerful the next day. If you use ground turkey or beef, they'll absorb extra flavor.
Chili is a breeze to heat up in the microwave, so you can eat it at work or at home.
Fajitas are proof that leftovers don't have to be boring. They give you plenty of options — wrap the vegetables and meat in a fresh tortilla, scramble them with eggs, or serve them over rice.
For maximum flavor and texture, heat up the fajita mix on the stove rather than in the microwave. Top with salsa or guacamole for an extra burst of flavor.
When it's cool outside, pea soup is the perfect leftover-friendly recipe. It's warm and comforting for dinner, and it's a breeze to reheat.
Pair it with a slice of crusty bread, or add a burst of freshness with a side salad. No matter how you eat it, the soup delivers a hearty dose of protein and nutrients to give you ample energy.
Pot roast is the ideal meal for busy weeks — pop it in the slow-cooker for a no-hassle dinner, and live off the leftovers for a few days after.
Tender and flavorful, pot roast works well on its own, in sandwiches, or paired with your favorite lunchtime salad. You can even toss it into pasta or a plate of nachos.
Creamy and comforting, chicken pot pie makes an indulgent lunchtime treat. Whether you prefer it with a classic pie crust or a flaky, buttery filo pastry topping, it reheats without losing its flavor.
Pot pie tends to be easiest to eat at home, but you can also tuck it into a glass container for the office.
Tortilla-enclosed meals don't always make the best leftovers, but enchiladas are the exception. Since they come out of the oven covered in sauce, they won't change texture after 24 hours in the fridge.
For an extra-delicious lunchtime treat, top them with guacamole or a handful of shredded cheese.
Have you ever noticed that beef stew seems richer and more flavorful the day after you make it? That's because the herbs and aromatic vegetables have time to mingle when the stew is in storage.
Prolong the experience by making a double batch, and you'll enjoy fantastic leftover lunches for days. Keep in mind that potatoes tend to get mealy over time; you may want to leave them out.
For a leftover lunch that will keep you feeling full for hours, look no further than sloppy Joes. Ladle the saucy ground beef on top of a bun or a hearty piece of multigrain bread for a cozy meal that's reminiscent of your childhood.
For the best leftovers, add extra sauce during the cooking stage; the meat will soak up some of the liquid as it sits in the refrigerator.
Loaded with vegetables and tossed with a vinegar and oil dressing, couscous salad can last for days in the refrigerator. Add your favorite seasonal vegetables and herbs; a handful of feta cheese crumbles creates an extra kick.
The couscous absorbs the flavors as it sits, creating a thrilling leftover lunch experience.
Melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork is an easy way to spice up your lunchtime menu. It tastes great at dinner, but it's extra-tender after the meat has time to soak in the sauce. When you reheat it, the liquid gives the meat a juicy texture that's impossible to resist. Spoon it onto a bun for a rich, delectable midday meal.
Leftover pulled pork also makes a great addition to a burrito bowl or salad.
Fresh and lemony, chicken piccata makes a lunch of leftovers feel like something special. The bright flavors come to life when you heat up the chicken; enjoy a crisp texture by pan-frying the meat. Make sure to save some extra sauce to spoon over plain pasta or rice.
Salmon is a durable fish that holds its texture when it's refrigerated; heat it up under the broiler or on the stovetop for an appetizing lunch.
Keep it light and healthy with a simple salad or serving of steamed vegetables. If you need something with more weight, try rice pilaf or leftover pasta.
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