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Turn your dinner leftovers into a lunch you'll be happy to eat

Milagros is a writer, recipe editor, and recipe developer. Her passion for food began at a young age and her hunger to learn and grow has never simmered. She knows everything that she does about the industry from working with amazing ...

We're about to redeem leftovers from their sad sack reputation with these lunch ideas

Buying lunch can be expensive, but eating the same thing for lunch that you had for dinner the night before isn't so fun either. So what do you do? I always try to create something new out of my dinner leftovers. I turn steak with chimichurri into a salad or build a fish fillet sandwich with leftover orange-pepper fish fillets. Lunch doesn’t have to be super repetitive — get a little creative. These ideas will get you started.

1. Steak into salad

Dinner: Steak with chimichurri

Lunch transformation: You can do more with steak and chimichurri than just throwing it into a bowl for lunch the next day. Chop your leftover steak into bite-size pieces, and make a salad. Grab some precut lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and red onion, toss them together with your leftover steak, and have your chimichurri serve as a simple and delicious dressing.

2. Chicken and rice into a burrito

Dinner: Arroz con pollo

Lunch transformation: Make a burrito from your leftover arroz con pollo. Take the meat off your chicken legs and thighs, and add that to a tortilla with a little rice, avocado, beans and corn if you have some in your pantry.

More: Easy lunch ideas your kids can make themselves

3. Pork chops into a hero

Dinner: Pork chops with ranch mix rub

Lunch transformation: If you have leftover pork chops in your fridge (whether or not they're spiced with tangy ranch rub), debone them, and make a sandwich for lunch. Grab a sesame seed loaf, add in your chops, and top it with lettuce, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

4. Roast salmon into chopped salad

Dinner: Lemon-roasted salmon with asparagus

Lunch transformation: Break up your salmon into big chunks, and combine it with bib lettuce, avocado, tomatoes and asparagus. You can run to your local salad shop and grab some lemon dressing, or make a five-minute vinaigrette yourself. You've just transformed dinner into a whole new meal!

5. Fish fillet into a sandwich

Dinner: Orange-pepper fish fillet

Lunch transformation: Your fish sandwich is going to be way better than a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. Grab some sliced white bread, add your leftover fish to it, and top it with some arugula — Mickey D’s has nothing on you.

6. Put an egg on it

Dinner: Kale and quinoa salad with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese

Lunch transformation: Add a poached or hard-boiled egg on it. Adding an egg on anything turns it into a whole new meal (especially when grains are involved). We recommend going with a boiled egg (rather than poached) if you can't keep your lunch in a refrigerator.

7. Chicken bites into salad

Dinner: Sticky Asian chicken bites

Lunch transformation: You can make this leftover transformation three ways. Make a salad with an Asian dressing; make some orzo pasta, and serve the leftovers as a cold Asian-style salad; or serve the rest of the leftovers with white rice.

8. Salad with a protein boost

Dinner: Tomato and avocado salad

Lunch transformation: You can revamp your dinner salad by simply adding a protein. Make some grilled chicken (which literally takes five minutes), toss it in with the salad, and you’ll have yourself an effortless lunch.

More: 10 fun lunch ideas that don't involve sandwiches

9. Chicken and salsa into nachos

Dinner: Pineapple salsa chicken

Lunch transformation: You have to love a good salsa, and if you’re in the mood for Mexican, then this is the way to go. This idea combines salsa with shredded chicken for a killer dish. For lunch you can bring along some tortilla chips and make yourself some nachos. You can also make pineapple salsa chicken tacos or a burrito bowl. No matter what leftover option you choose, you’ll be winning.

10. Soup into sauce

Dinner: Black bean soup

Lunch transformation: Having soup two days in a row is a little boring, but you can always incorporate your black bean soup into other dishes. Make some chicken enchiladas, and pour a little bit of your black bean soup over them. You can do the same for tacos, burritos and more.

11. Chicken salad any way

Dinner: Chicken salad

Lunch transformation: Make a chicken salad sandwich, and enjoy it with chips, or have your chicken salad with lettuce cups. Another idea is to add spinach, tomatoes and avocados to your chicken salad sandwich.

12. Meatballs with salad or subs

Dinner: Slow cooker meatballs with side salad

Lunch transformation: For lunch, make a meatball sub with a baguette and leftover salad greens.

More: Pack breakfast for lunch, because it's the most fun meal of the day

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