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.
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
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
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.
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.