Making your own lunch, whether you’re bringing it to an office or eating at home, is one of the easiest ways to save money and stay on track with healthy eating habits. I talk about this with my clients all the time: They want to enjoy a balanced, homemade lunch, but knowing what to make, finding the time, and actually putting those intentions into action can be intimidating.
The game-changer that’s worked for them is packing their lunch while they make dinner. This requires making a little extra food at dinner, but that conscious repurposing of leftovers ensures you’re enjoying a quality meal the next day that supports your financial and health goals. Win-win situation.
I’ve been recommending meal kits for years to help my clients who don’t have time to shop for the week or are intimidated by the prospect of cooking, and HelloFresh just gave me another reason to keep them high on my list of “try this.” The company is now offering Dinner 2 Lunch kits, where you repurpose dinner leftovers into a lunch for the next day.
The company sent me a box so I could try out their new beef chorizo chili recipe , which came with tortillas and other fixings to make burritos for a next-day lunch. The directions were so easy, and I really appreciated the quality of the ingredients. By the way, you don’t have to follow the kits exactly. When I use meal kits myself, I like to dial down the carbs and add extra veggies. For example, rather than use the white rice that came in the box, I used cauliflower rice.
Of course, you also don’t need to use a meal kit at all. It really can be as easy as just packaging up half of what you just prepared into a portable container for the next day. I’m also a big fan of “leftovers salad.”
I know that in my own life, I could easily spend $15 (at least) on a salad with all my favorite ingredients, but why do that when I could make that same salad myself (and be confident that what’s going into it is quality stuff) by tossing dinner leftovers over greens and making my own dressing? For example, last night’s chicken, radishes, and sautéed summer squash are delicious over arugula the next day with a lemony vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.
Try this easy formula:
- Prep everything together. Break free from the mindset of “lunch food” and “dinner food” and just prep food you can enjoy at whatever meal you want to do. If you’ve got three potatoes, roast them all to enjoy for a few meals instead of telling yourself you only should make one now because the recipe only calls for one. Half some leftover with eggs and veggies the next morning.
- Make half the meal non-starchy veggies. This helps keep the meal balanced. If you’re using a meal kit that doesn’t have much green, doctor up your meal with some frozen veggies (zapping in the microwave counts as cooking!) or salad greens.
- Pick a protein. Make one quarter of the meal protein. An animal protein like meat, poultry, fish, or eggs is versatile, or your could go for a plant protein like tofu, tempeh, or hemp hearts.
- Include a carb. Make the last quarter of the meal some kind of carbohydrate. That could be a grain, beans, or starchy vegetable. Another option would be to make that main meal just protein and veggies and then to incorporate fruit or some of carb as a dessert or after-meal snack. For example, when I worked in the hospital, I usually enjoyed a big salad and then added a piece of fruit, some berries, or popcorn to my lunch bag to enjoy mid-afternoon.
- Pack while you plate. Take out the to-go container you’re going to pack your lunch into and pack that as you assemble dinner plates. This cuts down on time spent on after-dinner prepping.
What’s your favorite way to repurpose leftovers?
Disclosure: I received free samples from HelloFresh but was not compensated for my time. Opinions are my own.