Creative Ways to Turn Your Dinner Leftovers into Delicious Lunches (or Snacks!)

A few months ago, I wrote about ways to meal prep. One of the easiest ways to have healthy meals ready in your fridge is to double recipes when you cook. I often make a few big meals on the weekend, so there are leftovers for dinners, lunches, or a snack. When preparing meals during the week, I will grill extra meats and vegetables so they can be tossed into a salad or over grains for a hearty lunch. If I am making rice or pasta to accompany dinner, I will double the recipe to use in other meals. When preparing a salad, I wash several heads of lettuce so it is easy to toss together a salad for a next day’s lunch or dinner. It is also easy to create a hearty soup with leftover veggies, meats, and grains.

Fortunately, my family enjoys leftovers any time of the day, so it makes my life easier knowing I can cook big meals and there will be no waste. I know many people who, for various reasons, do not eat leftovers. One reason may be that you are concerned about food safety. Below are tips on how to keep your leftovers safe and fresh to eat for a few days.

  • Do not leave leftovers at room temperature for more than two hours. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture “Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140° F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth. Within 2 hours of cooking food or after it is removed from an appliance keeping it warm, leftovers must be refrigerated. Throw away all perishable foods left at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F, such as at an outdoor picnic during summer).”
  • Transfer food to smaller, airtight containers to speed up the cooling time. This helps keep bacteria out and retain moisture.  After food has been cooled and covered, leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months.
  • Label containers, so you know how long food has been in your fridge. This step will help take the guesswork out of eating questionable foods. Many potentially dangerous microbes are invisible to the naked eye, so something may look fine when it probably is not.

Making dinners that create good leftovers takes some planning, and some meals even taste better the next day. Below are seven recipe ideas that make great leftovers.

Soba Noodles With Miso, Ginger, and Avocado (from Blissful Basil) – Soba noodles are sturdy and can also are enjoyed cold the next day. You can also top with chicken or a hard-boiled egg for extra protein.

Chicken Burrito Bowls (from Damn Delicious) – Think homemade Chipotle bowls! This recipe was created with leftovers in mind because you can make the ingredients and separate into containers for future lunches or dinners.

Sloppy Joe Baked Sweet Potatoes (from SkinnyTaste) – Prep your meat and sweet potatoes and then keep them separate until you’re ready to eat. Great for leftovers, even better for meal prep.

Roasted Veggie, Chickpea, and Pesto Quinoa Salad (from Ambitious Kitchen) – This protein-packed quinoa salad is great on its own or as a side dish.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner (from Cooking Classy) – Sheet pan dinners are easy to prepare and make great leftovers. Swap or add vegetables of choice!

Italian Sausage and Veggie Bowls (from Gimme Some Oven) – Grilled sausage has an abundance of flavor and will last up to four days in the fridge.

Fried Brown Rice With Kale and Turmeric (from Bon Appétit) – This recipe may change your mind about eating kale, and you can make the rice ahead of time for better results.

Quote of the Week: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

~ Maya Angelou

Recipe of the Week: Lime-Ginger Scallops

My Mom made this dish for me and it was delish! Easy summer dish that takes minutes to make (and there will be no leftovers for this one!). Below is her recipe. Thanks, Mom!


1 pound of sea scallops

2 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons of butter


Fresh ginger

Salt and Pepper

Dredge scallops lightly in flour. Soften 2 tablespoons of butter with zest of one lime, 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, salt, and pepper to taste.  Mix until incorporated. 

Place in hot skillet and sear scallops on both sides, about three minutes per side. Remove from pan and deglaze the pan with the juice of one lime. Serve with quinoa, pasta salad, or over angel hair pasta.

Lime-Ginger Scallops with Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Snap Peas

Published by

Leslie Ouellette

Listening and learning about nutrition, exercise, and health-related issues has been a life-long passion turned into action. I am most passionate about my family, friends, and good health. I am a business professional with over 30 years of expertise in marketing, market research, communications, writing, and editing. @balancedhealthblog

One thought on “Creative Ways to Turn Your Dinner Leftovers into Delicious Lunches (or Snacks!)”

  1. Your recipe for this week is making me want to have Scallops NOW! Veryappealing ingredients and lovely presentation. Thanks Leslie for all your blogs have good information, some new some reminders. I know the absolute best food teacher you have, your MOM is a Master in the kitchen! Lv, MJ


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s