My kids have always preferred to take leftovers from dinner the night before for school lunch the next day. Now that we are finally back in school, it’s time to get back into meal planning for leftovers (I’m not going to lie folks, after 18 months of having everyone home I am quite giddy about this type of meal planning). Not all leftovers make for good school lunches either due to not traveling well, staying warm, or just smelling really, really bad when that lunch bag gets opened (see also: scallops do not travel well).
So here are five of my favorite meals that pack up really nicely for lunch the next day based on much personal trial and error. You certainly do not need to do all of these meals in one week, but they are great to add into your rotation so that you kill two birds with one stone.
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Macaroni and cheese is always a favorite. This Creamy Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese from Favorite Family Meals is a perfect meal for a Monday night because it comes together in just about 10 minutes with help from your Instant Pot. Serve it for dinner with a bright green salad, or a dark green veggie like broccoli.
Depending on how much your family will eat for dinner, you can double this recipe if you have a large enough Instant Pot (see the notes in recipe), and it makes a really great lunch for the next day. Just warm it up in the microwave and send in an insulated container like this Iron Flask Food Jar. TIP: Fill the container with super hot tap water and let it sit while you heat up the mac and cheese. Then pour out the water right before filling with your leftovers. This helps the food stay a bit warmer.
This recipe for Easy Beef Taco Bowl with Salsa Ranch from Jessica at The Real Food RDs was a huge hit in my house last week. Not only is it mouth-wateringly delicious, it comes together in under thirty minutes and made enough food for lunches for next three days. You can add just about any veggie you have on hand or in the garden to this bowl, but just don’t skip the salsa ranch. That stuff is gold.
For lunches, you can use the leftover ingredients for Mason Jar Burrito bowls, or make a quesadilla or folded sandwich and wrap it in foil. It doesn’t have to stay piping hot, and can be eaten at room temperature – just skip adding any sour cream or salsa to it the as this will make it soggy. You can send those in these spill proof containers instead.
This Easy Grilled Chicken Recipe from Kristine’s Kitchen is one of easiest and tastiest ways to prep and cook chicken breasts. The marinade is incredibly tasty, and mild enough that it can be used in a variety of leftovers. For dinner, serve this with either a side of rice or orzo and some fresh green veggies. I definitely suggest doubling or tripling this recipe and just slicing up the extra chicken and throwing in the fridge, or even in individual sandwich bags in the freezer for easy grab and go.
For lunch, you can toss the grilled chicken into a charcuterie inspired bento box, or in a pita pocket with a bit of lettuce and ranch dressing. The brilliant thing about leftover grilled chicken is that it can hold up for a few hours and can be enjoyed at room temperature.
About a year ago, I shared this recipe for California Sushi Roll Bowls from Cooking Classy and it is still a weeknight favorite.
One day I had a genius idea and doubled the ingredients, and rather than crumbling the nori on top I rolled the rice and veggies in the extra nori sheets and sliced them up into sushi rolls after dinner and put in the fridge, The next morning I just popped them into a bento box with some edamame and soy sauce for dipping (in non-spilling containers) and it was a huge win. My suggestion is that you use imitation crab meat if you are sending it to school because real crab can smell quite strong.
Over the long holiday weekend, I grilled up these Sweet and Sour Pork Skewers from Well Seasoned Studio. They were downright delicious, and we had a ton of leftover as the recipe is meant to feed a crowd. This recipe does take a little time, so may not be one you choose for a busy weeknight.
This leftover pork and pineapple go fantastic in a bento box with some rice and teriyaki sauce, or in a mason jar salad. My kids just tossed some meat and pineapple into their thermos and that proclaimed the best lunch of the year (which sets the bar high considering it is just our first week).
Follow our Weekly Meal Plan Ideas for Families board on Pinterest @CoolMomEats for even more ideas!
I put these weekly meals plans together based on recipes I am actually cooking for my family, and with you in mind. If you have suggestions, tips or recommendations for recipes or other food bloggers I should check out please comment here, or shoot me a message in our Recipe Rescue group on Facebook. – Lisa