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So long sarnies! All aboard the leftovers at lunch train

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

This is a post for all home-workers, stay at home parents, carers and child-rearers generally! Those of us who don't get out at lunchtime, and require quick, tasty and healthy lunches with minimal effort and time.

As I tend to be a wordy old bean when I’m writing, it takes a lot for me to say this - this blog post could actually just be one word long – LEFTOVERS!

Oh the joy of an immediate lunch, with zero prep (apart from possibly re-heating), that is nutritious and tasty!

I know what it’s like when you’re working from home, and the effort involved in cooking or prepping something from scratch for lunch (especially if it's just for you) is more than you can muster in between meetings. We have to cook at dinnertime, so why would we want to cook at lunchtime too? Crazy!

If you aren’t yet on the leftover lunch train, hop on. Assuming of course that last night’s dinner was tasty and nutritious. If not, I’ve got some more ideas for you further down this post.

(Disclaimer, this is not my fridge, but I wish it was.)

Leftover logistics

If you don’t generally have leftovers because you make the perfect amount for one meal (which is almost never me as I tend to over-make) then make a concerted effort to make a bit more at dinnertime, and importantly, when you serve up, put it into a bowl or container ready for lunch the next day – this makes it easier to deny second helpings to yourself and your eager-for-more partner or kids, and save them for the following day.

This applies to all parts of the meal, especially side veggies. I will often cook a lot more of these veggies like broccoli, cabbage, green beans and carrots than I need for one meal as I know they’ll get served the next day either with my own lunch or for the kid’s tea.

If last night’s leftovers haven’t stretched far enough (or my other half has already bagsied them), I will add these veggies to a salad with some tinned beans, herbs and dressing (extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar), or pop them into an omelette, to name but a couple of options.

More variety, promise!

The other beauty of leftovers, and this might be surprising, is that they end up giving you really varied lunches! If the idea of eating the same thing for lunch as you had for dinner the night before only makes you want a sandwich more, then trust me when I say that in reality, you have 2 or 3 different leftovers in the fridge and your lunch plate ends up as a concoction of several different things – which makes it more diverse, and healthier! Also you’ll probably find that this type of lunch is more filling and more balanced, and therefore you’re a lot less likely to snack unhealthily come the mid-afternoon lull.

Leftovers are lame you say? Try Beanpod Batch methods

If you’re still not on board with leftovers at lunch, then let’s talk Beanpod Batch methods.

Batch cooking really is a mindset – and it doesn’t have to mean you make double the amount of every meal, but rather it’s about thinking ahead and cooking things in advance so that the prep for one meal isn’t so time consuming! (This is one of the reasons why I'm a huge advocate of having a meal plan, as it enables you to think ahead).

For example, roasting a tray of veggies when you have the oven on for dinner, and adding them to frittatas, salads, couscous for lunch. They can also be put into pasta sauces with lentils for hearty dinners and stews.

If you’re making an omelette or a salad at lunch, plan ahead and make enough for two or three lunches.

More tips and tricks

Another idea is to prep a few bits like boiled eggs and veg sticks, and keep a pot of houmous in the fridge AT ALL TIMES (I genuinely don’t know what I’d do without houmous).

If you only have a 30-minute lunch break to work with, a ‘picky plate’ of boiled eggs, pepper and carrot sticks, toasted pitta and houmous takes 5 minutes and you’ve still got time for some life admin!

Tinned fish

One more tip - always have tinned fish in your cupboards. My most nutritious and quickest ever lunch is a tin of sardines. Mega protein and healthy fat hit, it ticks a lot of boxes when you’re super time poor!

Fresh soups

Whether you buy or make them yourself, a fresh soup with veggies and good quality protein (I love lentils and chickpeas in soups to add loads of vitamins, fibre and protein) should keep you full for a good few hours, and you can’t get much more hassle free than pouring something into a bowl and popping it into the microwave!

Some quick recipes

My One pan egg, tomato and beans is quick, filling and obviously healthy or it wouldn't be Beanpod! If you can get in the mindset for some actual cooking at lunchtime, this recipe is well worth the effort, and really is minimal. My One pan Mexican eggs with black beans is another similar recipe which packs a punch flavour wise and is minimal cooking!

The other recipe I love for lunch is my Courgette, roasted tomato and grains salad - the only 'cooking' is roasting some tomatoes for 15 mins (you could do this ahead during brekkie or simply do it while you prep the other ingredients). Otherwise, you peel courgettes into ribbons, tear some basil, open a pack of grains and crumble some feta. It really is that simple. Oh and don't forget the dressing. Don't ever forget the dressing - it turns a humble set of ingredients into something much more than the sum of their parts! If you're short of time, a simple drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar is all it needs to sing!

Happy lunching!


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