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How to turn leftover dinners into lunch box fillers

Save time and money with these helpful tips and techniques

According to Accredited Practising Dietitian Kate Di Prima, dinner is where most Australians enjoy a healthy, balanced meal with a nutrient-rich protein food such as beef or lamb, a variety of different vegetables or salads and grains like pasta or rice.

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This also happens to represent the perfect combination of foods and nutrients for the school lunch box, to fuel kid’s minds and bodies to ensure they have enough critical nutrients and energy to be alert and concentrate at school.

Rather than putting those leftovers in the fridge to be thrown out uneaten later in the week, turn them into delicious and nutritious lunch box fillers for your children.

Not only is it a healthy choice, it will save you time, money and your kids will love it.

Try some of these easy lunchbox combos using last night’s dinner

Kids and adults alike will not only like the flavour of these lunches, they’ll benefit from the nutritional goodness a lunch of beef or lamb provide.

Leftover roast lamb or beef

Leftover juicy roast beef or lamb is a perfect starter for lunches.

  • Slice and place in a sandwiches, rolls, pita or wrap with some fresh salad ingredients
  • Cut into bite size pieces and toss into a salad or some noodles
  • Slices of leftover beef or lamb roast and pack with a small container of coleslaw or rice salad. Wrap a crusty roll too.
  • Cut into strips and add a hard-boiled egg, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a few celery sticks.

Barbecued beef or lamb steaks

They are so good it’s worth cooking an extra one or two to have on hand for the family’s lunch boxes.

  • Spilt a pita pocket bread and spread it with a cream cheese or dip like hummus, add a little thinly sliced steak and either some salad or a spoonful of tabouli.
  • The little ones will enjoy very thinly sliced beef or lamb, a little grated cheese and carrot and shredded lettuce wrapped in a sheet of lavash bread (roll up and wrap with foil).
  • Pack ingredients separately that can be easily combined into a salad at lunch - leftover beef or lamb strips from steaks or a roast, dressing, salad leaves and other salad ingredients.


Leftover meatballs, rissoles and burger patties are delicious in a roll for lunches the next day.

  • Halve a crusty wholemeal roll, pull out a little of the bread from the centre. Spoon 3 or 4 of last night’s leftover meatballs into the roll and close. Wrap securely with plastic wrap.
  • Beef or lamb burgers are also terrific to pack and take from home for school or office lunches.


If you can reheat a meal away from home for lunch, casseroles, curries and stir-fries are all delicious the next day.


Everyone likes variety so keep a few styles of bread on hand in the freezer.

  • Pitas’ (pocket bread), work well for lunches, as they’re small and not too thin, so fillings stay moist and the bread doesn’t break. Spilt them with a small serrated knife.
  • Small rolls are good for the kids as they are easy to hold and just the right size.
  • Flatbreads like Lebanese bread can sometimes be too thick, cut them in half with scissors to make a lunch-sized wrap.


Spreads are important too, they add flavour but they also prevent the fillings from making the bread soggy.

Use margarine, light cream cheese, dips like hummus or tzatziki or cheese spread, keep some of each on hand for a flavour change.

Plan lunches together

Let the kids be part of the lunch box planning and preparation and there’ll be fewer complaints

  • Draw up a list of healthy options that they can choose from like cherry tomatoes, cheese sticks, dried fruit ect.
  • Let them choose three things that they’d like to see in their lunch box and for a few weeks pop one of these in each day.
  • Then discuss alterations to their selected options and change the menu to their new set of preferences. Even finicky eaters will go for this one!