Every fall as school starts, many parents face the dilemma of what to pack for lunch.
What can I pack that won’t spoil by lunchtime and contains a well-balanced selection of healthy foods that my child will eat? Sandwiches are an ever-popular item because of their versatility and convenience.
Freezing sandwiches offers additional benefits such as saving time by making several at once; utilizing leftovers for use in tasty and different ways at future meals; and enjoying something wholesome and homemade as part of an inexpensive, quick meal.
Sandwich ingredients that do freeze well include: peanut butter; canned tuna and salmon; cooked roast beef, chicken and turkey (finely chopped and mixed with a salad dressing to add flavor and moistness); and natural or processed hard and semi-hard cheeses (frozen cheese may crumble after thawing so it might be best to grate it before freezing).
Sandwich fillings that do not freeze well include: hard-cooked egg whites because the freezing toughens them; jelly or jam because it soaks into the bread and makes it soggy; and tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions, etc. because they become limp when thawed (it would be best to add these ingredients just before eating them).
Salad dressings such as Miracle Whip work better as a binder in sandwiches than mayonnaise because it tends to separate on thawing.
During assembly of the sandwiches, to prevent the filling from soaking into the bread, spread a thin layer of soft butter or margarine to the edges of the sides of the bread that will be the “insides” of the sandwich. Do not use melted margarine or butter.
Also, bread that is at least a day old may be slightly firmer and easier to spread.
A quick way to freeze sandwiches is to place them in zip-top/self-sealing plastic bags, labeling with date and type. Squish out as much air as possible before sealing.
Next, place them in a single layer in the freezer on a cookie sheet and freeze about an hour until they hold their shape. Then place the sandwich bags in a larger, freezer-quality bag because the thin sandwich bags aren’t satisfactory for maintaining food quality during the longer-term freezer storage.
Use frozen sandwiches within one to three months for best quality and flavor. Thaw individual sandwiches in their bag in the refrigerator or pack them in an insulated lunch bag with a small frozen gel pack.
For more information concerning food safety when packing sandwiches or general information on packing your child’s lunch, call the Extension office at (940) 627-3341.