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, including:
- saving time by preparing several sandwiches at once;
- utilizing leftovers in tasty and different ways at future meals; and
- enjoying a wholesome, homemade sandwich as part of an inexpensive, quick meal.
Sandwich ingredients that 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 when thawed.
During assembly of the sandwiches, 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 to prevent the filling from soaking into the bread. Do not use melted margarine or butter. Also, bread that is at least a day old may be slightly firmer, making it easier to spread the butter.
A quick way to freeze sandwiches is to place them in zipper-top/self-sealing plastic sandwich bags, labeling them with the date and type of sandwich. Squish out as much air as possible before sealing them.
Next, lay them in a single layer in the freezer on a cookie sheet and freeze them about an hour until they hold their shape. Then place the sandwich bags in a larger freezer-bag because the thin sandwich bags won’t maintain food quality during long-term freezer storage.
Use frozen sandwiches within one to three months for best quality and flavor. Thaw individual sandwiches in their sandwich bag in the refrigerator or pack them in an insulated lunch bag with a small, frozen gel pack.
For more information on packing your child’s lunch and the food safety issues involved, call the Wise County Extension office at 940-627-3341.
Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.