Making packed lunch every day can be a real pain, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying ready-prepared sandwiches and wraps. With my tips and tricks it’s easy to prep ahead at the weekend, giving you a week’s worth of sandwiches or wraps for a fraction of the cost.
It might sound a bit weird to freeze sandwiches but it actually works really well – as long as you follow a few simple rules:
- Filled sandwiches, rolls and wraps all freeze well. And, it doesn’t matter if you choose, white, brown or wholemeal bread. Granary bread also freezes brilliantly and retains its texture.
- Use good quality bread (preferably ready-sliced), the bread stays a tiny bit drier, so it’s less likely to go soggy as it thaws.
- A thin spread of butter will help to create a barrier to prevent wetter fillings seeping through to the bread. (If you don’t like butter then you will need to put something dry like slices of ham straight onto the bread with fillings, such as pickle, in the middle.)
- Avoid freezing salad items, such as lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, in your sandwiches, as they will go soggy. Serve them alongside instead. I put mine in little lidded containers with some damp kitchen paper to keep them extra-fresh and crisp.
- Ham and cheese, tuna mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and leftover roast chicken all pass the freezer test with flying colours. (Mayonnaise on its own doesn’t freeze well but by the time it’s been mixed with other ingredients, it’s absolutely fine. And, reduced fat mayonnaise works even better.)
- Cut your sandwiches into quarters once you’ve made then and then wrap in foil. Cutting them into quarters means they’ll thaw more quickly. Label them with a permanent marker with details of what, when and who it’s for. You can write directly onto the foil, then stash your sandwiches in a freezer bag to keep them from getting lost in the freezer.
- I’ve worked out – by a lot of testing – that for maximum freshness when you take your sandwiches out of the freezer, it’s best to unwrap the foil and rewrap the sandwich in a piece of kitchen paper before putting in your lunch box. This will help prevent sogginess. You can, of course, keep in the foil too when you are in a rush as the difference is marginal.
- Freeze sandwiches and wraps for no more than a week for the best results.
Seasoned chicken fillets
You may be surprised to learn that the chicken used for sandwiches and wraps that you buy in the supermarket has been previously frozen then thawed. It’s not difficult to prepare your own chicken in exactly the same way. Then, you can take out of the freezer and put straight into a sandwich or wrap, or add to a salad. They will be thawed by lunchtime and ready to eat.
How to make them:
- Put a pack of fresh chicken mini fillets in a bowl and toss with a little oil and then seasoning mix – I like using fajita seasoning – or just plain pepper and salt. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake at fan oven 180C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Once cold, open freeze on a tray then transfer to a lidded container. To use them, simply take one or two frozen mini fillets and place directly into a wrap, add salad and any mayonnaise or sauces, wrap up in baking parchment or foil and place into the lunch box. You can also wrap in foil and place in the lunch box, adding a salad or dip alongside.
Adding a few fresh vegetable sticks to your packed lunch is easy if you prepare them ahead – no chopping to think about when you are trying to rush out of the door. You can get them on a Sunday or while preparing your evening meal during the week.
- Crunchy vegetable sticks can be prepared ahead and keep well in a lidded container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Carrot sticks, celery sticks, whole cherry tomatoes – put in a lidded container with damp kitchen paper to help prevent them drying out.
- Pepper sticks and cucumber – put in a lidded container with dry kitchen paper to help prevent them going soggy. (Helpful hint – scoop out the cucumber seeds and the sticks will last for days.)
- Make your shop-bought dips healthier and go further by adding a couple of tablespoons of Greek yogurt.