I have four children. One graduated this past school year, two are currently in high school, and my youngest is now in middle school. So I have definitely made my fair share of school lunches over the years, most of them peanut butter and jelly. Getting up and making PBJ sandwiches at the crack of dawn is not my idea of a good time. Many years ago (LONG before Uncrustables came out) I learned a trick that saved me loads of time on those busy mornings. Freezing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Of course I’ll share this and several other lunch related ideas that will help make your mornings a little easier too.
If you enjoy this article you will probably love recipes like the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever or these breakfast burritos for the freezer. And here’s a special treat for mom and the teenagers – homemade Mocha Frappucinos!
The first trick to a great PB&J is to make it so that no jelly seeps through the bread. On one side of the bread you spread your peanut butter, then on the other side, put a thin layer of peanut butter. On that thin layer, add a layer of jelly. The peanut butter acts as a “raincoat” and the jelly does not soak through the bread.
I buy an extra loaf of bread just for this purpose (please note, the pictures only show half a loaf as that’s what I had on hand). I do an assembly line of sandwiches, then when they are all made, I slip each one into a plastic sandwich bag. Then you put each sandwich back inside the bread bag. Store the bread bag in the freezer.
When it comes time to make little Johnny’s lunch in the morning, take one sandwich out of the bag and put it into his lunch bag. By the time lunchtime rolls around at school, his sandwich is perfectly thawed and tastes great.
The question I get asked the most often is of the sandwich will be soggy after it thaws. The answer is a resounding NO. And yes, they still taste good! I remember when I first starting freezing sandwiches I would ask my kids if they tasted okay and the answer was always yes.
Back in 2005 I appeared on a local news station and shared this, among several other time saving tips for back to school such as:
* Buy a bag of chips or pretzels dedicated to lunches. Make up individual baggies of snacks (zipper bags are best for this) and place them back into the empty chip bag. Each morning you just reach in and grab one.
* Cut carrots and celery into sticks and store in baggies.
* Buy small fruits such as clementines and grapes, cut up celery or buy baby carrots, or pick up dried fruits such as dried cranberries and raisins, and make up individual baggies.
* You can also freeze sandwiches with deli meats, such as ham, turkey, bologna and salami. Make baggies of a piece of lettuce and an individually wrapped piece of cheese to toss in the lunch bag with the frozen sandwich. You can also buy mustard and mayonnaise packets from places like Costco, Sam’s Club and restaurant supply stores to toss into your “sandwich kit”.
* To keep jelly from oozing out the bottom of the sandwich, after placing everything inside the lunch bag, place sandwich on top laying flat. Standing it up can cause the jelly to leak out the bottom as it thaws.
Packing a Great Lunch
Believe it or not there’s a science to packing a lunch bag. It’s much like packing your groceries into bags at the store. You want heavy items at the bottom and the lightest items on the top. The exception is the sandwich and chips. When you fill a zipper bag with chips, don’t squeeze out the air. Instead leave it in the bag so that to bag is expanded. This will keep the chips from getting crushed and makes a nice “pillow” for the sandwich to rest on top of.
Put juice boxes in first. I pack two and since I use Capri Suns, which aren’t flat, I place them in opposite of each other, lying on their sides. Much like how shoes are stacked inside a new shoebox at the store. This creates a flat surface for the next item. The exception is if I’m packing a large piece of fruit such as an apple or a peach, or maybe a bag of baby carrots. Then I stack the Capri Suns together in the same direction, and place the large fruit on the sloping end.
Next in would be any treats, granola bars or cereal bars lying flat. After that your air filled bag of chips or pretzels and finally the sandwich, lying flat on top. I use the oversized lunch bags so nothing gets crushed.
Mornings are hectic, especially with multiple children and different grade levels. Getting each one off to school at different times can be challenging, so reducing your morning tasks means less stress and a happier family.