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Posted on Feb 21, 2007 in Bento, For Kids, Freezing, Parent Hacks, Sandwich or Wrap, Tips, Tutorial or How-to, Vegetarian | 35 comments

Speed bento technique: Freezing sandwiches

Speed bento technique: Freezing sandwiches

Today’s vegetarian toddler lunch took about five minutes to pack up, using leftovers and frozen cutout sandwiches (today’s speed bento tip). The sandwiches are blueberry jam (sugar-free) and peanut butter, speedy homemade jello cups, purple potato salad with mojito, grape tomatoes, blueberries, and leftover sauteed bell peppers and onions with mustard sauce. The blueberries are in little paper food cups with jokes in Japanese and the answer on the bottom of the cup (“What gets fat and skinny in the night sky?” “The moon!”)

Speedy sandwich lunch for toddler

Today’s speed bento technique is freezing sandwiches, which can then be packed frozen in the morning, and left to defrost in the lunch (or warmed in a toaster oven or regular oven). Whereas putting bread in the refrigerator makes it go stale faster, putting it in the freezer halts the staling process. Freezing sandwiches is actually a pretty common tip in Japanese cookbooks; the trick is in choosing freezer-friendly fillings, and freezing them properly to avoid freezer burn. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and put the sandwiches in a freezer container (freezer bag, tupperware, cookie tin, etc.). When packing them in a lunch, either keep them wrapped in plastic wrap or unwrap them (then pack in a covered container like a bento box) — these small ones defrosted on the counter in only about 10 minutes.

I think it might be nice to have a few of these cutout sandwiches frozen for busy mornings when I’m making my son’s lunches, but for myself I like multi-flavored deli-type sandwiches that won’t tend to freeze as well because of the raw greens and mayo. The less intricate cutout shapes (like the rectangle, heart, circle, etc.) will keep longer as I’m able to wrap them more tightly with plastic wrap.

Wrapped cutout sandwiches for freezing and bentos Cutout sandwiches for freezing and bentos

I’ve put together a short list of sandwich fillings below.

DO FREEZE:
bananas (but it will soften; sprinkle with citrus juice if browning bothers you)
Branston pickle
carrots (raw or cooked)
cheese (sliced)
greens (COOKED) (i.e. spinach, cabbages, etc.)
jams, jellies
lunchmeats (ham, roast beef, turkey, etc.)
Marmite or Vegemite
mushrooms (cooked, or raw — but without surface water)
Nutella
peanut butter
tomatoes

DON’T FREEZE:
cream cheese
cucumber (raw)
greens (raw) (i.e. spinach, cabbages, etc.)
honey
lettuce (raw)
mayonnaise

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  1. putting bread in the refrigerator makes it go stale faster

    I didn’t know that :-O

    Why?

  2. weird my dad says it makes it last longer pft, I hate putting it in there cuz I’m lazy and don’t want to have to toast my bread. :o

  3. Hi,

    I’ve read through most of your posts over the past weekend (found you via Cooking Cute/mmmbento) and I’m really enjoying your blog!!

    Thank you for sharing your tips.

    I think you said you’d used the glad press’n seal for one of your more soup like bentos. I wondered if you tried using the freezer press’n seal on sandwiches or other items. If so, is it any better than plain old plastic wrap?

    Last, do you freeze items on a tray first & then wrap (while it’s firmer–so you don’t crush the bread)? Just wondering if that might affect the quality of the food later.

    Thanks again for sharing your info!

    -Annie

  4. The current Cook’s Illustrated magazine (March & April 2007, page 30) has a short section on “Why Refrigerated Baked Goods Go Stale”.

    To quote, “Staling is inevitable over time. In a process known as retrogradation, starch molecules reorganize to form crystalline structures in the presence of the moisture within the baked goods themselves. This eventually leads to a hard, dry texture at room temperature — no matter how well wrapped the item was during storage. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator speeds up this process, but the freezer actually halts it. The water molecules in the cake or bread freeze, which immobilizes the starch molecules and prevents them from forming the crystalline structures that translate to stale texture.” So basically it’s much better to freeze bread than to refrigerate it.

  5. Hey Annie!

    First, thanks for the kind comments. I haven’t used press’n seal on sandwiches or anything where I’m just wrapping the item straight (i.e. not in a hard container). For me, where the Press’n Seal really pays off is where you’re using it as a makeshift lid on a smaller container — the underside is kind of sticky and adheres well to hard plastic/glass/metal containers.

    Freezing items on a tray first (before wrapping) might be viable if I had more freezer space, but I’m a little wary of freezer burn to freeze food without some protection. Going forward, I think what I’ll wind up doing is cutting the sandwiches into long, thin rectangles that won’t deform if wrapped tightly when fresh.

  6. hey, i added you as a friend so i can find you and your tips directly. hope you don’t mind.

    have a great day. ^_^

  7. Like you, I prefer sandwiches with layers and layers of food stuff (deli cold-cuts + cream cheese + fresh veggies) hence the inability to freeze sandwiches. But you’re definitely right about freezing bread. We have bread that keep for weeks on end in the freezer. Once I pop them in the oven toaster, they’re better than 3-4 day old unfrozen bread. Aside from loaf bread, I’ve also tried frozen whole loaves of baguette (well, not whole, but large slabs) that I’ve wrapped in foil. Afterwards, I toast them in the toaster oven while still wrapped in foil to let the heat through to the center while not burning the outsides. I daresay it’ll work for larger loaves too. Tortillas and pita bread freeze nicely too. :D

  8. your tips are fabulous! I’m totally friending you ^_^

  9. I absolutely don’t mind, in fact I’m flattered. Thanks!

  10. Thanks, outofthisplace! :-)

  11. In that Cook’s Illustrated piece, they actually recommend wrapping whole loaves of bread tightly in aluminum foil first, then putting the whole thing in a freezer bag. (To avoid freezer burn, I’d then stick a straw in the freezer bag and suck the excess air out before sealing it up — think a do-it-yourself Food Saver). To reheat a whole loaf, they recommend taking it out of the freezer bag and putting the foil-wrapped loaf in a 450-degree F oven for 10-15 minutes. Then take the foil off and let it stay in the oven for a few extra minutes to recrisp the crust.

  12. i’m doing it too! :D

  13. my mother does that with bread and it turns out great ^^

  14. Cook’s Illustrated magazine ran a piece this month about the freezer halting the staling process in breads and baked goods — details below in another comment. Check it out!

  15. Interesting read! I noticed, though, that some bread seems to freeze better than other – toast and rye bread freezes really well, whereas the half-prebaked baguette type bread tends to be a little harder when I re-bake it after freezing.

    Anyway, keep up the great bentoing tips! You make me wish I had a bigger freezer :)
    ;)

  16. Good to know about the half-prebaked baguettes — I don’t buy those, so it’s a good tip.

  17. Cool, thanks _jzabelle_!

  18. How does peanut butter fare in the freezer?

  19. Oops, forgot to add this to the list. It works great — go ahead and freeze it in sandwiches! A couple of the sandwiches I froze were peanut butter and they were fine.

  20. i don’t have a fridge with deep-freeze compartment it is same ol freezing compartment.. would you think it would be ok to freeze some things for a week? or i need deep-freeze?

  21. I’m not sure I understand you — does the freezer get cold enough to make ice? If so, it should be fine to freeze sandwiches/onigiri/etc. for a couple of weeks.

  22. is it ok to freeze spam?

  23. Yes, but not in the can. :-)

  24. It makes it last longer (because mould doesn’t grow on it, at least not for a week or two), but it goes stale almost immediately.

  25. Is it okay to freeze honey, if we don’t mind the crunchy crystallization?

  26. With regards to frozen bread going stale quicker: If you’re pre-assembeling sandwiches for lunches to be eaten when thawed, does it much matter?

    Also, mustard freezes pretty well too.
    I just place it between the layers of meat or cheese, not directly on the bread.

  27. Erm, but when you defrost the sandwiches, aren’t they going to taste soggy after that?

  28. @29 from Chee: Sogginess hasn’t been an issue for me because when I let them defrost on the countertop I keep them wrapped in plastic wrap (so any condensation stays on the plastic wrap).

  29. I wish my children would eat like this. Leftover peppers and carrots in mustard sauce? You must be kidding me! :)

    Your bento boxes are beautiful – they are works of art in their own right, really. Maybe someday my children will branch out.

    Cheers!

  30. @31 from Leah: I have no idea why Bug eats as many things as he does, I’m just thankful! One of my friends ate everything during pregnancy and tries to give her daughter all kinds of foods, but her daughter is SUPER picky. So I’m humble but grateful, I guess. I read today that picky eating in childhood might be genetic…

  31. My little Squinty and his friend Isaiah would love these little sandwiches in their bento boxes.

    Thank you for your site. I never knew so many things were freezer friendly.

    P.S.: I’ve found bento boxes have now become a staple with the fellow moms I have playdates with.

  32. @33 from Candi: Ah, so you’re out spreading the Bento Word among playgroups, eh? That totally happened with me, too — the non-Japanese moms in Bug’s English playgroup decided that our little snack bentos were more convenient/efficient than a diaper bag full of plastic baggies and huge Tupperware, so switched over to their interpretations of bentos. Whatever works for everyone is cool. :-)

  33. what about avacado?

  34. I appreciate a lot of your tips and see why you might want to freeze rice or pasta. But sandwiches? Where does that speed things up? Defrosting a sandwich takes as much time as making a fresh one, doesn’t it? In the meantime you are wasting a lot of energy: even a good freezer is an energy-eater and than you need to microwave/defrost them again. I don’t mean to offend you but that’s my main concern with most of your freezing tips: While I am totally in favor of freezing ingredients when you can’t buy lesser quantities or even leftovers, by deliberately cooking, then freezing, then keeping frozen, then defrosting food you waste time + often plastic wrap + energy. How is that a good thing?

  35. Perfect!! I found your photo on Flickr, and it’s just what I needed – I’m writing a post on how to make sandwiches fun :) SHared your post here too. Thank you!!

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