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I love a good sandwich, but sandwiches can be tricky when you have a million things to do on top of feeding yourself and your family. They take up time I don’t have and patience that my family doesn’t. Figuring out how to meal prep sandwiches was game-changing, so I’m sharing some of my favorite and most valuable tips with you.
- Can You Meal Prep Sandwiches?
- Five Steps on Meal-Prepping Sandwiches
- Can You Freeze Sandwiches?
- Ingredients to Avoid in Premade Sandwiches
- Ingredients That Go Well in Premade Sandwiches
- Best Sandwiches for Meal Prepping
- How to Store Sandwiches
- Best Bread to Meal Prep Sandwiches
Can You Meal Prep Sandwiches?
If you have not been meal-prepping sandwiches, you are missing out big time. Not only can you meal prep some of your favorite sandwiches, but you can also freeze a bunch of them to enjoy through weeks or upcoming months.
I love to meal-prep; even beginners can do it, and it makes life easier, makes eating time less stressful, and throwing together a meal takes me only a few minutes. So, when I first discovered I could meal prep sandwiches, I jumped straight into it. I learned all the tips and tricks and found my way around getting perfect sandwiches every time.
Of course, not all types of sandwiches are okay to make ahead. Some ingredients don’t work well for the process because they will make the bread soggy as time goes by. But you can work around it and adjust your sandwiches as you learn what works and doesn’t.
Five Steps on Meal-Prepping Sandwiches
Let’s look at the five easy steps to meal prep sandwiches.
- Step 1: Get your bread of choice ready. My go-to is classic white bread because it holds up best.
- Step 2: Add your fillings and spreads of choice, like shredded chicken and cheese or PB and Jelly, onto one slice of the bread.
- Step 3: Close your sandwich with the other slice of bread.
- Step 4: Pack it into an airtight container or wrap it in foil or cling film. You can also place individual sandwiches in Ziploc bags for easy storage and grab-and-go lunches.
- Step 5: Place your ready sandwiches in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to devour them.
When prepping sandwiches in bulk, I like to layer out all the bread (one slice per sandwich) on the worktop and add each ingredient to all the slices. I go in with the next ingredient until it’s all done. This setup goes super quickly, and I can see if I’m putting equal amounts of all the ingredients instead of filling one more than the other.
Can You Freeze Sandwiches?
One of the best parts about meal prep is being able to freeze the food. Freezing your prepped meal preserves the food, and you can enjoy homemade deliciousness anytime, any day, without slogging in the kitchen for hours. That goes for sandwiches too.
Sandwiches can be taxing, especially when you are tired, hungry, or in a hurry. You have to pull out several ingredients and then put them together. If your ingredients are not ready or prepped, you might feel like not eating entirely or reaching for something unhealthy.
Freezing sandwiches means you can pull one out for school or work lunches when rushing out the door or have something quick and easy for a weeknight dinner when you don’t have any energy to cook. The opportunities are endless. I have even done this before road trips, and it has been a lifesaver to have healthy, filling food without making any added stops.
Ingredients to Avoid in Premade Sandwiches
As I mentioned, specific fillings will not work in make-ahead sandwiches. You should avoid foods with high water content. If you freeze them, they will release their juices as they freeze, making the bread soggy and gross. Even if you leave a sandwich in the fridge instead of the freezer for a few hours, the bread will start to get soggy.
Here are some ingredients you should avoid putting in sandwiches when meal prepping:
- Sauces (especially mayonnaise)
Items like lettuce and tomatoes release a lot of water and make the bread soggy. Sauces like mayonnaise shouldn’t be frozen because the emulsion breaks down when thawed, causing a watery consistency. Eggs can be frozen, but they become rubbery once thawed and don’t have a great texture.
I tried to test the theory by prepping a ham, cheese, and tomato sandwich. I didn’t even freeze it, but when I pulled it out of the fridge the next day, it was gross, and the bread was wet. The next time I tried with lettuce instead of tomatoes, thinking it was less watery, but the lettuce was soft and shriveled, making the cheese smell bad. Wet cheese? Not a good idea, and never again!
Ingredients That Go Well in Premade Sandwiches
While there are ingredients you should avoid putting in premade sandwiches, there are also ingredients that work beautifully for those make-ahead sandwiches. It is best to stick to these items, especially if you plan to freeze your sandwiches. If you really want these fillings, keep them ready to place in your sandwiches right before eating.
Here are recommended ingredients to use in sandwiches when meal prepping:
- Peanut butter
- Cold meat/ sandwich meat
- Plain tuna
When making chicken, meat, and tuna sandwiches, remember not to add any sauces. You can add condiments right before eating. Note that the texture of sandwich meat also changes slightly after being frozen, but you don’t taste the difference in the sandwich.
Best Sandwiches for Meal Prepping
If you want to ensure you make a good batch of sandwiches during meal prep and prevent them from getting soggy or spoiling, try to stick to the sandwiches that hold up best when made ahead or thawed after freezing.
Some examples are:
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Cheese sandwiches
- Grilled cheese
- Chicken Sandwiches
- Steak sandwiches
- Turkey sandwiches
- Tuna sandwiches
How Long Ahead Can You Make Sandwiches?
If you are not meal-prepping sandwiches to freeze, you will need to use them up within a stipulated time to prevent them from getting spoilt. Bread left open will go hard, and any wettish ingredients will make the sandwich soggy. So eating them soon after you prepare the sandwiches is best.
You can make sandwiches 24 hours ahead, but if you need more time, stay within 48 hours and avoid adding ingredients with water content. You also want to ensure you place them in an airtight container to keep the bread fresh. And put the container in the fridge.
How to Heat Sandwiches From the Freezer
If you prep sandwiches like grilled cheese or ones with meat filling, you can heat your prepped meal before serving. If you pull your sandwich out to thaw, simply toast it directly. This step will heat the filling and toast the bread. Added bonus, it will taste like you’ve made a fresh sandwich.
Another one of my tricks is to place a frozen grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster. It’s a quick and easy method, and I don’t need to get any dishes dirty. Remember to ensure you don’t put a sandwich with a filling that might fall into the toaster. I’ve had that happen and set off the smoke alarm without realizing it. It was a whole ordeal to get the toaster cleaned too!
If you want to warm your sandwich directly from frozen, place it in a microwaveable safe plate and warm it for about a minute or more until you notice it is not entirely frozen. Then spread butter on both sides and toast it. That will heat it throughout and give you a yummy grilled sandwich.
How to Store Sandwiches
How you store your meal-prepped will be a significant part of whether you succeed at the process. Bread gets easier if it is in airtight packaging. And if you plan to freeze your sandwiches, you must be wary of freezer burn.
Here are ideas on storing make-ahead sandwiches:
- Ensure you avoid adding fillings that cause sogginess, like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, mayonnaise, etc., and don’t overfill your sandwich. Keep these ingredients ready to add in before you eat.
- Wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap. And then bag them in Ziploc freezer bags if you plan on freezing them; this is my favorite space-saving method.
- To keep the sandwich extra fresh and protected, wrap each sandwich in foil before using plastic wrap. Then place them in Ziploc freezer bags or a freezer-safe airtight container.
- If your sandwiches don’t have fillings that could fall out, you don’t need to plastic wrap them. For example, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be perfectly fine if placed in a Ziploc bag alone. You can keep them in plastic wrap if you prefer, but I suggest you double-bag them for the freezer to prevent freezer burn.
Best Bread to Meal Prep Sandwiches
If you are going to meal prep sandwiches, it is necessary to ensure that you use the best bread for the process. I have tried numerous, and these are the ones that hold up best:
- Classic white loaf bread
- Whole grain bread
- Rye bread
- Cheese bread
- Sourdough bread
- Pita bread
- Naan bread
- Flour tortillas
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Corn tortillas
Of course, your classic sandwiches will be made with sandwich bread. But bread like pita and tortillas is a fantastic change from the norm. You can get more creative with their fillings and enjoy them for lunch, dinner, or snacks without any effort on the day you want to serve them.
Meal-prepping sandwiches are the ideal answer to avoiding rushed mornings and having calmer weeknight dinners. They are delicious, store well, and you can add a variety of fillings. Remember to stay clear of ingredients with water content (add them before eating) and try different bread options to enjoy a larger variety.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.