Make Ahead PB&J Sandwiches (No Crusts)

When I am entering into an extra busy season I like to stock my freezer with food that is easy to serve. One thing I like to make is Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. I make them in large batches, wrap them up and keep them in the freezer for easy lunches or snacks for my kids. They are less expensive than pre-made frozen sandwiches and I have better control over the ingredients.

You can use peanut butter, almond butter, or even sunflower butter if you need a nut-free option. I have used all different kinds of jam and jelly. I usually make this with whole wheat bread, but you can use any bread you prefer. If you need to be gluten-free, you can even use gluten-free bread.

I have two different “sandwich makers.” Both work well.

This two-piece square one is extra-nice because It has separate pieces for cutting and sealing the sandwich. 

This one-piece one does it all in one step.

They both work well. If you don’t have a sandwich maker, cut off the crusts and use a fork to seal along the edges of the sandwiches.

Make them in a big batch and wrap each sandwich individually. Freeze the sandwiches. You can put a frozen sandwich in a lunchbox before school and it will thaw by lunchtime. They make a quick and easy option for school lunches.

Make Ahead PB&J Sandwiches (No Crusts)

Make Ahead PB&J Sandwiches (No Crusts)

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

I like to make these simple make-ahead sandwiches when life is crazy. They are perfect for school lunches or after school snacks.

You have control over the ingredients and they are less expensive than the pre-made sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 2 Slices Bread (I like whole wheat, but you can use gluten free or your favorite sandwich bread.)
  • 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
  • 1 teaspoon jam or jelly any flavor

Instructions

    If you are using a sandwich maker, mark the two slices of bread so you know where to add the filling. If you are not, cut off the crusts of the bread with a sharp knife.
    Spread half of the peanut butter on either side of the bread.
    Place the jam on top of the peanut butter on one side of the bread.
    Top with the second slice of bread having the peanut butter on top of the jam.
    Using a sandwich maker, slice and seal the sandwich. Save the crusts for croutons or other uses.
    Wrap the sandwich with plastic wrap or place in a freezer safe container and freeze.
    When ready to serve. Let the sandwich thaw at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

Notes

You can easily customize the bread and fillings. Almond butter or sunflower butter work well. Use any kind of sandwich bread you prefer including gluten-free bread.

Episode 95 Back to School Lunches (Even When School is Different)

No matter what school looked like last year, it will be a little different this year. All of us are having to face changes this year and that may affect how we feed our kids lunch. Kendra Adachi would say to embrace the season. Things will look different which means we may have to change our thinking and adapt to our new circumstances.

 

This week’s podcast talks about several different scenarios for lunch including schools requiring fully disposable lunches, packing lunches to go, and eating lunch at home.

 

100% Disposable Lunches

Some schools are requiring 100% disposable lunches which means that nothing comes home. Parents have to pack everything in disposable containers. I have seen this most frequently in preschools and daycare centers.

-Think outside the “brown bag.” Can you use other containers to pack the lunch? Consider reusing large plastic containers like yogurt or cottage cheese containers to pack the lunch.

-Look to restaurant supply stores locally or on amazon. Restaurants do take out every day and there are a variety of disposable containers you can buy. Small cups with lids meant for salad dressings can be used for hummus, peanut butter, cereal, or berries. Containers designed for salads can work as disposable bento boxes that you can fill with a variety of foods. Use paper muffin liners to separate the foods in the salad containers.

 

Packing Lunches To Go To A School Building

-I have two podcasts that talk about lunch.

Episode 39 Lunchbox Tips for Back to School. This podcast has great information about my blue lunch bin and how to use a thermos.

Episode 12 Let’s Talk About Lunch has lots of lunch tips for busy families.

 

-I always recommend having your kids bring EVERYTHING home from lunch. Everything in the lunch box comes home. This includes their trash. This allows you to see what is being eaten, you can reuses uneaten items which cuts down on food waste. You can pack better lunches because you see how much your child really eats. It also ensures that you get all your containers back.

-Send metal utensils. It is so much easier to eat with a metal fork than a plastic fork. You can get inexpensive silverware at garage sales, estate sales, or the dollar store.

-Get a lunch bin. I have a blue plastic bin that I use for lunches. In the evening I fill it with all the items for the following day’s lunches. If it is food that needs heating, I put it in microwaveable glass containers. All the cut-up fruit and veggies are in baggies or containers too. The next morning all I have to do is take the items from the lunch bin and put them in the lunch bags. It saves digging around the refrigerator and my kids know that food in the lunch bin is off limits for snacking.

-Put foods that are okay at room temperature in the lunch bags in the evening. Things like peanut butter sandwiches and crackers can sit in the lunchbox overnight. I also put in a napkin and any utensils they will need for lunch the next day.

-If your kids are little, make sure they are able to open all packages and containers. As a lunchroom volunteer I carried a pair of scissors to help kids open yogurt tubes, granola bars, and so much more. If your child has a hard time opening a package, consider putting a pair of scissors in their lunchbox.

 

Lunch at Home

If you have kids distance learning at home or are homeschooling this year lunch will be at home. There are several things to consider for at-home lunch.

-Is the entire family going to eat lunch together at the same time or will each person eat when it works for their schedule?

-Would it be wise to switch your “big meal” of the day to lunch?

-Do you want to continue “packing” a lunch in the evening so the kids can just pull it out of the refrigerator at lunch time?

-What can you do to make your kids as self-sufficient as possible?

-Pre-cut and washed fruits and veggies are easy for kids to add to their lunches.

-What foods can you prep ahead for easy lunches?

I am not a fan of huge weekend prep sessions, but I can cook a double or triple batch of something earlier in the week to re-purpose for lunches. One of my favorite things to make ahead are these turkey meatballs from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Lunches may look different, but these ideas can help you embrace you current situation and manage lunches with ease.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Marie Fiebach is a married mother of four active kids. She helps busy families plan and execute weeknight dinner so they can recapture a little calm in the crazy. You can see her every week on KAKE TV’s Good Morning Kakeland or listen to the Feed Your Family Tonight Podcast.

 

 

Tips for Packing Kid’s Lunches

This week on KAKE I am doing the first of a two part series on packing lunches. This week I am focusing on kids and next week I am focusing on adults.

Kids lunches do not need to be fancy or complicated. There are kids that are perfectly happy eating the same thing every day for lunch. If this is your child, then don’t worry about adding variety. If your kids are like mine and prefer not to eat the same thing every day, I have some ideas for making it easier on you, the parent.

First- Decide when it is best to fix the lunches. I like to do most of the lunch prep at night when I am doing dinner dishes and then finish up in the morning. My kids really like to eat dinner leftovers for lunch. I pack the leftovers in glass containers and put them in my blue lunch bin. (More on the Blue Bin later.) I put their cut up fruit in either semi-disposable containers or baggies. Wet fruits like cut up melon or pineapple go into containers so they don’t leak and dry fruits like apples and oranges go into baggies. Cut up veggies go into baggies too. and all this goes in the blue bin.

Alternately, I have some Ziploc lunch containers that have 3 compartments. If the lunch will fit in this container, I will fill the compartments with their leftovers.

My Lunch Bin

Second- let’s talk about my Blue Bin. It is something that cost $1.00 and is so simple, but it made a huge difference in my life. Years ago I was having trouble with my kids snacking on food I was intending to use for lunches the next day. After several morning surprises, I grabbed a plastic bin out of my linen closet and started putting all the “lunch food” in the bin. My kids knew that anything in the Blue Bin was off limits. Not only did it make sure I had the food I’d planned on in the morning, it also saved me time looking through my disorganized refrigerator for the small container of leftover taco meat. I could just pull out the bin start putting food into lunch boxes. It was a game changer!

Later I figured out that I could put the leftovers in glass storage containers and reheat them in the microwave in the same container (a simple concept that took me way to long to discover).

Finally- Do you know the best way to use a thermos to keep food hot until lunchtime? Thermoses work best if you pre-heat them with boiling water, they will retain heat much better. I fill them with boiling water, then heat my leftovers, pour out the water, and add the hot food to the thermos. The food will stay at a safe temperature until lunchtime.

Making kid lunches is one of the hardest things for me as my kids go back to school. I hope these tips will help you as you prepare lunches for your kids.

Episode 39 Lunchbox Tips for Back to School

Making school lunches is a struggle for me, but I have some tips and tricks that make it a little easier.

1-I use my blue refrigerator bin. You can learn about it in episode 12 “Let’s Talk About Lunch.”

2-My favorite equipment:

  1. Vera Bradley Lunch Bags  My favorite is the Lunch Tote.

-Find the containers first and see how they fit in the lunch bags.

b) Get good water bottles. I like the insulated Thermos brand and the small Klean Kanteen water bottles.

                -Buy the same brand for all your kids. It will make filling the bottles much easier.

c) Ice Packs. I like thin ones like these.

d) Thermos for hot food. I like stainless steel ones like this one.

e) 2 Cup Pyrex Measuring Cup.

f) Glass food storage containers.

g) Real Silverware including Forks and Spoons. You can get these at Dollar Tree.

3-The process I use for packing school lunches:

The Night Before

  1. During dinner I ask who is having school hot lunch and who is bringing lunch.
  2. I ask who wants dinner leftovers
  3. I pack dinner leftovers in glass storage containers and put them in my blue bin.
  4. I prep fruit and veggies. Wet fruit goes into these Ziploc containers and dry fruit like apples or oranges go into baggies and then it all goes in the blue bin.
  5. Any food that can sit at room temperature like chips or peanut butter sandwiches goes directly into the lunchbox.
  6. Napkins and silverware go into the lunchbox.

In the Morning

  1. Fill all water bottles
  2. Take Blue Bin out of refrigerator and start putting items in lunchboxes
  3. If I need to heat leftovers I start by heating water in the 2 cup Pyrex cup and then transfer the boiling water to the thermos.
  4. Heat the food in the microwave for 3 minutes at 50% power and 30 seconds at 100% power
  5. Remove hot water from thermos and add hot food.
  6. Place water bottles and thermoses in lunchboxes.
  7. Put a napkin between hot and cold items.
  8. Put ice packs on the cold side.
  9. Make sure there is silverware.

Other Tips

  1. Train your kids to bring home everything from the lunch, including trash
  2. This lets you know what they are eating and what they aren’t eating.
  3. You can reuse uneaten items.
  4. It reduces waste.

My Kid’s Favorite Lunchbox Foods

  1. Taco meat with tortilla chips. You can add containers of lettuce, tomato and cheese and containers of salsa.
  2. Hummus with pretzel crisps
  3. Yogurt
  4. Apples with peanut butter (sometimes with melted chocolate chips)
  5. Homemade Lunchables. Add meat, cheese and crackers.
  6. Leftovers

Share what you like to put in lunchboxes and any tips you have for packing lunches.

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