the sandwich system

It’s back to school or back to work for may of you. For me it’s nearly the end of the blitz of work I’ve been doing, and September 7th brings the beginning of a new semester; the fourth of five without a break, and six new distance education courses. Here we go!

Work or school, I am, and always have been, a lunch packer. I’ve listened over the years to a lot of whining from people who tell me that they just don’t have the time or the money to eat healthy. The money thing I’ll address another time, but the time thing I’ll address right now. Hooey, I say. Hooey. You heard me.

This is the start of my seventh year back at school, and for five of those years I held a full time job. A full time job that started at 5:15am, no less, so there wasn’t exactly time to get up in the morning and make a lunch to take to work, nor was there really time to make or grab anything between work and school. For three years I worked at the campus of a local university, but attended classes at a community college across town. I would finish work at 1pm and start class at 1:30. To say it was a mad dash was a bit of an understatement. Things were marginally more relaxed when I started attending classes at the same campus I worked on, however, on top of my full time job and school I also taught first aid, CPR, and advanced aquatic leadership courses on the side. At the same time Paul was not only working on his PhD, but was also racing triathlon in the professional / elite category. And we both packed lunches. Every. Single. Day.

I was always a lunch packer, taking little bits of this and that with me to munch on throughout the day. Paul was a lunch packer too, and when I met him in the late days of his undergrad, he had long before perfected the sandwich system. I like to think that I took the sandwich system to a new level by introducing better packing, but the credit for the system goes all to Paul.

I’ve tried pushing the sandwich system to it’s limits in the past, but Paul says it will work the best if you set aside time for sandwich making twice a week – in our house it happened on Sundays and Wednesdays. You make three sandwiches on Sunday, and another two on Wednesday. Yes, they have tomatoes in them, and Paul’s always had at least one kind of sliced meat.

Trust us.

First, you need a decent sturdy bread. The bread I have used here is my favourite sandwich bread; it comes from Wheatberries Bakery on the Sunshine Coast of BC; Georgiana’s Multigrain Bread. Any nice multigrain sandwich bread will do. You have to toast your bread – lightly at the very least. Toasting the bread will help it hold up for a few days in the fridge. The toasted bread should be cooled before sandwich assembly is started.

Prep all of your ingredients at once, and lay them out on a plate. If anything is wet, give it a little pat dry with a paper towel. I like to wash the lettuce and spin it dry, but if you don’t have a salad spinner, a pat with a dish towel will do just fine. You need an effective lettuce barrier. What’s a lettuce barrier? A barrier, made from lettuce, which will protect the bread-y part of your sandwich from the more moist ingredients, like sliced tomatoes. Having an effective lettuce barrier is just as important, if not more important, than toasting the bread. You need full coverage, so don’t shred your lettuce, and opt for a varietal with larger leaves. I’ve used red leaf lettuce here, but we’ve used everything in the past from romaine to iceberg to butter lettuce. You can layer the leaves to make a larger barrier if necessary, but one whole leaf is preferable. The lettuce barrier should be at least as large as, if not ever so slightly larger than, the bread its self.

 If you’re using meat, or a meat substitute (like the yummy spicy miso glazed tofu slices I’ve used here), it goes down on the bread directly on top of any sort of smear you’ve opted for; here, mayo on one slice, grainy mustard on the other. Then the lettuce barrier, tomato slices (two), cucumber slices (six), onion slices (whatever floats your boat), and the other lettuce barrier. If you’re using cheese, it goes against the other slice of bread.

Now you’ll need to contain your sandwiches. The best thing, in my opinion (and I think also in Paul’s), is to use these sandwich keepers by Tupperware. And I do mean Tupperware and not any of the cheap knock offs out there. If you don’t have the containers, you could wrap the sandwiches in parchment paper and tie with a ribbon – which makes a super cute back to school present for an awesome teacher friend, just so you know. Alternate sandwich containers would also work fine, I’m sure, the thing is to allow a little air circulation around the sandwiches and avoid them getting mushed in your bag. No one likes a mushy sandwich.

So, to recap; 1. you need to toast your bread. 2. you need an effective lettuce barrier, and 3. you need an appropriate sandwich storage system. You can do it! Bulk lunch prep! In addition to the sandwiches we each pack a muffin which I bake in bulk and keep in the freezer, and a container of fruit and yoghurt. The fruit we also chop up and divide into containers twice a week (usually on the same days as sandwich making takes place), and just add a few scoops of yoghurt to the container the night before.

The sandwiches pictured above feature tasty spicy miso glazed tofu slices, which are a quick, healthy, and tasty alternative to nasty processed sandwich slices. The recipe is below.

miso glazed tofu slices

Don't limit this recipe to sandwich making. These tofu slices would also be great chopped up and tossed in with a salad, or just snacked on straight out of the fridge.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Author Katie Trant


  • 1 250 g pkg of organic extra firm tofu
  • 3 Tbsp miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp grape seed or other vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce I used Bragg
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.


  1. Remove tofu from packaging, drain, and wrap in paper towels. Put a plate, or some other heavy weight on top of it.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C /325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together glaze ingredients.
  4. Un-wrap tofu, and slice into 1/2 cm thick slices.
  5. Arrange on baking sheet, and brush with glaze.
  6. Let sit for 10 min and brush again.
  7. Place in oven, and set the timer for 10 min.
  8. Remove from oven, brush a third time with remaining glaze.
  9. Return to oven for another 10 min. Let slices cool.



  1. Steph says

    How do you go about storing all of the tofu slices after you have baked them? Are they ok just in the fridge for a while or would you recommend freezing them?

  2. Dennis says

    I was intrigued by the sandwhich system, so much so, that I purchased two Tupperware sandwhich containers at the Home Show in Vancouver last weekend. That is a big deal for me, because I don’t give a you know what about Tupperware. I had forgotten the toasting bit, so will add that step tonight.
    I have taken to making the sandwhiches right in the container, bread on each side, fillings on one side, close it all up. Very neat.
    Thanks, Katy

  3. Cammy says

    Normally I’m not a tofu fan, but these just sound and look good. Bought the ‘gredients today and am gonna give them a try tomorrow. We shall see…

  4. Paul says

    As a follow up for meat eaters: I recommend you buy all your meat on Sunday (unless you can or like shopping 2x per week). Then put the Wednesday night sandwhich making meat in the freezer and pull it out on Tuesday night to thaw (the hard part is remembering to pull it out of the freezer). I find the lunch meat doesn’t quite keep all week. Just a tip.

  5. Awesome Teacher Friend says

    It works!!!
    I unwrapped my skillfully bowed sandwich (which was the 1st best part of this sandwich as the kids thought I was super cool… none of them had ribbon!)
    2nd best thing: The bread was crisp, no moist gooey grossness (I am a picky sandwich eater, and this is the primary reason I gave up on making sandwiches for lunch) yet the tomatoes were so juicy that when I took a bite, they dribbled all over the parchment paper. Highly effective lettuce barrier. Katie’s right, the toasting of the bread… brilliant.
    3rd best part, I have another one in the fridge for tomorrow and all the ingredients for the Wild Rice and Chickpea salad in my kitchen… it’s a Muffin Myth week for me!!!


  1. […] talked before about The Sandwich System. If you want to pack a week’s worth of tasty sandwiches for your lunches, you’ve got to […]

  2. […] went directly to the kitchen. Together we hammered out our packed lunches for the week; Paul was on sandwich duty, I was on fruit salads and bran muffins. All done by 10am. Then, Paul headed out for a 35km run, […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *