Convenience v. Wellness and Time: BRK’s Homemade Frozen Chicken Sandwich

Remember the other day when we were talking about taking short cuts? Well for the entire BUSY month of December this freezer case in Sam’s Club was my friend. I purchased all of those sandwiches- twice. Then I thought, if I made the extra time to make these myself, could I? I mean, I am sacrificing my family’s health for a few conveniences, so I think I should at least make their wellness a priority around here and replace the factory produced sandwiches with tastier and healthier ones from home.

Let’s see…


Could I recreate these sandwiches from scratch to freeze and have my children reheat in the microwave at school for their lunches and match the taste and quality of a fresh sandwich?


Could I also do it more cost effectively than Sam’s Club? In this case I am more concerned with giving my children a preservative-free, tasty, homemade, hot lunch than worrying over a few pennies but it is still an interesting thought.

Here’s what I did…


I purchased a package of soft hoagie rolls (yaddah, yaddah- I am Suzy homemaker but I draw the line at making my own hoagie rolls- you can find healthy ones!), sliced them open and cut them in half to a portion size my children would eat. This gave me 12 sandwiches total. Then I placed the rolls on a tray to freeze. What I noticed about the factory-made sandwiches is that everything seemed to be frozen separately then assembled into a sandwich.


Then I oven-fried some chicken thighs. The package touts all white meat chicken but I find that these have been so “injected” to retain moisture that I opted for the chicken thighs, which will retain their moisture and texture naturally after a quick reheat in the microwave better than a breast any day. I placed these on a tray to freeze as well.

Here is my Chicken Recipe…

Garlic Chicken
In a Zip-top bag or bowl, mix:
5 egg yolks
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed

In another Zip-top Bag, mix:
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp garlic salt

Preheat oven to 450°. When the oven has reached it’s proper temperature, place 4 T. butter and 4 T. olive oil in a large jelly-roll pan with sides and place in oven and heat until butter is melted and browned, the mixture should be bubbling, do not burn! Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into the bread crumb bag and shake until each piece is coated well. Remove hot dish of oil/butter mixture and place chicken in a single layer into the dish, it will be tight. Bake for 9 minutes and turn chicken over then bake another 9 minutes. This will come out juicy, crispy and tender! Makes 12 pieces.


Once the chicken and bread were frozen, about one hour later, I assembled the sandwiches being sure to add a yummy slice of cheese to each sandwich since my kids love cheese! Each sandwich was then wrapped in wax paper and secured with a small piece of masking tape and placed in a zip top freezer bag and placed in the freezer until my kids are ready to pack their lunches.


COST COMPARISON: Sam’s Club- 22.5 cents per ounce. Robin Sue 22.6 cents per ounce. The same.

Note- Healthier foods do not have to cost more than convenience foods. The only cost may be a bit more time in the kitchen! I thought my cost would be more than Sam’s and was pleased to see that I matched their price per ounce and that my food was not filled with a long list of preservatives.


TASTE COMPARISON: Robin Sue wins in this category. This was a delicious sandwich. To reheat, I place it wrapped in the microwave and heated it for 30 seconds on high, then removed it from the wrapper and heated it for another 30 seconds. Microwave times may vary. Oh and you know what? It is not being reheated in a cellophane wrapper which I find scary.

TIME COMPARISON: Sam’s Club’s sandwiches of course are very convenient to purchase while mine took some prep, bake, and freezing time. I did do this in bits as I wrote and picked up the house so it did not feel too labor intensive, but if my time were limited this would be a problem.

Final Thoughts:
In doing this little experiment, it brought to the forefront of my mind how stores offer so many conveniences and how easy it has become to pop these things in our grocery carts. Like most of you, I work and found it a blessing to be able to purchase goods from Costco and Sam’s Club to make my life easier. I know I am sacrificing not only taste, but the wellness of my family in that most of these convenience foods are filled with preservatives and fillers such as salt and sugar. Do I really want that? I struggle with the balance of convenience versus health. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I prevail. What I do know is that my Homemade Frozen Chicken Sandwiches are way better than the factory version and if I get up a little earlier or turn off the television, I can offer my family healthier dishes at a fair price- my time.

How do you find balance between convenience and health?

Need more in your freezer?
Cheeseburgers
Lasagna Purses

PS- I updated my Blogs of the Month page. Have a look.

25 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

    If you brine chicken breasts they stay tender and juicy.

  2. Robin Sue
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Anon- Yup that would work very nicely. One extra step but an easy one at best. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Big Dude
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    Great idea Robin Sue. The think the other key balance issue, which you mentioned, is taste. I fear that in a few more generations there may not be enough people around to know what really good food taste like and convience/fast food seems to be driving it. The good cooking techniques and great family recipes are not being passed on like they used to be.

  4. oneordinaryday
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

    I love that you did this and then told us about it. I made oven "fried" chicken just a couple days ago w/ the hopes of satisfying my little carnivore, but he didn't like them a bit. Jim and a friend ended up eating all of them and Sam nibbled one and put it down. I was totally bummed, because it really is so much better than frying. Your kids liked the sandwiches?

  5. Mrsblocko
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

    This is awesome. I am bookmarking this for next year when my daughter is in 1st grade!

  6. Kris
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    This looks yummy! My kids don't have access to a microwave at school but they'd be good to have in the freezer for busy nights where we are rushed to eat. And for my husband to take to work. He likes something hot for lunch. Thanks, I'll have to give these a try next time I grocery shop!

    And to answer your question: I am a stay at home Mom but I will say that from the time that the boys get home until bed time is often times hectic even thought I am home during the day. I have started cooking dinner while they are at school to help make sure we have something decent to eat. I have also started using my crock pot more so if I am out all day there is still something ready for dinner.

  7. Natasha @ Saved by the Egg Timer
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Permalink

    Love it, this is so me.
    Do not compromise health, ingredients, cost or taste…even though I do sometimes too 😉

  8. Mindy
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    I've been doing more and more of this lately as I've moved away from frozen convenience foods. I've found that spending an extra 10 minutes to cook extra of something that I'm already cooking (like pancakes or a second batch of enchiladas) can save time later. I can freeze these into individual or family portions and have my own "freezer dinner." I freeze the pancakes on a cookie sheet so that they don't stick together in the bag. For those, all it takes is 30-45 seconds in the microwave in the morning, and my daughter has homemade pancakes (and I don't have to get up 30 minutes early to make them)!

  9. Ingrid
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

    I have weirdo kids. They do not like convenience foods. Cereal? They don't eat it. Mac & cheese from the blue box? They don't eat it. PB & J? They don't it. Frozen pizza? They prefer not to eat but I force them to. lol, I gotta have something for them to eat when I'm not there. Sandwiches? Again, they prefer not too but will when I tell them it's that or go hungry. I EVEN buy them fresh bread & Boarshead cold cuts! Your homemade chicken sandwiches would be gobbled right up by those picky pains!!
    ~ingrid

  10. the country cook
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:54 PM | Permalink

    Excellent experiment! We only rarely get those types of convenience items. Instead, I make large batches of soup to freeze in individual portions, or I make a bunch of make-ahead meatballs (recipe on my blog) that we keep in a ziplock in the freezer. Those are quick to reheat and toss in some spaghetti sauce. When we have kids, I'm sure that I'll need even more convenience ideas, but right now that covers us for "emergency meals". 🙂 – http://www.delightfulcountrycookin.com

  11. A Year on the Grill
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    Hey, thanks for the shout out… Honored to be on your blogs of the month page!

    I'll be the yaddah yaddah… Baking your own hoagie rolls are very easy, but I would be just competitive enough to want to beat the Sam's Club price. Much cheaper to make your own. I do a "moomie bun" recipe, mixed and first proof in the bread machine, takes less than 5 minutes. Forming the rolls, final proof, baking… Hands on, another 5 minutes. 6 rolls less than $1.

    As to the balance, I am old, retired empty nester. So convenience is not as big an issue for me. But roughage is. So, a piece of fruit every morning, and for a snack. Always a vegetable dish. 3 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

    Also… I am of the opinion that if I can't pronounce it, I don't eat it. So no prepackaged processed foods (as much as possible) with unpronounceable ingredients. That means lots of cooking instead of microwaving. That also adds "hidden" vegetables (onions, peppers, etc) which do not show up on the servings of vegetables count per day.

    But again, I have more time than hard working Moms.

  12. Robin Sue
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    Big Dude- I agree that we are not passing on great recipes to the next generation. Every day I strive to do better!

    Oneordinaryday- Michelle, yes my children did like the sandwiches and had no problem with reheating them, even little one who is only 8 did just fine. They said to make them more often and to make different flavors, so I will be developing other reheat homemade sandwiches!

    Kris- When I was a SAHM I found it hard to cut out time to cook, I did it early in the morning or during nap time! OR even late at night! Me and other SAHM would have a girl's night in and cook meals together kind of like Dream Dinners does. So much fun!

    Mindy- Great tips on the pancakes. I have done this with French Toast and it works great!

    Ingrid- Your kids are too funny. At least they like the healthy choices! Try the sandwiches, hopefully they like them!

    The country Cook- Grea tips on the soup. I saw a few weeks ago another blogger freezing the soup in cupcake tins and once frozen popping them in ziptop bags to freeze, perfect for her kids!

    A Year on the Grill- Yaddah yaddah, you make those good homemade rolls, I'll be right over!
    Roughage- too funny! Kids need it too to offset all that mac and cheese they eat. I will have to start making more homemade bread as the cost of food gives me a heart attack everytime I get to the checkout counter.

  13. tamilyn
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    I struggle with this all the time. Our work schedules just changed and I am trying to come up with a solution. Hence a HUGE grocery shopping trip today and a weekend of batch cooking and freezing going on in the Butter household going on now 🙂

  14. Shelby
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    These look really yummy to me. One thing I like but won't buy often are the McDonalds Country Style Chicken Sandwich – the one the put a dab of butter on the bun with dill pickles….I could easily take your recipe here and just go with the pickles – YUM! Thanks for this article – I love it!

  15. Patsyk
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

    I'm definitely marking this one to make and keep in my freezer!

    I work as well, but do prefer to cook at home as many nights as possible. I have resorted to the convenience items, but we are not always thrilled with the quality or taste. Thanks, so much, for coming up with this fantastic alternative!

  16. Culinary School Guide
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    I love this idea for the sole reason that I am always looking for ways to cook in bulk in advance. So cool!

  17. snarflemarfle
    Posted January 25, 2011 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

    I am so going to make a batch of these! My kids don't have access to a microwave at school now (they're in pre-k and mother's day out) but this would be perfect for one of our busy nights or one of the nights I don't feel like cooking. Better go clean out some space in my freezer….

  18. Anonymous
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    I made these last week and put them on baby ciabatta rolls from BJ's. OMG they are delicious. After the oven fry, I dipped half the batch in buffalo sauce and left the others plan. DELICIOUS. I had two of these babies for lunch this week, 2 minutes in the office microwave and out came a yummy hot lunch. Thank you!

  19. Missy
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

    I made these yesterday and tried one this morning. YUM! I really enjoy them and they are so quick and easy. Thank you!

    (I also made your cheeseburgers – also good!)

    I love having stuff in the fridge to reheat and eat, I don't do it nearly enough. Homerun with these!!

  20. Robin Sue
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:53 PM | Permalink

    Anon- Oh my with Buffalo sauce- yummy!

    Missy- Thanks for coming back and letting us all know you liked these. I appreciate that!

  21. Anonymous
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

    This looks really jummy and I'm sure they taste great and the kids love them, but they aren't really healthy. Okay, perhaps it's a little bit healthier than precooked convenience food, but why use white bread and seasoning that often contains MSG and artificial flavours?

  22. Beth
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    Can't wait to try these sandwiches. I have cut out 90% of processed foods and sugary items that come into this house. My kids and hubby pack lunches everyday. There are times that I make 19 sammies a week. To keep warm for the one that has no way to use a microwave…I microwave it for her and put it in her thermos. I use mini rolls instead of bread or buns to make it an easier fit. Thanks so much~

  23. BigBearswife
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

    I love the idea of making and freezing your own food! Im putting this recipe on my todo list 🙂

  24. Posted June 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    Great Ideas. I wish I thought of doing that. Can’t wait to try it.
    D

  25. Chelsey
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this awesome recipe! I made this last night…followed everything as best I could and they turned out super good. I took one frozen to work today because I knew I would be there late and would need supper. So satisfying! I can’t wait to have another one!

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