Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | August 29, 2012

Solving the Curse of the Soggy Sandwich

This post is part of my “Solutions to Sensory Sensitivities” series*. Being autistic, I’m extremely sensitive to a number of things that many people don’t even notice. But I’ve learned a number of tricks that help me deal with the day-to-day insanity of sensory inputs. In this series, I aim to share some of the little things I do to help keep my sensory system happy, healthy, and functioning, so that I can pay attention to other, more interesting and important things. In this case, though, I have a feeling this will be applicable for more than just autistic people. The Sensitivity: texture of the bread in my packed sandwich for lunch. The Simple solution: read on.

Yesterday’s “back to school” post got me thinking. I grew up in a situation where after preschool, my mother refused to make my lunch for me. I lived off of little “lunch tickets” for a little while, but due to the extreme nastiness of the school lunches, I very quickly learned to make my own. One of my biggest challenges, however, was one that people face all the time in making a lunch: the soggy sandwich.

Sandwiches are a packed lunch staple. I am a fan of the peanut butter and jelly variety (SMOOTH Peanut Butter ONLY, or my sensory system gets really unhappy), and have eaten PB&J probably 80% of my lunches, ever. Ok, maybe more like 60%, if I include weekends. But still, it is my “go-to” lunch food, and I almost always eat it at least 4-5 times per week (even now, since I don’t go home for lunch, and I don’t like to buy prepared food – they always make it wrong, plus it’s expensive!) But as I mentioned, PB&J, and nearly every other kind of sandwich, made in the morning before you leave for the day, is subject to a curse: the curse of the soggy sandwich. The moisture in the sandwich creeps out during the 3-4 hours it’s sitting in the little box or baggie, and gets absorbed by the bread, rendering it squelchy, disintegrating, and all-around yucky. (To me, anyway – some people may prefer soggy sandwiches… if you do, then this trick is not for you.)

So after several years of suffering the soggy sandwich curse every day at lunch, and hating it, but not knowing what else I could eat for lunch so being trapped in the sandwich curse, I happened on a little idea. I knew that leaving a sandwich alone for hours made it soggy, and I noticed that toasting bread made it crispy, and took away the water. Thus I made a hypothesis: I assumed that the water would be added to the bread regardless. If I started with less water in the bread, I would end with less water in the bread. Thus, toasting the bread would remove some water from the system, and make it so the bread didn’t get as soggy by lunchtime. So I toasted my bread just a little bit… not enough to give it toaster-marks (the brown color it turns when actually toasted, and changes its taste – this is NOT desirable), but just enough to make it slightly crispy on the outside. Then I made my sandwich, and packed it away for consumption at lunch. And that day, for the time ever, I did not have a soggy sandwich. I didn’t have a crispy sandwich either. I had a sandwich with bread of the perfect consistency for me – similar to when it comes directly out of the package and you pack it in the morning. For someone like me, who has extreme texture sensitivity when it comes to food, this was a MAJOR break-through in being able to eat lunch without making my body and brain completely unhappy for the rest of the day. As I mentioned in the back to school post, having a lunch you like is so important – if it’s not something you’re comfortable with, it can throw the rest of your day off. Plus, if you, like me, were/are stuck in the hell that is a cafeteria when eating, anything that’s less of a sensory assault is a good thing

And so, I present for your edification, the Cure to the Curse of the Soggy Sandwich: in the morning, before you make the sandwich, toast the bread on the lowest setting your toaster has**. Not enough to make it start to alter the taste, but just a little – to make it into slightly dehydrated bread – it’ll feel slightly crispy, but not turn brown. Then prepare and pack the sandwich as you would normally do. Open 3-4 hours later, and enjoy a non-soggy sandwich.

While I’m sure other people came up with this before, I do want to say that I discovered this little trick all on my own, and have been using it successfully for nearly 15 years. Works like a charm. I used to have it down to such a science, that I could make my entire lunch, toasting included, in 3.5 minutes. How’s that for independent living and self-help skills? Or as I call it “valuable life skills so that you don’t miss the bus…”

Happy sandwich making and lunch-packing everyone!


*Others in this series include:
Socks and Autism
Nail Scissors
and Autism

**Growing up, I used the lowest setting on my toaster. My current toaster, however, is a little less powerful, and I have to use setting #2 out of 5 to get the desired effect. Play around to match your bread type, selected ingredients, toaster, and length of time between packing and eating. All of these variables help determine the amount of sogginess or not that the bread picks up. This trick also works with a toaster oven, but you do have to watch it and make sure not to over-toast.


  1. Having read the other thread earlier, the instant I saw the title of this I knew exactly what the subject would be.
    My sandwiches never had jelly (I didn’t like it) but I think the horrible leeching of PB into the bread was one of the reasons I was somewhat underweight.
    I couldn’t express my issue with it to the woman who made my sandwiches every morning (we had a housekeeper), and my mother was never a fount of sympathy. Most days I just had juice for lunch as a result.

    • Indeed. 🙂 I always made my OWN sandwich, because my mother liked to put about 4 times as much peanut butter and 4x as much jelly – WAY too much condiment:bread ratio… So I quickly learned to fix my own. Thanks for the comment!

      • Back then I could barely get out of bed without the house keeper dressing me/dragging me down to breakfast. Making my own sandwich was never going to happen even if I was encouraged to have a vocal opinion about it – so I just didn’t eat them. Since I didn’t eat at the dinner table, I did the same thing with most meats.
        I wonder how often parents of autistic kids think they’ve “won” an argument when really their child is doing something like under eat rather than deal with the sensory offense. Some people don’t understand that, no, it really /is/ That Bad.

  2. Personally, I always spread peanut butter on both sides of the bread and put the jelly/honey in the middle to avoid sogginess, since the peanut oil from the nut butter prevented the jelly’s wetness from soaking the bread.

    • that’s too much PB for me… but if it works for you… 🙂

  3. My mother used to do the same thing to my sandwiches when I was a kid, 30+ years ago! I always thought my mom was super smart for coming up with this idea, and only recently when my son was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder both she and I discovered we also have a bunch of sensory issues, so in retrospect I am grateful that she could relate with me in that sense, that she understood. This post brought back good memories, thanks!

    • 😀 That’s awesome. Yes, your mom is super smart. 😛 Thanks for the comment! Sensory issues definitely play a major part in my life, but at this point, I’ve managed to find ways to keep most of them under control. Never underestimate the power of trial and error…

  4. Really interesting post and a good solution. My son hates both sogginess and squashiness in his sandwiches, he usually has ham and cheese. We solved it by giving him wrap bread which seems to be unsquashable and not get too soggy, and he likes it better than regular bread so it works well for him 🙂

  5. Probably the most helpful post I’ll read today. Thank you!

    • Fantastic! So glad to have helped you out. 🙂 It really is a great little trick.

  6. You know, I get so many reactions from other people about my son’s pickiness. But, the funny thing is, I share many of his tendencies. And I get really icked out by soggy bread. People always seem to be committing this injustice with food. Placing pickles beside sandwiches in take out, shoving bread into one’s lasagna, etc. (It’s a vast conspiracy, I tell you. lol) Kudos to you, E, for a great tip! I’ll try this with the little man — and myself.

    • Ya know, soggy bread is just so nasty. I have a visceral hate of pickles. And the thing is, I think there’s a chance I’d like them, if I didn’t associate them so heavily with soggy bread… Let me know how the little man likes it 🙂 (and yourself, as well)

  7. Thanks for sharing

  8. I have always spread a thin layer of margarine on the jelly side of my pb&j sandwich. It does a pretty decent job of preventing soggy bread later. My husband calls me crazy… but then he’s not a sandwich eater. Anything that works…!

    • Yeah, definitely – anything that works. Though I think the margarine wouldn’t be what I want to eat, but if it works for you… 🙂

  9. Spreading peanut butter on both slices with jelly in the middle is another way to combat soggy sandwiches.

    • That’s my solution! I hate soggy sandwiches, too, and I’m very proud of inventing the peanut-butter-on-both-sides solution!

  10. B U T T E R

    My mom had a serious problem with soggy so i never suffered from that. we had many battles but i was soggy free. Yeh Mom

  11. I always did the same thing, all throughout school! Never toasted enough to actually be browned, just the beginnings of cripsy

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