Why Sandwiches Are the Ideal Lazy Summer Dinner for Families

It feels like breaking the rules, which kids love, and the secret truth of the matter is that moms love it too.

Baguette sandwiched stacked.

Simply Recipes / Jesse Wong

There comes a time in the summer in Virginia when a body just can’t suffer one more degree of heat. Ours is one of those special places for which it’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity (but really, it’s also the heat), and the majority of the summer feels like wading through a sticky hot tub with mosquitos. The idea of turning on the oven is repellant. On those insufferable summer days, we sit directly under the AC vents, eating sandwiches for dinner and asking ourselves, “why don’t we do this more often?” and maybe also, “why don’t we live in Alaska?”

Sandwiches are the ideal lazy summer dinner because they keep it cool. Literally, the kitchen stays a few degrees cooler because we’re not heating anything, but also theoretically, things stay cooler because Sandwiches For Dinner telegraphs: Mom is in a fun mood. Something about having sandwiches for dinner just feels different. It feels like breaking the rules, which kids love, and the secret truth of the matter is that moms love it too.

A hand holding a slice of a picnic sandwich layered with meat, cheese and toppings.
Nick Evans

Our family consists of myself, my husband, and our two daughters—Lily, 10 and Hazel, 4. We’ve all got slightly different tastes and adventure thresholds, which is what makes sandwiches for dinner so perfect for us. Often this takes the form of build-your-own-subs. I start with toasted hoagie rolls, and then I clean out the deli drawer, spilling its contents—prosciutto, roast turkey, salami, provolone, Swiss—onto the counter along with jars of Duke’s mayo, Cento Hoagie Spread, banana peppers, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. I shred romaine lettuce, slice a tomato, and thinly slice onions. Then I ring the dinner bell. Easiest meal of the week, hands down.

My husband and I load up our sandwiches bursting with assorted meats and pickled peppers, maybe a spread or two, while Lily and Hazel build sandwiches to their own specs—plenty of mayo for Lily, extra tomatoes for Hazel. They eat them happily because they made these sandwiches for themselves, and that’s a win for everyone.

Another huge benefit of Sandwiches for Dinner is portability. With two kids and all their activities, summer weekdays can feel as hectic as the winter, with multiple camp drop-offs and pick-ups, playdates, and a rigorous schedule of going to the pool. I’ve learned, from several epic failures, that it’s important to be well provisioned at the pool, snack bar notwithstanding. So on pool days, I make sandwiches in the morning, wrapping them in wax paper, where they await, quietly getting better. These are sturdier sandwiches—your muffulettas, your pans bagnat, crusty bread stuffed with olive spreads, meats, and cheeses that don’t mind a little marinade—sandwiches that keep everyone reasonably well fed for a few more hours of pool time.

5 of Our Favorite Summer Dinner Sandwiches