The Best Snack and Lunch Systems for Families – Come See How We Do It!

Baby and Kids, Food, Video

Change up how you do lunch and snacks for kids in your house and watch your stress melt away! Let your kids take over packing their snacks and lunches and save money while doing it. Winning!

Jordan showing her refrigerated door with snacks for kids, from Fun Cheap or Free

If you've been around for long, then you know we have 8 kids… totally happy to snack all. day. long. It got bad enough a few years ago that I realized I had to do something to make them more independent when it came to lunches and snacks. Talk about a life changer!

I've given you glimpses of how we do snacks for kids on Instagram and mentioned our lunch system, not realizing that you were struggling with the same issues. BOY OH BOY did you want to know more! I became flooded with questions about how we do snacks, how we save money with snacks, how we don't get eaten out of house and home, where we buy our snacks, whether or not bringing school lunch from home is actually cheaper, and on and on and on.

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I've recently filmed an updated version of our lunch system on YouTube; check it out here: 

Be sure to subscribe to my channel, I upload new videos every Thursday. If you aren't subscribed, you're missing out on loads of fun! Here's my original viral snack system video from a couple years ago with even MORE great lunch and snack ideas for kids:

There you go! Not too crazy, right? Now let's go over our lunch and snack storage ideas!


Refrigerator drawer with snacks for kids, including fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs, from Fun Cheap or Free

If you feel like you're spending all your grocery budget on lunches and snacks for kids, try a few of these tips! I have no doubt they will cut down on the bill DRASTICALLY.


When we started sticking to these “rules,” we saw some major changes in not only the life of our snacks for kids, but also their eating habits!

  • They can't snack within 45 minutes of a meal. The older kids know when their snacking windows are and will check the clock before grabbing anything. I'll help out the younger kids by reminding them when their snacking window is coming to a close so they can grab something if they don't think they can make it until the next meal.
  • They must start with the fridge drawer FIRST, then move to the pantry (more on this below).
  • If it's in a wrapper, it's NOT to be eaten at home!

It may take a little work for your kids to understand these rules, but it's so nice once they have it down! Have consequences for not following the rules and they'll learn them much quicker, I promise!


We're lucky enough to have 2 refrigerated drawers in our bar and they are magical. However, if you don't have anything like that, don't fret! Choose a place in your refrigerator where kids know to look for their mom-approved snacks. It could be a whole drawer or a small tote on the shelf. I've also heard of people using mini-fridges, which could be the perfect setup if you have one and aren't using it!

As I said before, kids must get a snack out of the refrigerated drawer before moving on to the pantry. This is for 2 reasons: these foods are usually healthier because they're fruits, veggies, yogurt, eggs, etc. AND these foods will spoil much quicker! We don't believe in food waste since that's just throwing your money in the trash (literally!), so we make sure to eat these up every week.


Snack and cereal containers lined up in the pantry from Fun Cheap or Free

I usually buy bulk items from Costco for my kids to eat at home, like cereal, crackers, or goldfish. I'll transfer them into cereal containers, which keeps them fresh longer. It's much cheaper this way! We'll use bathroom-size Dixie cups or kid-sized plastic cups for portioning them out to eat. These pantry items are the perfect snacks for kids after they've eaten some of the healthier foods from the fridge and need a little help to tide them over.


We have the perfect snack solutions for those little (or not-so-little) people in your life! There's no need for you to go crazy trying to come up with solutions to your snacking problems. Give these ideas a try!

Those should give you some fresh ideas if you're getting tired of feeding your snackers the same old thing day in and day out.


Pantry containers filled with snacks for kids, from Fun Cheap or Free

School lunches can break the bank, am I right?! Packing a lunch at home is usually so much cheaper than the kids eating the school lunch, especially if you have a lot of kids eating. Here are our “rules”:

  • They must pack a school lunch four days per week. They can choose one day a week to buy a hot lunch from school if they want.
  • When packing their lunch, they draw from our “take 2” (fruit/healthy) basket, “take 1” (cracker/chip/granola bar) basket, and “take 1” (treat/sweet) basket. They also get two items from the fridge/freezer, and one sandwich or entree.
  • They take a small, recyclable water bottle with lunch. Any juice we may have is only for road trips and soccer/sports snacks.

Sure, some schools have relatively cheap lunches, but it's best for kids to get in the habit of eating a home-packed lunch every day. If they grow up doing this, it's much less likely for them to expect to eat expensive lunches every day as an adult, which will save them loads of money in the future!


Jordan's hand pulling open a snack and lunch bin, from Fun Cheap or Free

Our kids decide what they're going to take to school for lunch the night before, which has been a game-changer, to say the least. They'll go through and pack anything from the pantry in their lunch boxes. Then they'll get any cold items together in the fridge so they can easily grab them and go in the morning! Here are some items that we can't live without when it comes to lunch:

  • Food Thermos – These are perfect for when my kids want to take warm leftovers, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, oatmeal, or anything else warm for lunch. Preheat the thermos by putting boiling water in for 10 minutes. Pour the water out, dry it, add the heated food, and it'll be warm until lunch!
  • Plastic Cutlery – Don't forget to send a fork or spoon if they'll need one! We get good quality disposable ones. Then we wash and reuse them to get the most bang for our buck.
  • Condiment Cups – These are perfect for dipping sauces or peanut butter. If you didn't already guess, we wash and reuse these a few times!
  • Lunch Box – A good quality one doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg!
  • Ice Pack – You can use a few different things to keep their food cold until lunch. Obviously, a regular ice pack is easy to use and they're pretty cheap. You can also wet a cheap sponge, throw it in a baggie, and freeze it. It's not a huge deal if they throw it away on accident. You can also freeze a water bottle! It'll thaw by lunch and keeps everything cold.
  • Freezer Sandwiches – You've heard of the frozen Uncrustables sandwiches, right? Well did you know that you can make your own freezer PB&J sandwiches that are healthier and way cheaper?! We'll premake a few for the week or month and throw them in the freezer. Pull them out the morning of and they'll thaw by lunch. We'll also do this with meat and cheese sandwiches to keep a little variety going.
  • DIY Lunchables – Save some major moolah when you make your own homemade lunchables! The kids love them, and you'll love how much money you're able to save.

My kids are allowed to take prepackaged foods in their lunchbox, but I'll often pack up smaller portions of dried fruit, nuts, chips, and crackers in snack baggies for the week to save money.


Since we're on the subject of food, we might as well go over how we do meals in the Page Household. Here are those “rules”:

  • We only serve kids up an amount we KNOW they can eat.
  • We put one bite of everything on their plate, even if we know they don't like it or will fight us on it.
  • They have to take one “polite bite” of everything on their plate but otherwise can choose if they want to eat it all or not.
  • If they eat everything on their plate, they qualify for desert. We don't go crazy with dessert, so this is sometimes as simple as a single Oreo or a few jelly beans.
  • If they choose not to eat everything on their plate. that is fine. However, they don't get seconds of anything else and they don't get dessert. They also don't get snacks before bed. If they are hungry before bed, we will reheat their plate for them, or they can wait until breakfast.
  • Water is served with meals. Milk and juice can come AFTER they've eaten a good meal (usually, this is only allowed after breakfast or lunch).
  • Again, no snacks within 30-45 minutes of a meal, to ensure they are nice and hungry.
  • We do hot breakfasts only. Since they're hungry basically 30 seconds after eating cereal, we save that for a snack.

There you go! Pretty simple, right?

How do you do lunch and snacks for kids? Do you use any of these same methods? Hopefully this was helpful in some way or another! Now, get out there and create a good lunch system for yourself and enjoy saving SO. MUCH. MONEY!! Share your lunch system with us in the comments below!

Image with text that reads "save your sanity with a snack & lunch system & storage ideas" from Fun Cheap or Free

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Jordan Page signature from Fun Cheap or Free


  1. Amber

    What are your hot breakfasts?

  2. Ashley Moulton

    What make/model of vacuum is that in the video? I am looking to buy a cordless vacuum like that and am weighing my options. Have you liked it? Any major pros or cons?

  3. Ashley

    Your pantry is so satisfying to look at. I love organization! haha!

  4. Jennifer Cave

    We have 6 children; ages 18-8 years old. We have instilled the same core snack and lunch techniques you use with your children. You are absolutely right about teaching your kids to eat healthy foods when younger. They will crave fruits and healthier snacks when older rather than empty calories.
    I received the sweetest text message from my college age daughter her first semester of school. She thanked her father and I for feeding her so well while living at home and for all the fresh produce we always have in the kitchen. Childhood habits carry on throughout their lives.

  5. Shannon

    Sorry if this has been covered before but I am new to funcheaporfree. What in the world are those refrigerated drawers and where do I get some?

  6. Rian Jacobson

    We use a similar system, but made some recent changes after we pulled the kids out of public school and home for online free public education. My house is NOT nearly as big as yours and I don’t have the fancy drawer. Here’s what we do.

    1: Fridge
    Small fridge bins with Label Once rewritable lables on the bottom shelf. They are typically divided like this: fruit, drinks (orgain protein drinks or occasional honest juice), and a few snack bins with things like applesauce, yogurt, cheese sticks or slices, carrots, hard boiled eggs, hummus. Sometimes I will also add small sandwiches in the fridge in wax paper, bags, etc.

    2: CONVENIENCE: I’m pregnant so started forgoing some money saving things in favor of convenience such as raisin boxes or cranberry boxes and pre packaged granola bars. To each their own on this one! You can pre package them on the weekend in honeybee cloths, silicone cups, tupperware, or disposable bags or containers. We still usually use rewash able and reusable containers and cutlery, but kids have their own cheap cutlery.

    3:ACCESIBILITY: I have a quart size glass container for kids milk, so they don’t spill larger containers. I moved the beverages they would need to the lower shelf in fridges and taught them some basics like sandwich making and toast and cereal. There are sterility foldable stools for microwave access, sink, and higher fridge shelves.

    4: ORGANIZE: Use sock drawer organizers in the pantry for bars! We have multiple protein bars, fruit leathers, granola, nut bars, etc. Pregnant and nursing mama needs them too! I have small plastic organizer bins with chalkboard labels for snack categories such as TRAIL MIX AND NUTS, DRIED FRUIT, CRACKERS. IKEA slim containers for the cereals, and mason jars for premade snacks like steel cut oats in 4 oz jars or chia puddings.

    5: SWEETS AND JUNK: Cookies and sweet snacks are on the top shelf of pantry and OFF LIMITS. I keep organic lollipops and fruit snack there for special occasions like dentist appt or doctor or parties when they will be exposed to the artificially colored stuff. Ice cream in fridge is also an ask mom thing.

    6: PURCHASING: We purchase mostly organic from Costco, and bulk subscribe and save from Amazon. We are in Limbo with Whole foods… Produce is usually from whole foods and some favorite snacks also from Trader Joes. I don’t have a lot of room (a few feet at bottom of pantry) for back stock in the freezer or pantry so I have to be choosy about the stocking up. Many times I stock up on Annies from Amazon S&S, Honest, and other organic snacks from Amazon.

    6: RULES: We follow similar rules but just recently ( last week) started allowance, so we will be docking them for things like throwing away a half container of yogurt or barely eaten apple.

  7. Samantha

    May I ask your lipstick color and brand? On top of this being an amazing snack video – it was also an amazing makeup video. Girl you look gorgeous!

    • Christina

      I love your organization! Where did you get the wire baskets?

      • Fun Cheap or Free

        You can learn everything that you could ever want to know about the pantry HERE! 🙂

  8. Kristen

    Are your older children allowed to help themselves to snacks whenever they feel hungry (if its outside the no snack window before meals)?

    It looks like you have sandwiches in the fridge drawer– don’t those get soggy?

    Thank you for all the amazing tips!!

  9. Katee

    We just don’t do snacks…like at all. I found that after about the age of 3, snacking tended to inhibit their appetites in general AND they also began playing with their food more. If I happen to notice they’re eating more at regular meals due to a growth spurt, then I by all means let them have fresh fruits between meals, but that’s it. No system needed on that one. I was raised old-school and we rarely snacked between meals.

  10. Sarah

    Where are those great pantry baskets with the lunch food in them??

  11. Megan

    Thank you for all of your tips. I took notes. I rearranged a drawer. I have really young kids still, but this makes so much sense to me. Thank you, thank you!

  12. Debbie Bingham

    Hi there this is Nanny Deb from Nanny In the Kingdom ?
    I raised 5 boys and use some of my snack tricks while I nanny at Disneyland.
    Two of my favorites are…
    Instead of Dixie cups I use ice cream cones. The cake ones to put snakes in. Grapes and strawberries a bit of cereal really anything! When I feeling a bit fancy I put a littl whip cream on top of the strawberries.
    My kids favorite snack was going fishing . Prestzle sticks are the fishing rod. Peanut butter was the bait and well the fishe were to catch. Some times we added some mini M&Ms. it was fun, took a bit of time to eat, and they all still remember it and they are all grown up! Happy snacking!

  13. Danae

    Thanks for the ideas, my kids are all really young but I am getting to where I need to make school lunches and monitor snacks because I have 4 boys and man can they eat! I will do ‘homemade lunchables’ to break up the sandwiches. We do english muffins for the pizza crust, a little sauce in a condiment cup and shredded cheese and then whatever toppings you like. super easy!

  14. Karina

    This is such a great idea! Love the organization of it all looks so much cleaner and organized. How do you pay for snacks and have so much? What’s your tips on this? Was it like you said on the goldfish snacks. Buy when on sale more than 1? As much as I tend to agree with other people that snacks are not good for kiddos due to lack of nutrition. I also agree with you I love to snack and can’t help but purchasing it. So just limit them.

  15. 'NightMar

    i LOVE ALL These ideas. ok, so my question is what do you do when no one fesses up to eating the entire package of Oreos and putting the empty package (or maybe they leave the obligatory ONE COOKIE) back in the pantry? do you take the allowance from everyone? I have teenaged step kids. we have an issue with telling the truth… my husband says things like “pick your battles”… and “is a cookie really worth more than a relationship?” Grrrr! it makes me so mad! its not about the cookie! is the principle of eating healthy, being frugal, respecting authority, honesty etc. can anyone help a girl out here? and how do you monitor this? do you have an alarm system on the pantry door? combination lock? armed guards? or do you literally never step foot out of or take your eyes off the kitchen?

    • FunCheapOrFree

      That’s tricky. If it happens once in a blue moon, then yes, you pick your battles. But if it’s a regular issue, then do something about it! Stop buying the Oreos. Say “ok well since you guys can’t monitor yourselves and since no one is fessing up, we aren’t buying lunch treats like this for a month. Then we will try again next month and see how you do.” kind of a thing. Stand your ground!

  16. Edna Fortner

    I saw your other video on Utube about all your freezers. And wanted to share how you can organize your chest freezer, where things don’t get lost, because if the power goes out, it’s the place your food lasts the longest. And the easiest to keep cold with a generator or solar panels.
    Use those big plasticized cloth shopping bags with the cotton loop handles. The have squared bottoms to sit up, and you can get anywhere for a buck or two.
    Organize your food by type, like: hamburger, bacon/sausage/breakfast meats, cheeses/dairy, veggies, fruits, breads, prepared meals, etc.
    Put the heavier stuff on bottom, like meat. And more delicate things like bread on top.
    I can get 2 levels of these in mine, and I mark the handles with what is inside. You can have a little chart on top, so if some one else is getting stock from the freezer, they can find it easily.
    I don’t use it for day to day; I use it for back stock for my under fridge freezer in the kitchen, which also, deep freezes the stuff before it goes in kitchen freezer which makes it more efficient.
    And in an emergency, the chest freezer doesn’t let the cold fall out on your feet, like the uprite. And compare the electricity usage!

  17. Martha Estrada

    I love all your ideas. I like the idea of using dixi cups for snacks. I also love your refrigerated drawer, that is such a great idea.

  18. Lauren

    How did you get to be so smart in like… everything?? I love your posts, blogs, and videos!!

  19. Ashlee

    Great suggestions! This gives me an idea of what I can do with my growing family for the future.

  20. Julia kruger

    These are great suggestions and I love seeing your system! Thanks for sharing:) Just one comment; Cups with peanut butter for dipping apples, etc. are a huge stress for me. I have two kids with serious life-threatening peanut allergies, and even though they eat at a peanut free table, I have seen kids at our school scooping peanut butter out with their fingers and then going out to play on the same playground equipment as my kids. I hate that I have to be “that” mom, but please please think about how nut snacks and foods with nuts can be spread throughout the school. Peanut butter sandwiches are a lot better since they don’t get all over fingers.

  21. Laura Mainiero

    I found sooooo many helpful tips in this video and write up!! Thank you! Snacks are always a battle in my family! My 15 year old can eat me out of house and home between him and his friends and it’s usually the packaged snacks that are expensive! Than there’s my little one who’s 6. She asks for a snack every time she’s bored. ? This is great!!!! Thank you! lm a singlemom and your videos have helped a ton!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      I’m so glad to hear that and so happy that I could help! 🙂

  22. Brooke

    I’m loving all your tips! Not just these but I read the ones about food budget and freezer/fridge inventory, how to save at the grocery store, and finding good produce. Thank you for sharing these.

    We’re a small family with 2 kids (ages 2.5 and 11 months). These tips are still useful for their ages and will help continue to be as they get older. There’s a few things I’m needing to change in my 2.5 yr olds habits.

    • Jordan Page

      I’m so glad that my tips have been beneficial to you! Definitely start applying them while your kids are young and you’ll never look back! 🙂

  23. Emily D

    I love the idea of a self-serve snack station. At what age did you introduce it? My main question is the “no snacks 30-45 mins before or after a meal” – how do you reinforce that? My little guy is 22 months and a lot like your little Mac (very busy and constantly climbing on everything). I’m thinking I would have to lock the snack cupboard or put them up out of reach (somehow) 45 mins before each meal and unlock 45 mins after, and maybe that’s more work than it’s worth?

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      About 3 years old is when they are old enough to get a snack and understand when “snack time is closed,” but it depends upon the kid. We have a baby lock on our snack drawer and even our three-year-old has trouble opening it, so by default she ends up needing to ask us for help.


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