Kid Snacks & Lunch system! Ideas, hacks, tips, & how we do it! (…And not go broke over snacks)

The other day on Instagram I gave you a glimpse of our snack drawer, and briefly mentioned our lunch system, not thinking much about it. 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. I grabbed my camera on the spot, and did a thorough video that covers AAAAALLLLLLL your questions! We even cover what to do when dairy-free or gluten-free snacks are needed!

Be sure to subscribe to my channel, I post live Q&A videos every Tuesday and uploaded videos every Thursday. If you aren't subscribed, you're missing out on loads of fun!

Then watch the video on YouTube here, or click and watch below:

There you go! Not too crazy, right?

If you feel like you are spending all your grocery money on snacks and lunches, try a few of these tips and I have no doubt they will cut down on the bill DRASTICALLY. Here is more info, and products I said I'd link in the video:


  • I forgot to mention this in the video, but we use bathroom-sized Dixie cups for portioning out crackers and bulk snack items to eat at home.
  • Cereal containers: Keeps cereal fresher longer, keeps them stored nicely in your pantry, and helps kids pour without spilling!
  • Food thermos: I can't find those Contigo ones, but this is a close second I found on Amazon.
  • Condiment cups: I bought a GINORMOUS pack of these at Costco (basically a lifetime supply) but you can buy them in the paper goods aisle of almost any grocery store, or on Amazon here.
  • Lunch bag: I like having loads of extras on-hand, and they don't have to cost a lot! Walmart and Target have good options, as well as Amazon. Look at this cute one I found for less than $10!
  • Costco plastic cutlery is THE BEST!
  • Reminder to sign up for and use Ebates ANY TIME you shop online so you get cash back for your purchases!!
  • See my FOOD playlist for loads of additional shopping, food, and cooking tips!

Now, let's summarize what we covered in the video:

How we do kid snacks:

  • Can't snack within 30-45 minutes of a meal (depending upon age)
  • If it's in a wrapper, it's for lunch – NOT at home!
  • They must start with the fridge drawer FIRST, then move to the pantry.
  • We often have the same snacks for lunches, but buy them in bulk (instead of individually packed packages) to eat at home.

How we do lunches:

  • Our kids pack school lunch 4 days per week, and get hot lunch one day per week (of their choice).
  • 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 2 items from the fridge/freezer, and one sandwich or entree.
  • Water bottle with lunch, juice is only for road trips and soccer/sport snacks.

How we do meals:

  • We only serve them up an amount we KNOW they can eat.
  • We put one bit 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, which is sometimes as simple as a single Oreo or a few jelly beans. We don't go crazy with dessert.
  • If they choose not to eat everything on their plate that is just fine, they just don't get dessert. They also don't get snacks before bed. If they are hungry before bed, we will re-heat 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.
  • Again, no snacks within 30-45 minutes of a meal, to ensure they are nice and hungry.
  • We do hot breakfast, no cereal (since they are hungry 30 seconds after eating cereal!).

There you go!

How do you do lunch and snacks? 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!!

Check out

Have you checked out yet? Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, nutritious and budget-friendly meals for your family without slaving away in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join our Shelf Cooking Community today!


  1. AvatarAshley Moulton says

    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?

  2. AvatarJennifer Cave says

    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.

  3. AvatarShannon says

    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?

  4. AvatarRian Jacobson says

    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.

  5. AvatarSamantha says

    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!

  6. AvatarKristen says

    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!!

  7. AvatarKatee says

    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.

  8. AvatarMegan says

    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!

  9. AvatarDebbie Bingham says

    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!

  10. AvatarDanae says

    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!

  11. AvatarKarina says

    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.

  12. Avatar'NightMar says

    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?

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      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!

  13. AvatarEdna Fortner says

    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!

  14. AvatarMartha Estrada says

    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.

  15. AvatarJulia kruger says

    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.

  16. AvatarLaura Mainiero says

    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!

  17. AvatarBrooke says

    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.

    • AvatarJordan Page says

      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! 🙂

Leave a Reply

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