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!
If you've been around for long, then you know we have 8 kids… 6 of them being 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 grabbed my camera on the spot and created a thorough video covering AAAAALLLLLLL your questions! We even cover what to do when you need dairy-free or gluten-free snacks!
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! Then watch the video on YouTube here, or click and watch below to see how we do lunch and snacks for kids:
There you go! Not too crazy, right? Now let's go over our lunch and snack storage ideas!
HOW WE DO SNACKS FOR KIDS
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.
OUR SNACK RULES
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!
SNACK STORAGE IDEAS IN THE FRIDGE
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.
PANTRY SNACK STORAGE IDEAS
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.
OUR FAVORITE SNACKS FOR KIDS
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!
- 5 out-of-the-box after school snack platters
- Cheap and healthy snacks for kids
- Fun snack tray ideas using a muffin tin
- Healthy snack ideas for both adults and kids
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.
HOW WE DO LUNCHES
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!
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.
HOW WE DO MEALS
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!
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