Cooking for 8: Kid Snacks on a Budget

Cooking for 8.snacks

A facebook conversation today has inspired a new (hopefully weekly!) series on how I feed my larger than average, and hungry, family–without breaking the bank.

I have a few guidelines for the recipes and tips I will share over the next few weeks:

  1. I have a very basic kitchen. I have an old school electric range, and an oven that I have to remember to add 40 degrees to the temperature in the recipe. . .it is old, but it works–sort of.
  2. We have been blessed with no food sensitivities.
  3. I have some nice kitchen tools, such as a Kitchen aid Mixer and a nice food processor thanks to generous sponsors and my years as a blogger. For the purposes of this series, I will not be using them.
  4. I adore pretty produce from the farmer’s market and I like choosing choice cuts of meat from a good meat market. However, for the purposes of this series, my shopping is at Walmart. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that Walmart is fairly universally available. Also, let’s be honest, it is, hands down, the cheapest place to pick up groceries without having to clip coupons and hunt down sales. (and really, coupons on things like apples and bananas are like unicorns).
  5. My family enjoys protein-heavy meals. We could likely slash our food budget with one or two meatless meals, but I would have an unhappy and hungry crew. I will teach you how I feed my family a protein rich, satisfying, diet.

So, to start out with my first post, I’m going to share how we handle snacking in our family of eight.

Let’s face it. Kids are hungry creatures. They could eat all. Day. Long. if we let them. And, there are times when they do need a constant state of noshing–growth spurts being one of them. However, as every summertime parent can attest, sometimes kid just eat, and eat and eat–not necessarily out of hunger.

Dakotapam’s House Rules for Snacking:

  • I keep a produce drawer full of apples and oranges (also peaches and plums in season). These are “free” snacks for the kids. They don’t have to ask for them and can grab them and eat them. The sub-rule is a 15 minute wait in between a snack of fruit to allow their brains to catch up with their stomachs.
  • Often (especially in summer) thirst is masked as hunger. I encourage the kids to drink a lot of water during the day.
  • Boredom masks as hunger. And mindless snacking occurs when electronics are involved. So, with the exception of popcorn during a movie night, screens and snacks don’t mix.  Snacks, even a piece of fruit, is eaten at the kitchen table.
  • Kids love snacks like grapes, and berries, but too much can lead to <ahem> undesirable consequences. So I serve proper serving sizes of berries and grapes and teach the kids to savor and enjoy them.
  • On days when we are all home (like in summer) I schedule snacks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I try to add a protein to the snack to give it some “staying power”. I prep a lot of these on the weekend and keep them in my other produce drawer in the fridge. Some ideas are: hard boiled eggs,  string cheese (sometimes I buy big blocks of cheese and cut my own), peanut butter with apples or celery, homemade granola with yogurt, carrots and ranch dressing, ham rolled with cream cheese. Keep in mind that these snacks should be mindful, and, really, a mini-meal, to keep energy levels steady and stave off being “hangry”.

Remember that setting guidelines for snacking is not cruel, and you are not “depriving” your children. In reality, you are teaching them a healthy relationship to food and healthy eating habits.  It is important to me that my children recognize their food cues and that they eat when they are hungry, and sometimes for fun and celebration, but not out of boredom and not to attempt to boost their mood.

Now, as for junk food. I have teenagers, and I am a realist, so I keep it around. Because, let’s be real here, potato chips taste really good. I’ve started buying chips in snack sized bags. This seems more expensive, but, in reality, I spend a lot less on chips. Because, once again, the portion control cuts down on mindless snacking. The boys are allowed to grab a single bag of chips for a snack. If they are still “hungry”, they are welcome to have an apple or an orange. Most of the time they find that that one little bag each fills their need. Before this I was having the three of them devour a family size bag of chips in an evening. Nobody needs that many chips–not even “growing teens”.

I hope you have found these tips helpful and I’d love to hear how you help your kids snack healthy and on a budget. Feel free to use the comment section to continue the conversation.

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Written by Dakotapam
I'm a Lutheran pastor's wife and mom to six kids, including young adult sons down to 8-year old twin daughters. My life is sometimes normal, and sometimes crazy; but through it all, I know that I am blessed! Some people say that I have my hands full, I prefer to call it living life with both hands full, and I love it!