When you’ve got little kids, snack time is a way of life. It seems like someone is always hungry or begging for a snack, which can mean countless trips for mom to the pantry or fridge each week. One of my favorite ways to streamline my life in the kitchen is to make ready-to-eat snack bags, all prepped and easily accessible for little hands.
Having snack bags is like meal planning for snacks. You don’t necessarily need to make a strict plan, but you do need to think ahead to have treats on hand. After that, it’s easy as pie. There’s really no science to it — just pick out snacks your kids will like that can be stored in the pantry and be eaten with little to no supervision from mom …
… then divide up the snacks into little baggies …
… put them into one large container …
… and put them in the kitchen where your kids can reach to help themselves. I keep them in the pantry where my 4-year-old can easily reach using a stool, but high enough so that my twin toddlers can’t get into them and make mischief.
You can also assemble bags for items that need to be refrigerated, like cut fruit and veggie sticks, but they lose their freshness once cut so I prefer to prepare them right before we eat them. You can, however, put a little water in with the produce to keep it crisp, or toss apple slices in a bit of lemon juice to keep them from going brown. You can also fill little containers with applesauce or dip to be eaten alone or with the pantry snacks. For my younger children I leave the sticky foods to me, but older kids should have no problem getting their own fridge snacks. (To see more recipes and snack ideas, visit my recipe page!).
I like to assemble my snack bags right after our weekly grocery trip. It’s the perfect time, since I’m already putting away groceries and will have to find a place for the snacks anyway. This way it’s not a major project to put them together — just a natural part of our weekly routine that requires only a few extra minutes up front but will save me lots of time throughout the week and month.
If you’re looking at this and thinking it’s still too much extra work, keep reading. There are more reasons to do this than just for the sake of convenience. Here are my top seven reasons that making ready-to-eat snack bags is a good idea for your family.
Snack bags help kids be more independent. I was first motivated to make these snack bags while I was pregnant with my twins. Normally, snack time for my then-2-year-old would mean a simple walk to the kitchen to put some crackers or grapes in a bowl. But toward the end of my pregnancy even standing up was a physical struggle — forget about walking across the room. So having ready-made treats easily available was a must. We quickly found that my son loved the independence that grabbing his own snacks afforded, and for me, I just love that it’s one less thing I have to do for him. And when you teach kids to take care of themselves, everybody wins.
Snack bags empower kids to make their own food choices. Having a sense of control over food is an important part of the food puzzle for young children — and all of us. While the act of getting their own snack fosters independence, the ability to choose between a number of options empowers children to take an active role in what they put into their bodies. Allowing kids the freedom to make their own food choices is one of the biggest things parents can do to help their children have a healthy, positive relationship with food.
Snack bags allow for freedom and boundaries. Just because your kids can easily reach the snacks doesn’t mean they should get free rein. It’s important to have rules about snack time, like when it’s OK to snack and how much we eat at a time. Without these crucial boundaries, children would happily gorge themselves on snacks and be too full to eat a real meal at lunch or dinner time, setting the stage for a major battle and giving them control over meal time rather than the parents. In my family, our rule is that snacks are for snack time (which is mid-morning for my son while my babies nap and mid-afternoon for all of us), not all day long, and you only get one bag at a time. This way my son can still choose what he eats, but the time-of-day rule keeps him from constantly whining for snacks and the pre-determined portion keeps him from getting too full to eat his next meal.
Snack bags make it easy to snack healthy. Because the treats are chosen by mom (with hopefully some input from the kids), you can ensure that your kids are still eating healthy food even when they’re snacking. While my selections this time aren’t exclusively whole foods or plant-based, they’re still foods I feel good about giving to my kids — and they pair perfectly with healthier, more nutrient-dense snacks, like hummus, applesauce, and natural peanut butter or apple butter.
Snack bags make it easy to practice portion control. Have you ever been snacking on crackers or chips from the box or bag when suddenly you notice you’ve eaten the whole thing and didn’t even realize it? That’s the problem with not doling out a portion: You essentially have a bottomless snack bowl. Mini snack bags are perfect for holding kid-sized portions and even mom-sized portions. Putting a small handful of raisins in a sandwich bag can make the snack seem puny, but in a smaller bag it looks just right — and it is just right for tiny tummies.
Snack bags are a huge time saver. It may take a few minutes up front to assemble the bags, but once they’re done they’re done. No more in and out of the kitchen to feed hungry kids all day. Plus, it’s easy to use them for other purposes, like school lunches and any time you’re on the go. Speaking of which …
Snack bags are perfect for being on the go. Whenever I need to take the kids on an errand, I always grab a snack bag or two — especially if we’re encroaching on meal time. Pretzels and crackers keep my babies quiet and entertained and keep all the kids from getting hungry or letting their blood sugar drop, which goes a long way in preventing tantrums and meltdowns at the store. In fact, only one of my twins has ever had a meltdown in a public place in her life and my son hasn’t had them in years. This is one way I ensure a peaceful outing, no matter where we go.