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My kids can eat all day long. That is not an exaggeration. Of course I don’t want them to be hungry. And of course I want them to have healthy food choices. But I can’t deny that discovering that five kids (10 and under) have devoured 3 pounds of apples, 5 pounds of tangerines, 1 bunch of bananas, and one Costco-sized package of string cheese in 24 HOURS can be a bit frustrating. (Yes, that's actually happened). I needed a plan to keep my homeschool kids' snacking under control, and fast.
If they ate that way every day, I would be looking at 21 pounds of apples and 35 pounds of tangerines a week! To quote a YouTube favorite, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”…or more accurately, “Ain’t nobody got money for that!”
Homeschooling is awesome, but the truth is that there are many things my kids have access to at home around the clock that they wouldn't have at school – and one of those things is a refrigerator. My kids like to snack between subjects. And during subjects. And after school. And when I get a phone call for work. And basically every time in between.
I wanted to cry when I saw the empty fruit basket that had been full-to-overflowing just one day prior. Especially considering that I had hoped to make those snacks last for two weeks!
At some point, snacking becomes gluttony and lack of self-control. The huge amount of snacks down the hatch also meant that no one was eating their dinner.
I decided to try to scale back on the snacks. No, we aren’t broke, but I definitely can't keep these kids rolling in their hearts' desire for food 24/7. Telling a four-year-old that he can have one tangerine, one apple, and one piece of string cheese per day for snacks was hard…mainly because I would find him in the kitchen eating his third tangerine, claiming he “forgot” how many he has already had. So rationing wasn’t a bad idea, but it needed a little extra follow-through.
So here is our new, easy plan for snacks:
Every morning at breakfast, while I’m reading out loud, the kids get to pick their snacks for the day. They get two paper bags – one for refrigerator snacks, and one for snacks that can stay on the countertop. The countertop is also a great place to place one cup per child for the day, so that they aren’t getting a new cup every time they get a drink (resulting in a sink full of barely-used cups at the end of the day). Sometimes lunch boxes are more fun than paper bags, but as of today 2 out of 4 lunch boxes are missing…so paper bags it is!
There are some really amazing crafty people who have made cool coaster trays like this one from Bee in Our Bonnet to keep the kid's cups organized on the counter.
This would be a perfect spot to keep snacks and drinks in one central location for the day! I love the idea of something cute like this, but alas, being as un-crafty as you can get it's not likely I'll have one anytime soon.
In our house, each child gets to choose two snacks, and they have a huge list to choose from – pieces of fruit, cheese, boiled eggs…or even some of my gluten-free THM Snacks. We try to eat whole foods, and we HAVE to eat gluten-free because of Celiac Disease, so we don’t have processed foods and snacks around the house anymore. Thursday is our baking day and my girls make snacks like these delicious granola bars from Biblical Homemaking (I skip them altogether because I am eating Trim Healthy Mama style), or muffins from Dashing Dish, or any number of healthy, gluten-free baked goods that they can add to the list.
Their two snacks go into the appropriate bags for the day, and that’s it! We set our snack times for 10:30 and 3:30, between meals, and this system is working great! If they are really hungry between breakfast and lunch, I don't mind if they eat both of their snacks at once…but that's all they get. Once they eat what they've chosen, they have to wait for the next meal.
When we fail to pick our snacks ahead of time, they are right back to eating non-stop, so we still have some work to do before they have good snacking habits. But we're all works in progress!
There is no guessing, no hemming and hawing, or lingering in front of the open refrigerator at all hours of the day. I feel like two snacks a day is reasonable, and no one has complained of being hungry yet!
Image Credit: Diego Cuervo