“How long ’til dinner?”
“Honey, I’m starving. Is there anything quick we can grab before hopping in the car?”
These are all things I hear on a regular basis and I’m guessing you do as well if you are married and/or have children. If you’re single, you probably say some of these things in your own head (I know I did!) so this covers just about everybody. Disclaimer: my husband is more than capable of finding his own food but since I’m the one that does the shopping, if I’ve recently returned from a stock-up trip to Costco, this is a normal part of initial food conversations.
The return of summer means that only one of us is working right now (I coach during the school year so technically from September to June, we both work). That means more time to actually think about what we’re eating *wahoo!* but also more time thinking about what we’re eating *argh!* Do you catch my drift? When I worked full time outside of the home, I was limited to the food I packed from home for all of my daily snacks as well as lunch food (we didn’t and still don’t have the money to eat out often…plus that makes eating out a treat!). Now that I’m home all day, it’s a struggle to not graze the entire day PLUS eat meals. Yes, I am working on my self-control but I also figured that I could work on what was being grazed upon…
The Self-Serve Snack Drawer
While this is not a new idea by any means, I put my own spin on it and gave it a name (probably already in use by another mama…great minds, think alike, right?). Basically, I converted one of the crisper drawers in the fridge into Snack City. Since our preschool age daughter can now bring over a stool and access the lower parts of the fridge, I wanted to help her independence by creating an area that she can access whenever she wants. No more “can you get me a snack” or “what is there to eat” business. Grab the stool, open the fridge, and take a peek.
To facilitate healthy snacking, I spent some time this afternoon peeling and chopping carrots (yes, I know they come that way but I prefer the long sticks versus little nubs), washing and chopping other produce, and rearranging the fridge so the things I trust her to get herself – and hand out to her toddler brother – were all in one drawer.
Currently in the self-serve snack drawer
Not an exhaustive list of what will ever be available, this is what we currently have available for free range snacking. We do have other fruits/veggies/healthy snack type foods in our fridge but they either take time to prep/slice/etc and would do better being done at the time of snacking, are set aside for a meal in the monthly menu plan, are too expensive to be trusted with little hands willy-nilly (i.e. organic raspberries get doled out at meals or for dessert), or they just didn’t fit.
Apples, washed and cut and dipped in lemon juice to deter browning
Carrot sticks, peeled and chopped
Slices of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
Cherries, washed but not pitted (she can do that herself and he is good about asking for help)
Applesauce cups and yogurt cups (their silverware is in a lower drawer so they can get out their own spoons)
My children – nor my husband or I – are limited to these snacks. However, with things like carrots and peppers pre-chopped, it’s much easier to grab a handful of those crunchy veggies than it would be if I had to stop what I was doing and prep them to be eaten. We also have things like cashews and apple-juice-sweetened dried cranberries (SO much better than Craisins IMO and obviously WAY less sugar) in the cupboard.
Self-Serve Snack Drawer rules
For every piece of fruit, grab a veggie.
Only one non-produce item (yogurt, applesauce, or string cheese) at a time.
Fruits and veggies are unlimited (see first rule).
Share with your brother (ah, siblings).
I absolutely love that I am able to provide my family with quality, nutritious choices between meals and that I am off the hook for some of it. Putting in time one afternoon every so often is totally worth it when I see my preschooler giddily reaching in to grab something else delicious…it gives her the freedom and responsibility she so desperately wants and it gives me extra time to keep doing a puzzle with her brother. Or keep folding laundry. Or…you get it. :)