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I’m not going to lie. Making the switch to a real food and natural lifestyle does require more time. There are days when I miss the ability to open a bag of ready-made “food” for dinner. I don’t miss the feeling of processed food, just the convenience.
There are ways to reduce the amount of time spent in the real food kitchen. We’ve talked about many of these strategies in the Challenge and here on the blog (check out this post about prep time and this post about prepping with no time). One issue we haven’t talked much about is snack-time.
I’ve found that real food often requires less snacking because the body is filled with nourishing, substantial food versus empty calories. While our snack desire has been greatly reduced compared to our processed food days, I have two little kids with ravenous appetites. I desire to offer my family real food snacks without spending a ton of extra time in the kitchen and losing my sanity. I know many of you feel the exact same way.
After years of frustration, I’ve implemented three simple strategies to help nourish my family with real snacks and take care of time issues.
Simplify School Lunch Packing
Over the years, I’ve developed strategies that help me simplify packing my kids’ lunch. I created the Simplified School Lunch Kit to end the school lunch overwhelm and share all my simplifying strategies and lunch plans. It’s possible to simplify and even enjoy lunch packing!
Here’s what you’ll find in this kit:
- ready-to-use lunch plans
- a food prep guide
- my stress-free approach to planning and packing lunch
- nourishing recipes my kids love
- 20 fully-packed lunchbox printable cards to make building a school lunch super easy
How to Simplify Snack-Time and Create a Grab-n-Go Healthy Snack Bin
1. Create a Master Snack List:
Sit down with your kids and brainstorm a list of snacks. Anything goes on this list, so don’t feel like the selections should be limited to “healthy” food. Remember, most foods can be recreated at home or healthier store-bought options may exist. It’s important for kids to feel involved in this selection.
Instead of brainstorming new snack ideas every single day, which often results in real food burn-out or processed food, you can quickly reference this list each week and prepare in advance. The goal is to create an easy long-term reference list so snack planning can be quick and effortless. I keep my list in my Real Food Planning Challenge Workbook along with my master list of dinner and breakfast meals. These meals and snacks are rotated each month on my meal plan calendar.
2. Prioritize Buy vs. Make:
When it comes to providing my family with real food snacks, my goals are: simplicity and healthy choices. For years I struggled with finding the balance between these two goals until I realized one simple truth: I don’t have to do it all!
Many real food companies are stepping up and offering better store-bought foods. This means some foods can be purchased at the health food store (and even some conventional stores) to save time without sacrificing too much quality.
As I mentioned in the video, my kids love granola bars and crackers. Granola bars are relatively easy to make. A large batch of granola bars can be stored in the freezer which means I can prep once, eat twice (or four or five times). The verdict: I choose to make homemade granola bars.
Homemade crackers require a bit of patience and precision. I could make crackers, but I would much rather spend my time focusing on other responsibilities or enjoying my family.The verdict: I choose to buy a healthier store-bought cracker. PS: I’m pretty obsessed with Jovial’s new sourdough crackers.
3. Prepare in Advance and Use a Healthy Grab-n-Go Snack Bin:
Now that you have a master snack list and know what to buy versus make, it’s time to prepare snacks! Here’s my strategy each week for preparing healthy snacks:
- Choose three snacks for the week. Sometimes I’ll consult the family, other times I’ll make the call based on foods in the fridge or freezer (grapes, carrots, muffins, granola bars, etc.) or seasonal selections (produce).
- Set aside a dedicated time for preparing the three snack selections. This may involve baking muffins or granola bars for the week, chopping fruit/vegetables, preparing a dip, or going to the store to buy hummus or crackers. I like to double recipes that require baking and freeze extras for a different week.
- Create a snack bin. Creating a dedicated bin/box/basket (whatever you’d like to call it) helps my family know exactly where to find the weekly snack selection. I use two Rubbermaid shoe containers- one for the pantry and one for the fridge. Each week I fill the bins with the appropriate snacks. When the kids are hungry, they know exactly where to look. Of course, they may also help themselves to other choices in the fridge or pantry, but knowing where the dedicated snacks are for the week helps to reduce the daily, “Mom/Dad, I’m hungry! Do we have anything to snack on?”
Fridge Snack Bin Ideas: Fruit slices/sticks, whole berries/grapes, vegetable sticks, dips (hummus, ranch, blue cheese), cheese slices/sticks, pancake sammie (mini pancakes sandwiched with nut butter), yogurt mixed with honey or fruit in small mason jars, yogurt parfaits, homemade fruit snacks, lunchmeat (I like Applegate or make shredded chicken), hardboiled eggs.
To keep the snacks organized in the snack bin, I use individual-size mason jars for yogurts, parfaits, and dips. Baggies and/or Tupperware are my choice for popcorn, crackers, dried fruit, grapes, lunchmeat, etc.
This may sound like a crazy OCD way to manage snack-time, but after a few weeks- first gathering your master snack list and teaching your kiddos about the snack bins- you’ll find a little bit of planning creates a healthy and easy snack-time experience.
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