I Stopped Buying Snacks for My Kids

The snack situation in our house had gotten out of control. My kids—ages 4 and almost 2—LOVE snacks, and all day they would ask for them constantly. It felt like I couldn’t sit down for five minutes without someone harassing me for snacks, even if we had just finished eating lunch. I couldn’t take a seven-minute drive to Aldi without both kids demanding snacks on the way there, on the way back AND in the store.

I was the mom in Hy-Vee who sheepishly apologized to the cashier for the open box of granola bars because my kids got hungry in the store, and I had forgotten to bring snacks from home. In short, I felt like Snacks (with a capital S because at this point they had become their own entity) were the master of our lives.

One day I hit my breaking point and decided: no more packaged Snacks. No more granola bars, no more raisin boxes, no more cheddar bunnies or graham crackers. NO. MORE. I was done! If my kids were truly hungry, they could eat a piece of fruit or veggies to tide them over. So I stopped buying Snacks, knowing full well that the adjustment was going to mean a lot of tantrums and explaining, but if it meant ultimately more peace in my house than it was going to be worth it.

From then on, my kids happily accepted this new rule and stopped asking for snacks altogether. They ate all of their meals and even started sleeping better!

Just kidding.

What actually happened is that I did indeed stop buying snacks, and my kids did indeed revolt. They would whine and complain at the park when I told them I didn’t bring any Snacks but that we could eat at home. They did not appreciate having to go shopping at Aldi or Target without a Snack in hand. But after a couple of *rough* weeks adjusting expectations (“Sorry, I don’t have any granola bars with me but if you’re hungry you can have this banana”), my life did indeed get better! We could actually go places without my children demanding Snacks constantly. I could sit down for a few minutes without people treating me like a vending machine. I felt like I could breathe again.

But—and this is a big but—there was a huge down side to my new plan. My kids understood that they were not going to get cheddar bunnies and graham crackers, but that didn’t mean they were willing to wait to eat until meal time (which is totally fine). They still wanted to graze often, and since I offered them only fresh produce, cheese, nuts or some other protein in between meals, that meant I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen prepping healthy options: chopping veggies and fruits, spooning out hummus, halving or crushing cashews so that my toddler could eat them (and for all you meal preppers out there … I commend you, but I am not the kind of person who can get my act together enough to chop a week’s worth of fruits and veggies on a Sunday afternoon).

I also had to be super on top of my grocery game so that we always had fresh things on hand. And for those times that I actually did need to bring food with us on a longer outing, it took some extra planning to cut up cucumbers and bell peppers, then find a way to keep them cold on our journey. Quite frankly, it was a lot of work … too much work.

So, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I went back to buying Snacks. But thankfully, by this point, they were no longer Snacks with a capital S. They were just lower-case snacks. By going cold turkey for a few weeks, I had unknowingly reset the expectations and rhythms of my family. Now the kids no longer expect me to have snacks in the diaper bag when we go somewhere. If I whip out a bag of Bear Bites during a particularly long visit to Deanna Rose, they are pleasantly surprised. I still try to limit the number of snacks I bring into our house, and I do my best to offer fresh produce and proteins at home when they want to graze in between meals—but if I’m exhausted and not feeling up to it, I don’t feel guilty about letting my 4-year-old grab a couple of granola bars out of the cabinet for him and his little sister.

Although I didn’t stick to my original goal, I kind of like how things worked out. I’m choosing to count this one as a win.

A Michigan native, Lauren has lived in the Kansas City area since 2014. She is now settled in Overland Park with her husband Taylor, 3-year-old son Silas, 1-year-old daughter Rosalie, and their three fur babies. Lauren spends most of her time taking care of her two littles, while also juggling some part-time work as a freelance communications professional. Lauren’s survival strategy is to look for humor and joy amidst the chaos. Her best advice for relieving stress is to bake a batch of cookies (works every time).

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