My kids are at the age when they are about to eat us out of house and home. I used to roll my eyes when I heard other people say that. “It’s just food. How expensive could that be?” But now I know better.
The money issue was only part of the problem for me. What bothered me even more was the constant pleading for more food. I literally (and I’m not using that word figuratively) would be washing up the lunch dishes, wiping down the counters and they would walk up (from the table) and say, sandwich crumbs on their cheeks, “What can I have for a snack?” And then all afternoon, they kept me completely informed by the half hour about how empty their poor little tummies were, begging for scraps lest they wither away and die.
I was going crazy.
So I came up with a solution. I put a plate of food on the table every afternoon. That is their snack allotment for the day and when it’s gone, it’s gone. They are not allowed to ask me for anything different, or for anything else. But here’s the winning part: They do not have to ask me if they can eat anything that’s on the snack plate. They love this. They get to be in charge of when and what and how much they eat (from the snack plate but at seven and four years of age, this suffices as “in charge”). I decide on cheap, healthy choices and then get left alone the rest of the afternoon about feeding them. I love this. Win-win.
Sometimes I take the opportunity to clear out the cabinets. Leftover whole-wheat crackers from our game party last weekend. Pumpkin seeds that have been in there so long I thought they were part of the house. Cereal bits that won’t make a whole bowl full for breakfast.
Sometimes I get fun and make a “theme.” Round things. (Grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and boiled eggs.) Red things. (Red bell pepper strips, strawberries, tomatoes, four red gummy bears.) On Fridays I like to make it a special treat – banana muffins and maybe carrot sticks to balance the treat part.
Scientifically, I’m not sure how this works, but my kids will almost always completely devour whatever is on the plate. At dinnertime, fill their plate with carrot sticks and almonds and they will totally balk and spend the entire evening sitting and staring at the grossness I’m making them eat. But on Snack Plate, different story. Wild.
And my husband and I find ourselves grabbing a carrot stick to munch on since it’s right there on the table. Convenience is everything. I’m such a big fan of this Snack Plate idea. We are all eating really healthy snacks, the kids are getting another intake of vegetables and fruits, my cabinets aren’t so stuffed with junk I bought and we never finished, and everyone is happy about being in charge of their own afternoon eating.
Now my son’s first question when I pick him up from school is, “What’s on the Snack Plate today?” No matter that it’s a turquoise plate full of vegetables. It’s Snack Plate! It’s all about the marketing. Freaky but awesome.