Fight back against snacks that disappear

April 07, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I don't want to be known among my children as the snack Nazi.

But it seems I might need to endure a little retaliatory name calling while I establish some order here.

I know I am not alone in this plight. I've heard other moms with the same gripe. We do the two-week grocery shopping, stocking up on meat, staples, produce, and yes, some snacks. The meat, staples and produce are not at issue. We go to prepare meals, and we find them just where we put them. The snacks are quite another story.

Snacks, like doves from a cage, seem to vanish. Poof! And they're gone.

It's frustrating to go to the pantry for a cereal bar on the run, crackers for company, or pudding to toss into a lunch bag, only to find that after just a couple of days in the house, none of these things remain.

It's not bad enough that there are no snacks. What's worse is that there are empty packages left on the shelves — the culprit's feeble attempt, I guess, at not being found out. As if, when I pick up a box, I won't notice that there is nothing in it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the perpetrator lurks within my home, that it's not a neighbor or the gas man absconding with the Pringles. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but methinks my husband or at least one of my four children just might be involved in the scheme.

It's clearly not the oranges, squash or radishes that they clamor for. It's drawn more along the lines of the cookies, chips and even string cheese.

While I don't buy large quantities of such foods, I am resolute that the answer is not to buy more. If I bought more, they'd just eat more. I'm all for a treat from time to time. But a treat is not a habit or an everyday indulgence. That's what makes it a treat.

So where is the balance? How might we provide some tasty treats for our families and manage to make them last until the next shopping day?

These are some ideas I've picked up along the way.

  •  Let each child choose one indulgent snack food on shopping day. Let them know that when it's gone, it's gone, and you won't be buying more for two weeks. Period.
  •  Encourage kids to dish a serving size into a bowl — not to eat mindlessly from the chips bag.
  •  Instead of snacking on more pricey store bought treats, make your own. A giant bowl of popcorn popped from kernels, for example, satisfies the after-school munchies. Plus it goes a lot further than a bag of chips and at a fraction of the cost. Add some Parmesan cheese or garlic salt for pizazz.
  •  Forego store-bought snacks for a week or two. Find out which fruits and vegetables your kids favor. Leave them on the counter — fresh, clean and ready to eat — with some dip and see what happens. Include something uncommon, maybe star fruit or a pomegranate, to draw interest.
  •  Eat meals together, or at least prepare a balanced meal. Many families have packed schedules and are running this way and that. Rare is the teen who, left to his own devices, will seek out a protein, a carb and a veggie. Making it available helps.

And now a word on foods for packed lunches. Some moms have found it helpful to label them as such in Sharpie as a warning for family members to keep their hands off. Others have told me that doing so only serves to add appeal and irresistibly to the snacks. It raises them to contraband status, and is akin to laying the food in the middle of the kitchen floor with a sign reading, "Eat me now, as fast as you can!" These moms suggest hiding the lunch food on the top shelf of the cupboard in the back, behind, say, the cod liver oil and the lima beans.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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