Friday, June 20, 2008

FRUGAL FAMILY FUN - the snacking frenzy begins

Now that we are into the full swing of summer, it's time to keep the kids busy, otherwise they turn into lazy, bored, argumentative aliens! In addition to keeping the kiddos busy, keeping the kitchen stocked with ready-to-eat, healthy, frugal snacks is a challenge too! The aliens have huge appetites and are never satisfied!! They want more and more and more and.....

I keep my fridge stocked with yogurt, string cheese, grape and strawberry jelly, homemade refried beans, corn tortillas, lots of seasonal fruit found on sale, sandwich meat, and cut up carrots, cucumbers, celery, and broccoli. I also keep ranch dressing in the fridge to use as dip for the veggies.

The freezer has frozen french fries, hard-boiled eggs, home-made hot pockets, ice cream, popsicles, frozen pizzas (some homemade and some purchased), pizza rolls, ready-to-bake homemade biscuits, home made waffles and pancakes, battered mozzerrela sticks, and whatever bargain treats I find at the grocery market.

My pantry holds bread, cereal, crackers of all sorts, peanut butter, chips and pretzels, ramen cups (I know this is not the healthiest..., but they really like it!), ravioli (ditto on the last comment), boxes of mac-n-cheese, raisins, peanuts in the shell and canned nuts.

There is a bowl on the counter with fresh fruit and the cookie jar has homemade cookies. (I make up several batches at a time and freeze.)

I don't ever hear "there's nothing to eat," and my girls have pretty healthy snacks for the most part. They don't use the oven yet, but do use the stovetop and microwave. They are capable of making things like grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese, and scrambled eggs. They love to make green salads and fruit salads.

Currently I'm looking for a deal on a good toaster oven. That way they can heat up frozen snack foods, biscuits, etc. (If you know of a great deal on a toaster oven or have a review you can share...Please comment!!)

Now with all this munching going on during the day, there are two problems that creep up: 1) The Mess!!; 2) "But I'm not hungry!" when supper is served. Here's how I tackle those two problems:

For Problem #1 - Sweet Pea's chore is to empty the dishwasher in the morning. The rule is that everyone is responsible for putting their dishes into it if they dirty a dish or two. Any cooks must put away what they have taken out and clean up the counters when they are done. If they forget, then they may not have any more snacks until it's done or until the next meal is served. Simple and it works. As the Soup Nazi said, "No soup for you!!" (One of my favorite Seinfeld characters!!)

For Problem #2 - At least an hour before supper is served Sweet Pea and Sugar Dumplin' know that there is a snack moratorium. The kitchen is closed! Don't even ask! Don't try to swipe a cookie! Sometimes they whine. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they swear that they will absolutely pass out if they can't have a snack because they are STARVING and they haven't eaten in a reaaaalllllyyy long time (at least half an hour). Sometimes they say the starvation is causing harmful pains and that I am a cruel kitchen dictator and possibly even The Soup Nazi.

But when supper is served, they eat it up, say they like it, smile, and kiss the cook.