Handle Summer Hungries with Kids’ Food Bins {Foodie Friday}

Hannah Adamson, NeonRunnerGirl.comBy Hannah Adamson of Neon Runner Girl

As a mom, I look forward to summer vacation. No more early morning wake-ups. No more rushing to eat breakfast, get dressed, and meet the bus. But not two hours after summer break starts, the whining begins.

I’m bored!
He’s looking at me!
He hit me!
It’s hot outside!

All of those I can handle. There’s only one whining declaration that makes me miss school days.

I’m hungry!!

I have two boys, John and Mark. They are only 5 and 7 years old and only weigh 32 and 48 pounds, respectively. And yet they can eat twice what I eat in a day, and I swim/bike/run five days a week!

Last summer, I felt like half of my days were spent fixing snacks and meals for the boys. This summer I wanted a break from that. I saw this idea on Pinterest (I think!). I can’t find the pin, but I remembered enough of the general idea to give it a try.

We call it “Food Bins.” Every morning when the boys get up, I make them breakfast. While they are chowing down on waffles and sausage, I fix the rest of their food for the day, usually enough for two snacks and lunch. They each have a labeled bin in the fridge and another on the counter outside the fridge. Once I make up their food, I let them loose. They can eat whatever they want, whenever they want out of their bins up until dinner. If they plow through it too fast, then they just have to wait until dinner.

Here’s an example of their daily food bins:

Food Bins for kids at home in the summer

We’ve been using the “Food Bins” system for almost a month now, and it has been incredibly successful. I very rarely hear “I’m hungry,” and the boys enjoy the freedom of being able to select their own snacks and plan their own lunch. I do allow them to pick out some of the items in their bins during our weekly grocery trips. We try to keep it healthy, but we do allow for a couple of treats here and there.

Here’s a list of items we use in the bins:

  • PBJ roll-ups using small tortillas
  • PBJ uncrustables, made using my Press and Seal from Pampered Chef
  • Turkey roll-ups / sandwiches
  • Mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Yogurt, with or without granola
  • Pudding cups — make your own to save money!
  • Homemade Jell-O jigglers
  • Carrot sticks with ranch dressing
  • Homemade “Lunchables” using plastic divided food containers
  • Fresh fruit: strawberries, apples, bananas
  • Pretzels
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Cheez-It crackers
  • Chex mix
  • Ritz cracker-Nutella sandwiches
  • Fun-shaped bite-sized graham crackers
  • Fruit cups
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Kid Clif bars
  • Fun size candy bars

It took a bit of tweaking in the beginning to get the right number of items. John is two years older and is on a club cross country team. He generally eats a bit more than Mark does. I usually include about eight items in his bins, while Mark usually gets only six or seven. On days that we know we are going to eat out for lunch, I adjust the amount of items to only be for snacking. Or if we unexpectedly eat out at lunch, they have often made the decision to eat the leftovers in their bins for dinner that evening. It’s a very flexible system.

If you are tired of hearing “I’m hungry” from your kiddos this summer, give food bins a try! Your ears and your sanity will thank you!

About Hannah:
Hannah Adamson is a wife, mom, children’s librarian, and runner. She lives in a beautiful rural part of Kansas right outside of Wichita with her husband and two boys. She blogs about running at neonrunnergirl.com