In general, I’d say I fall on the forgetful side of the snack toting spectrum. I’m not a person (or a parent) to tote an impressive store of snacks with me while venturing to, say, the post office or the playground. But on longer days spent out of the house or traveling, I will concede that a well-timed snack can mean the difference between melting down and keeping the relative peace. (They’re great for avoiding kiddo meltdowns, too. Wink.) And so I try to plan accordingly.
As many parents of small children can attest, kids love things in bags or containers meant especially for them. Give a child a small snack served in a vessel that they can hold themselves and watch pure joy spread across their cheeks. Kid-sized snacks have the extra advantages of helping to ensure that dinners aren’t spoiled by too much gorging and snacks aren’t too badly wasted when they inevitably tumble to the ground or get rendered otherwise unpalatable by grubby fingers. Plus, they’re just easier to carry.
It’s understandable then why there are so many pre-packaged, single-serving snacks marketed to parents and their hungry offspring. If a small bag of crackers can stave off a witching hour meltdown, who among us wouldn’t pop open the bag? I’m the first to admit that a merciful bag of popcorn handed over by a kind attendant on our flight home from Seattle saved us from a familial implosion.
Happily, I’ve found that with a little forethought, and a little encouragement, it’s easy enough to get into a habit of packing snacks that don’t require a whole bunch of single-use packaging or a whole lot of time to prepare. I’ve already divulged my potato chip habit, so no need to rehash that I’m far from perfect. Still, I do make an effort to pack simple snacks in reusable containers whenever I can. Here are a few ideas that work well for me; I’d really love to hear what kinds of portable snacks you guys turn to, too.
+ Bags: We don’t use plastic snack or sandwich bags in our house, but we’ve found that just about any small bag cloth bag will work for snacks. We often use cotton or muslin drawstring pouches of the sort that come into our house via small gifts. They’re easy to come by (and inexpensive to buy), but, you’ve been warned, frequent washing (or dextrous toddler fingers) can make relatively quick work of pulling out that small string. Recently, we welcomed a set of three of these organic reusable sandwich and snack bags into the fold. They’re very simple to use and an extreme winner in the eyes of a certain three-year-old. We got ours from RMTL sponsor Natural Linens. (If you’ve got spare fabric and a sewing machine, I’d imagine they could also make a simple weekend sewing project!)
+ Small containers: For the older folks in the crowd, you know I think a Bonne Maman jar (or regular old mason jar) makes a perfect snack vessel. For folks who frequent parks and playgrounds and other places where glass vessels might not be welcomed, small stainless steel containers make relatively lightweight alternatives for messier snacks like fresh fruit or sliced veggies.
A few favorite snacks we like to pack:
+ Dried fruit: Apricots, mango slices, and apple rings are all pleasantly chewy, relatively healthful, and readily available in bulk at many health food stores or neighborhood markets.
+ Nuts: We try to be mindful about bringing these into contact with folks who might be allergic, but from the time Faye was first able to crunch them, nuts purchased from the bulk section have been the mainstay of our snacking repertoire at home and away. They’re quick, easy, and nutritious.
+ Veggie slices: We often slice up fresh vegetables before we head on a trip (on a plane or just down to the park). A container filled with sweet pepper, cucumber, and carrot slices makes for the perfect crunchy snack. Add some slices of baked tofu, and you’ve got yourself lunch.
+ Fresh fruit: If you’re like me, you might have a toddler who would gladly be a fruitarian if given the chance. A small container of cherries or berries or grapes makes for a very delighted traveler. Fruits like clementines or bananas that comes with their own biodegradable packaging can be even better.
+ Baked goods: This might be easier done in the city than some other places, but when I don’t have a snack already on hand, I try my best to duck into a bakery instead of a bodega. Save a spotted banana, it’s difficult to find much that’s snackable in a bodega that doesn’t also come in a package. But stop by a bakery and a little cookie, or a fresh roll, or a small pastry can stave off hunger pains. You can have the clerk hand it to you directly, no packaging required.
What about you? Favorite snacks for taking out and about? For yourself? For kiddos?