As a working Mom, a list like this 50 Easy Prep Ahead After School Snacks would have saved me! And as a Mom who primarily works at home, I’m sure my daughter will say the same!
I think we all know the kids come home from school or activities starving! They’re hangry sharks circling the kitchen, rooting through the fridge and cupboards, looking to munch through anything and everything in sight. It doesn’t matter if they’re littles, tweens or teens, most kids are going to need a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to hold them over till dinner.
If you want to keep them on track with something at least kind of nutritious, keep them from eating random food, maybe earmarked for something else, maybe keep the budget & the mess & the stress under control, these ideas are going to make your life easier. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, this is just the first of a series of Prep Ahead After School Snacks!
Helpful Hints for 50 Easy Prep Ahead After School Snacks:
It’s an initial investment, but you’ll save money in the long run if you store your Prep Ahead After School Snacks in reusable containers. There are so many fun options out there for any type of prep ahead, and making snacks attractive & easy is half the battle won. Marketing, right?! Think how well Mcdonald’s did with Happy Meals & Lunchables cornered the market share.
- If your budget is tight, use what you have and start saving containers from take out, delivery or the deli that can be reused. Mason jars are cheap and Ziplocs (I keep trying to get away from them, goodness help me but now they have dishwasher safe reusable ones) can save you.
- Options for meal prep range from plastic to glass to metal – just look and you’ll find something to suit your style, your budget, and your child’s age. Look for items that readily stack and you can keep your cupboards under control.
buying larger packages or bulk items:
When you buy individual items, it doesn’t matter if it’s bags of chips, granola bars, boxed juice, cute little boxes of raisins or packages of ranch dip, you pay more.
- If you do buy, buy in bulk, watch for specials and put out what’s needed for the next day & depending on your children consider hiding the rest.
- You can go for the bigger bags and bottles of items & portion yourself & even with your own packaging, you will likely save money. Go for environmentally friendly, and you’ll help save the planet.
I know a lot of you are thinking, “I ain’t got time for that.” Honestly, no one does! Maybe if you think of prepping as an investment of time that has a payoff it will make more sense. Those payoffs can come in several ways:
- You’ll have some control over what your child eats and in what amount & tasty, attractive, easy to grab snacks might lure them into healthier choices.
- Meal prepping puts you in control of what’s in your fridge or pantry. No more items missing when it’s time to make dinner.
- You’ll have more control over your time. Your time spent will be when YOU have it – not a drop everything and come up with a snack when your child wants/needs it.
- Your time will be spent more efficiently making several items for the fridge at a time, and maybe larger batches for the freezer.
I tried to avoid overly cutesy, time-consuming and fussy ideas for my Prep Ahead After School Snacks and focus ideas and recipes that are doable. Having kids help might speed meal prepping along, and at the very least will help get their buy-in. I hope no matter what your circumstances, you’ll find some inspiration here.
don’t forget leftovers:
Leftovers can give you a leg up on any kind of meal prep and be a huge time saver when making Prep Ahead After School Snacks:
- Portion out leftovers from dinner for snacks and refrigerate or freeze. Just about anything is a snack in a small container. Most casseroles work great for this, either dinner or breakfast casseroles, soups are a no brainer and any type of braised or shredded dish usually is fantastic later. Once you seize on the idea you’ll start looking at dinner in a whole new way – as a way to cook once for dinner now and for a snack later.
- Make extra of just some parts of your dinner just for snacks. An extra chicken breast can be cut into cubes and tossed together with some cheese cubes for a high protein snack. Fruit salad can serve as a side and then be portioned out for snacks. Black beans can be a side and then made into a quick burrito for a snack. You get the idea.
- Instead of lunchmeat, cook extra when you serve protein like chicken breast, roast, etc. and slice thinly, shred, or cube. It’s so much cheaper (and healthier) for a quick after school sandwich than packaged lunch meat and can be used in sandwiches, with cheese and crackers, to top tortilla chips with cheese, maybe made into a spread and so on.
the usual suspects
Rework your everyday food into snacks, what you might already have on hand: fruits, veggies, cheese, bread and/or crackers and eggs. Make it easy for the kids to grab and eat and attractive enough so they’ll do so, and you’re gonna win at this game.
How often does fruit set out on the counter for snacks get ignored? Prep by cutting into wedges or slices, toss any fruit that will brown (like apples and pears) in a little lemon juice (Real Lemon is handy for this.) Soft fruits like peaches aren’t a great prep-ahead option, but kiwi (cut in half and eat with a spoon), berries & melons of all type work well as do apples, pears, and orange slices.
Add some incentive – a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Fruit salad can go well. Grab and go containers of fruit from the fridge go over well and go over better with a dip. Try caramel, yogurt, cream cheese-based, peanut butter and so on. Depending on what else is in your container, toss in some dried fruit, nuts or granola for interest. If your family is larger, you may want to do a tray rather than servings, but portioned controlled, easy to grab and attractive makes all the difference – even if your children are old enough to make their own!
My grandkids, from the youngest (two) to the oldest (15) devour crudites platters from the deli; you know the ones with Ranch. When my Son in Law came home with one, exclaiming, “It was only 20 bucks” I about died! I said NOTHING! I was proud of myself! The container was nice, though, with a great lid! Save a few and make your own veggie trays. I’ve always loved veggie sticks in mason jars with dressing on the bottom. So handy and they keep and stack well in the fridge. You don’t need to buy everything for a veggie tray; use what you have and snitch a little here and there from veggies you’ve bought for the week.
It takes just a few minutes to wash and cut these great contenders: celery, carrots (maybe baby carrots), bell peppers or mini bells, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, snap or snow, asparagus (blanch it), cucumbers, radishes, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and if your kids like them, add things like gherkins or olives. You can’t go wrong with cubes of cheese. Bonus: you’re not limited to Ranch if you make your own trays! For extra protein think hummus, spinach dip, buffalo chicken dip or this Vegetable Dip from Six Sister’s Stuff. Any not too drippy dressing works well, maybe this Shake in a Jar Yogurt Dressing.
3. cheese & snacks with cheese:
I get it – string cheese is a staple that is so easy, portioned controlled, has some protein, and kids love it! Same with those packets of breadsticks and cheese. True confession, I love those! Pricey, though, even at the buyer’s club. Sometimes I think we raise kids that just like what’s easy to give them and I say this because my kids for awhile only liked boneless chicken breast because I served it so often.
Portion up cheese cubes with fruit, veg or another protein. Package your own snacks. Whip up easy cheese spreads in the food processor (check out Easy Homemade Boursin Cheese and Fromage Fort, with apple or white grape juice instead of wine, or try Pimento Cheese. You can leave out the Jalapenos in that classic. Serve with pretzels, crackers, apple or cucumber slices. Spread crackers with cream cheese and dot with fruit or veggies. Lacking inspiration? Check what’s at the store & copy it at home. Don’t forget cottage cheese with fruit. Did I hear a groan?
4. sandwiches & toast & crackers:
I think I lived on Cinnamon or Peanut Butter Toast after school, and the ubiquitous Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich was a staple for my siblings. Don’t forget the salad sandwich options for a sandwich, on toast or on crackers: chicken salad, ham salad, deviled ham, egg salad, tuna salad, and so on. I have recipes for those, too. Check my menu for Sandwiches, Hot or Cold. Hummus is always a no brainer (I have several recipes on my Appetizer & Munchies Menu, including this fab Roasted Red Pepper Hummus) & there’s always avocado toast. Try ricotta as a spread – you can make Homemade Ricotta for dirt cheap, minutes of actual time and it’s a fun project for the kids. A favorite snack of mine & my kids is our family’s Parmesan Toasts – kids love them, they last well for a couple of days and are great at room temp. Bonus if made on leftover or slightly stale bread or buns.
You can up your toast game with crostini, plain or whole wheat, prepared and bagged from the store or cut yourself and toasted or grilled. You can pack in some toppings with all of those options and who knows, maybe your kids will go wild and top with cherry tomatoes or blueberries and/or dried fruit or maybe healthy nuts – if it’s there and easy for them.
5. hard-boiled eggs:
Hard-boiled eggs are a staple at my house for snacking. For me, and my deplorable labradorable, Chance. I make them three different ways, all on my site: Easy Peel Steamed Eggs, Perfect Instant Pot Eggs, and Classic Hard Boiled Eggs. Note that whole hard-boiled eggs may not go down easily; slice into halves or quarters for smaller children (and pups.) If eggs start to lose their appeal, turn them into Classic Deviled Eggs or this classic Egg Salad and serve as sandwiches or on crackers.
Would your kids eat a small kid-friendly version of a chef or cobb salad? Just put in the things they like, along with just a little of what they’re not so wild about that you’d like them to eat. Maybe they’ll eat it all. Or maybe you’d like to make up a version of this pasta Cobb Salad from Delish that always gets rave reviews at my house, even when I go simpler. Serve it for dinner or lunch and pack the rest in small containers for snacks.
Homemade baked goods, whether from scratch or started with a mix, box or prepared dough like pie crust, canned biscuits, frozen bread dough, prepared pizza dough or puff pastry can be a lifesaver. Generally, they’re much cheaper and you’ll have more control if made at home from scratch, but semi-homemade versions can still be a lot better option taste-wise and price-wise than what you can buy – the exception is likely the puff pastry, which can be spendy.
6. breakfast cookies:
I don’t have any breakfast cookies on my site, but there are no limits to the fun, healthy and delicious combinations you can make. There’s something for just about any diet your family might follow. How about Healthy Breakfast Cookies Six Ways from She Likes Food? Or these winners, Good Morning Sunshine Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction, one of my favorite baking sites.
Most breakfast cookies are easy, full of good stuff and can be frozen. Bake up a batch or two on the weekend and freeze on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Place into containers in amounts you’ll need for your family. Reuse that parchment to keep the layers separate.
Muffins these days can be decadent and sometimes huge, but they don’t have to be – especially if you make your own. My focus on my site hasn’t been primarily on “healthy muffins” (except for my Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins) but you can search for any to fit your lifestyle.
I love my recipe for Big Beautiful Muffins (use the option for 18, not 12 if you want a reasonable size) that’s adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. I have developed tons of flavor combinations and they can be frozen by the batch to cook-off as needed. Actually, after being baked, just about any muffin can be frozen and taken out the evening before to thaw in the fridge for the next afternoon or heated from frozen in the microwave to warm it through.
8. granola or other bars:
There are so many granola bars, from tasty to healthy, super easy, more complicated to no-bake. I have Healthy Energy Bars on my site that are fabulous and healthy but a bit of a pain. You might want an easier option like these 5 Ingredient Granola Bars from The Minimalist Baker. And maybe you’re not feeling the baking? These No-Bake Granola Bars from Food Fanatic are on my list to make.
If you care about such things, watch the nutritional numbers and balance out the benefits of the protein and fiber and nutrients against the potential for high carbs and sugar. Net usable carbohydrate is found by subtracting the grams of fiber from the grams of carbohydrate. Generally, the lower the final number, the more nutritionally sound the bar is, especially if they contain some protein and have healthy fats.
9. cheese zombies & runzas (bierocks)
The best cheese sandwich you’ve never heard of, Cheese Zombies are a cheesy filling between two layers of dough. It’s a yeast dough but super easy to make and fast-rising and the filling can be customized to whatever you’d like or in this case, what your kids might like. They freeze well and can be heated from frozen in the microwave, wrapped in a paper towel. They’re actually pretty good cold from the fridge, too.
If I had kids today, I’d probably be making a panful or two every week. I haven’t tried the recipe with frozen bread dough or purchased pizza dough but either shortcut should be great. I suspect Cheese Zombies came about from the Russian/German Bierock or as it is often called in the States, The Runza. If you’re a baker, make a bunch of these filled rolls for the freezer! They may be the “original” hot pocket!
10. Homemade Pop-Tarts & Homemade Hot Pockets:
Depending on whether or not you use a homemade pie crust, these can vary in the amount of work these are to make. I’ve made Homemade Pop-Tarts and they’re absolutely divine, but at my house, those would be more of a dessert or special treat. You could always use less filling or no frosting to bring them to a healthier range.
Homemade Hot Pockets are going to be less expensive with a homemade pastry but can be easily made with pie crust from the store, canned biscuits, pizza dough or puff pastry. A quick search will display tons of recipes ranging from drop-dead simple to more complicated and from pretty healthy to decadent. I’m loving these simple Healthy Homemade Hot Pockets made from pizza dough and ready for the freezer from the Happy Money Saver, and she gives a cost comparison.
pinwheels & roll-ups
There are no doubts that kids always seem to go for fun food and nothing is more fun (and so easy) to make than all kinds of pinwheels, or roll-ups Anything you can wrap in a tortilla or one of the healthier veggie-based wrappers and hold together with a spread usually works well. Cream cheese mixtures are ubiquitous but hummus, guacamole, and some cheese spreads can all be binders. Don’t forget meat & cheese options for a low carb snack.
Ever since I made my Asiago Pepperoni Pinwheels, below, I’ve been loving on baked pinwheels, too. They’re just a fun changeup that keeps boredom at bay and your whole family will probably be enthusiastic!
11. classic pinwheels:
I was happy to stumble on this page from the Taste of Home. There’s just about every pinwheel you can imagine, two pages of them from cold to baked, to party pinwheels, pizza pinwheels – you name it.
You’re sure to find something your child would like, or at very last fined a little extra inspiration to customize your own.
12. meat & cheese roll-ups:
This is as easy as it sounds. Take pieces of cheese and wrap some type of meat around them. Hold with a toothpick if you’d like. I think slices of ham are probably the most popular of these keto-friendly snacks, but this works well with so many different kinds of meat and just about any cheese you can imagine.
Add mustard of some type of spread like pimento cheese, and wrap around a pickle if you’d like. Roll up and then cut across into small pieces or just serve as is, for your child to bite into. Check these Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups from Atkins or Crispy Cheese Roll-Ups from Spend With Pennies. The later look pretty amazing but do require a quick cook in a skillet.
13. baked pinwheels:
Baked pinwheels follow a formula. Some type of pastry is laid out in a rectangular shape, either pie crust or pizza dough or puff pastry or possibly crescent rolls that are pressed together along their perforations. Then simple toppings, usually with some type of cheese is laid over. The whole works are rolled up, sliced into cookie like shapes and baked.
I have a Pepperoni & Asiago Cheese Pinwheel on my site that’s fantastic but could be changed up a bit with a more kid-friendly cheese. Or you could go a little more basic with something like this recipe for Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels from Pillsbury that use a crescent roll base. These can be frozen before baking or frozen after being baked and reheated and most are just as good at room temperature.
14. fruit pinwheels:
There are no limits to the pinwheels or roll-ups you make with fruit – as long as the fruit will roll! That means you’ll need to make them out of something kind of soft, like bananas, something that can be thinly sliced or chopped, like apples or pears or something small or soft like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries. You’ll need something sticky to hold them together, peanut butter or maybe softened cream cheese.
Yes, there is a recipe for a Peanut Butter Banana Pinwheel, from Dinner Tonight, just in case the concept is new to someone. And I snickered for a minute at a recipe until I realized that not everyone has heard of these. I love this glammed-up version of a strawberry pinwheel from This Grandma Is Fun. She’s got these Strawberry & Cream Cheese Pinwheels down!
15. updated pinwheels:
If there is one thing you can count on with pinwheels, they’re usually kind of a crowd-pleasing item. And that’s part of the reason that they’re so kid-friendly. If your kids are a little older, maybe a little more adventurous, and maybe even fans of spicier foods, like buffalo chicken. check out these Pinwheels from the Tampa Bay Times.
And don’t forget to be adventurous sometimes, too. Notice what kind of things your kids love and make up your own combination of flavors in pinwheel form to mimic those flavors. For me? I’m thinking a Beef Bulgogi Pinwheel would be great with a little pickled daikon and carrot along with Sriracha cream cheese. What would you come up with?
mexican & southwestern
Mexican and Southwestern have to be some of the easiest cuisines to turn into fun snacks. Which isn’t to say you can’t find wonderful and amazing snacks from any cuisine and searching out what people around the world make and serve is a great strategy to up your snack game.
Many of us turn to Mexican food for easy, fun, doable and often cheap meals and it’s just so easy to make snacks from the very basic to epic extravaganzas. Fair warning, some of these will need to be heated, so littles will need help or supervision.
16. make ahead for the freezer burritos:
I’ve always loved making Green Chili Breakfast Burritos (with or without eggs) in bulk for the freezer whenever I make up a big batch of my Denver Green Chili. It’s a project but they’re perfect for breakfast or snacks (they’re a little spicy) and worth every second of time. A super easy option is to make smaller, simpler burritos for the freezer. Adults and those with larger appetites might want two, the middles can probably eat one, and the littles, maybe just a partial.
These can be made with just refried beans and cheese or be fancier. Many of the Mexican foods (I have a menu of all my faves) that I make are made in larger amounts, especially slow cooking braises and fillings (now I do some in the Instant Pot) and while you can make up larger batches of burritos, it’s simple and painless process to repurpose some of those leftovers into burritos. Just make sure whatever you use is well-drained and cool before rolling or it will be soggy when reheated. It’s a great strategy to do this on a regular basis and chuck them in the freezer. If you’d like a formal recipe, see my post on Make Ahead Freezer Friendly Burritos.
17. chips & salsa or microwave nachos:
I don’t think you always have to have super healthy snacks but sometimes it can be wiser to limit the amounts of the ones whose only redeeming quality is that they taste great!
Just use small containers that hold a serving or two of chips and you’re golden. While chips and salsa might have a slight edge on healthiness, there’s no doubt the nachos are much more fun! I like to put in a small container, a layer of chips, a slice of cheese, then another layer of chips. Add some beans or chicken for a little more protein. Top with another slice of cheese, add a lid, toss it in the fridge. When your children are ready for their snack, the nachos take about a minute to heat in the microwave.
18. microwave quesadillas:
Quesadillas were always a snack at our house – both my kids cooked from a young age & it was my son, at about age 10. who taught me to make a killer quesadilla. He was making one & put too much oil in the skillet – I tried to correct him and he said: “Trust me, Mom.” And that quesadilla was like chimichanga on the outside and cheesy deliciousness in. But I get most folks don’t want their kids cooking – especially if they might be home alone, after school.
So the microwave makes short work of things. You can assemble ahead, place on a plate and cover. Stack several if you need to. Make them just cheese, refried beans & cheese, black beans or pintos & cheese. Just an about any kind of meat with a Mexican flair & cheese. Taco meat, barbacoa, shredded chicken and so on…and any veggies you’d like, too. See Two Minute Quesadillas from All Recipes and slightly more involved, a Four Minute Quesadilla from Tasty.
Beans. I don’t think there’s a better nutritional value for the price than beans. It doesn’t matter if you use pintos, black beans or garbanzos (chickpeas) if you want a protein-packed snack, serve any with a grain – so corn chips, tortillas, or rice. That complementary combination will help give us the amino acids our body doesn’t supply to make protein. It might seem cliche for a frugal site to promote beans but I’ve always thought they are an ideal snack, from early childhood on up. By the way, I was nearly 20 when I had my first refried beans, so I came late to the party.
Serve refried beans, made from scratch or doctored up from a can, topped with cheese, in small containers ready to pop in the microwave, think about Frijoles Charros or my Spicy Pintos Instant Pot or Not (make them milder if you’d like) for a quick snack, too.
20. sweet treats:
You can use tortillas to make a sweeter snack for your little ones. Because sometimes we need to change things up and spread a little extra love! If you are serving cold, you can use thicker layers of peanut or almond butter or butter or cream cheese. If microwaving go very thin or it will be oozing out. Thes might look plain jane but both, especially warm are crazy crave-worthy. Working with a whole tortilla, spread the filling on half and fold the top over. Heated too hot, these can separate and ooze and create a molten mess and that’s not kid-friendly.
For peanut butter banana: on one half of a tortilla, spread almond or peanut butter, add slices of bananas, drizzle with a little honey. Fold over and store in the fridge until ready to microwave for about 10 to 20 seconds. For a quick ode to Churros, on one half of a tortilla, spread a very thin layer of butter or cream cheese. Add thinly sliced apples if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Fold over and store in the fridge until ready to microwave for about 10 to 20 seconds. Check out my post on Homemade Cinnamon Sugar if you wish.
Back to school might signal the end of summer but some schools are earlier than others (My grandbabies have been back for about 2 weeks) and even if school starts later as it does up Nord here in Minnesota, there can still be a lot of hot days! While mornings might be chilly, by afternoon most kids are ditching the coats and sweaters and ready for something cool.
Something fun and healthy in the fridge can be fun – and it’s even more fun, I think, when you’re making your own and you and the kids can come up with all kinds of fun flavors and combinations.
21. healthier popsicles:
There’s no end to the popsicles that can be made and they’ve come a long way from my Kool-aid dixie cups I used to make with my kids! Although that’s always still an option!
I love these Blackberry Yogurt Swirl Popsicles. Who wouldn’t? Adapt to other berry flavors if you want, but juicy ones like raspberries and blackberries are really the best. And one of my fave of all times, and I know it sounds strange, is these Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles. The texture is perfect and you’d never guess in a million years these are made with buttermilk – and you’d never guess that they are so easy!
22. frozen fruit cups:
Okay, so I have never made these, but have been meaning to! I’ve had my eye on a couple of different recipes for frozen fruit cups and they seem like they’d be so great to serve to the kids. They usually need to be taken out a little bit ahead of time but it also seems like it might be something that would keep the kiddos occupied for at least a bit, even if they’re too hard to dig into immediately.
23. frozen bananas:
I started making these when I was a kid! Frozen Bananas, dipped in chocolate and then rolled in nuts, And I wanted to post my own recipe but I couldn’t find my popsicle sticks and didn’t want to buy any because I know I have a ton of them and that as soon as I bought them, well, I’d find the popsicle sticks. And then I ate the bananas. And most of the chocolate. I will say that I’ve found two stellar recipes and they both look better than mine, anyway! So here are a couple of variations to choose from.
The first, from Sugar Hero. Bananas dipped in pure chocolate, then decorated to the nth degree in several variations. It’s enough to make me go buy popsicle sticks right now! The other is by Sweet Cayenne, Bananas dipped in Nutella Chocolate Shell. Yep, you heard right! Nutella!
24. frozen yogurt bark:
The first time I made Frozen Yogurt Bark, it was for my pup! Now that was a bad Grandma moment, wasn’t it?! Turns out that kids love it just as much, if not more. There are so many variations, that you’re sure to find something fun and appropriate for your kiddos. Bonus for being so simple that actually, your kids might be making it for you.
Here’s a Round-up of 16 Recipes for frozen yogurt bark from Brit+Co for a little inspiration. There’s a wide range of possibilities to choose from – you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which one to make first. The Frozen Yogurt Trail Mix Bark from Kim’s Cravings caught my eye and so did the Vegan Chunky Monkey from Veggies Don’t Bite.
25. frozen bites:
I don’t care if you’re a kid or an adult, these awesome bite-sized treats need to be in your freezer! There are so many variations to make, and most are pretty simple. Just search for frozen bites.
There are two ideas I fell in love with right off the bat. The first is Two-Ingredient Banana Chocolate Chip Bites by the Baker Mama. The other is another classic flavor, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bites by the Neelys.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface with 50 Easy Prep Ahead After School Snacks, and am planning at least one more post, maybe more, if you like these. I hope you found ideas and inspiration here.
I’m always loving finding something out that’s new to me and would love it if you shared back some of your favorite fun and doable ideas for children’s snacks. If you love these ideas, I’d be so grateful if you would share this on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.
I’ll be posting Over 50 Prep Ahead After School Snacks at Fiesta Friday #289 this week. Drop by and to see the best of these bloggers post for the week!