A very common refrain in most households, more so now since it’s vacation time! Most mothers don’t have a problem planning their kids’ meals, but snacks are a different matter altogether.
They need to be healthy, shouldn’t involve too much prepping or cooking, and shouldn’t spoil the little munchkins’ appetites for their main meals. Of course, there are super moms who bake 3 types of muffins and 2 types of granola bars over the weekend and then freeze them so they have instant snacks ready all the time. If you are among those Moms, you shouldn’t be reading this, you should be writing your own book!
Coming back to the real world, most of us don’t have that kind of time or we simply choose not to spend our precious weekends standing for hours in the kitchen. So that calls for instant snacks. I know some households that rely entirely on Maggi noodles and Cream biscuits for such moments. But with all the information on trans fats and processed food doing the rounds these days, they aren’t advisable unless you are absolutely swamped.
So considering my considerable (4 years) experience with little Cub, I have prepared a list of pantry/fridge staples so you can whip up quick, healthy snacks and even meals without putting too much thought into it. If you don’t use any of these ingredients in your regular meals, don’t buy too much of it and also make sure you use them before they rot. So here they are:
- Brown Bread – The first option always – sandwiches. What to fill in it? Anything under the sun – there is no wrong answer here. Also good for French toast or an instant pizza – tomato sauce, topped with any veggie + grated cheese.
- Eggs – Serve boiled. Or boiled and mashed and stuffed in a sandwich. Or fried. Or scramble and mix with pasta/noodles/leftover rice for a mini meal. Or make an omelet and roll in a leftover chapathi.
- Milk – This, along with eggs and bread are things you should never be out of. Milkshakes, cereal, oats are all incomplete without milk.
- Hung Curd – A great dip for anything and a super filling for sandwiches. Convert it into your dip of choice by adding herbs and seasonings.
- Peanut Butter – Super healthy fats and very, very yummy. Spread on bread, fruit, or chapathi. Mix into plain oatmeal for extra crunch. Also add into noodles for an exotic taste.
- Tomato Sauce/Ketchup – The most popular condiment with kids. Helps sandwiches, omelets, tikkis and wraps go down without any problem.
- Apples – No brainer here, but experience has shown that these go down better in salad form or when smeared with peanut butter/Jam/Nutella rather than on it’s own.
- Bananas – Very versatile fruit. As mentioned above, serve topped with something or make a milkshake. Or freeze and cover with chocolate and nuts. Can also be chopped and added to cereal or oatmeal.
- Bell Peppers – This takes next to no time to cook, so it’s great for bread pizzas, pasta, noodles, fried rice, and frittata and can also be chopped and added raw to sandwich fillings.
- Carrots – Grate it and use it cooked or raw. Goes in everything that accepts bell peppers too. Also, peel and keep in the fridge. Kids love munching on these with or without a dip.
- Potatoes – You can convert pretty much any vegetable (or paneer) into a tikki if you have some good ol’ spuds to hold it all together. Just boil in the microwave, mash and add to any leftover sabzi for a good, homemade tikki. Also good for mashed potatoes to serve with fried eggs or for homemade French Fries.
- Whole wheat Pasta – These are widely available nowadays, and I would suggest macaroni over fussy types like spaghetti. Easy mac n cheese with some grated cheese and veggies. Or boil and mix with leftover chicken curry for a desi version.
- Oats (instant or otherwise) – Easy to cook in the microwave and don’t require too many ingredients. Also good for upma along with veggies. Topping choices are unlimited.
- Almonds – Eat as is or chop and add to oatmeal/cereal/desserts. Or add to the blender to fortify your milkshake.
Now, there are those moments when both you and your kid are really cranky and both of you crave some unhealthy comfort food. For such times, and such times alone, keep an emergency stash of these:
- Instant noodles – Try to stick to whole wheat and don’t add all of the masala.
- Juice Packs – Get the small individual packs, so that you don’t go overboard.
- Cookies – Keep just one pack of your child’s liking.
- Frozen chicken nuggets/potato smileys – Again, just one pack, and push it to the back of your freezer.
- Sugary cereal – This stuff is so aggressively advertised as something healthy, though it is full of added sugar. Well, at least it helps the milk go down.
There was a time when Cub was really into sausages and the like, but after reading about the various health problems associated with processed meats, we’ve ruled that out as a snack option.
As you can see, most of these are things we usually have at home. Just check once again before doing your weekly shopping, and I assure you, you’ll never dread the war cry of little rumbling tummies again!!
Fabida Abdulla is a former software engineer turned stay at home Mother Lion to her four-year old son, whom she calls ‘The Cub’. She blogs about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes.