She Did a Food Experiment to Get Her Kids to Stop Asking For Snacks All Day. The Results? GENIUS!

Hi! I’m Carrie (or 4MamaBear as I’m known online). My cubs are Sam (11), Julia (9), and Elsa (5). We live in a small rural town west of the Twin Cities on an acre lot with a big garden and small house. I work from home as a book designer for authors who want to self publish or for families who want to create photo books. I don’t work full time in the summer so I can be there for my kids as much as possible, and this summer, I decided to do an experiment to help ease the pain of them asking for snacks all day long.


Food was becoming a big source of stress between the kids and I. The constant battles over frequency of snacks and the complaining over meal options were driving me batty. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be able to accomplish everything I wish we could so even though I love to cook and bake with my kids and preserve things from our garden, the reality is that day in and day out there are other things that take up our time too. While my kids would LOVE a maid and a housekeeper, they aren’t going to find either in this house.

Can you relate?

On a typical stay-at-home day this is how the food battle goes:

* Kids wake and immediately wander into the kitchen looking for food. (I get it -they’ve slept 10 hours and are truly hungry!)

* I give them 1-3 options depending on how long it’s been since I shopped last.

* They complain about every choice.

* I  get annoyed and tell them their options just became ‘take it or leave it’.

Not exactly the most positive way to start the day, right?

It didn’t get any better as the day goes on….

By 9am my youngest is asking for “something to eat.”

The older two hear the sound of the pantry or refrigerator door and come looking for food as well.

I tell them they ate an hour ago and they have to wait. More grumbling and whining.

I tell them that if they are truly hungry they are welcome to eat baby carrots or a banana. All of a sudden they aren’t that hungry.

An hour later this happens again.

By 11:00 or 12:00 I’m looking for something to put together for lunch -none of which anyone is excited about or if I’m lucky 1 out of 3 wants what I’ve scrounged up in the pantry.

They eat, they leave the dishes behind, they take turns returning to the kitchen looking for a snack. By this point someone has asked me for something to eat every hour since I came back from working in the gardens.

By the time 2pm rolls around I’ve completely given up and I hand them a box of Cheez-Its, grateful for the reprieve. It is short lived because of the crumbs I have to vacuum up. Note to self: Stop letting them eat on the carpet!

The box of empty carbs lasts one sitting and even though I just spent $140 on groceries two days ago we are out of snacks and don’t get me started on meals since I wasn’t good about getting ingredients for actual dinners. (Hello! Meat is expensive and 2/3’s of my kids won’t touch beans. Who am I kidding – I hate them too!  So….I end up buying some fruit, snacks for on the go, and some frozen bags of veggies with the hope that there will still be some leftover meat in the freezer I can turn into a dinner to feed my husband after his long day at work.)

The evenings aren’t much better since we eat dinner early. Plenty of hours left in the day for mindless snacking.


I quit.

I quit doing all the shopping.

I quit making breakfast.

I quit making lunch.

I quit handing out snacks.

Now this is what our day looks like:

Kids wake up and get themselves breakfast. (Older sibling makes breakfast for youngest.)

***MAYBE*** the older two have a snack before lunch

Youngest eats a healthy snack mid morning

Big kids make lunch and clean up after themselves while I make a healthy lunch for the youngest and I.

All kids eat an afternoon snack of their choosing.

I make dinner.
Kids eat one after dinner snack of their choosing.

No more begging.

No more whining.

Carrie Pauly
Carrie Pauly
Carrie Pauly is a busy work at home in a typical small Minnesota town. She started her career with the National Park Service where she met her husband of 15 years and has fit her current gig as a photo book designer around raising her kids (ages 11, 9, & 5). She is always in the middle of some sort of sewing, decorating, or crochet project and when she's not tending to her family's extensive flower and vegetable gardens she is plotting their next camping or canoeing adventure. Battles over what was offered for meals and how quickly her kids would devour an entire box of cereal or crackers was starting to creep into every day life so Carrie took drastic measures to bring peace back to her home.  She started an experiment with her older two children to see what would happen if she removed herself from the fight entirely. It was risky to give an 11 and 9 year old control of their own food budgets, but the results were worth it!

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