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

No more mindless snacking.

How did we make such a drastic change? It started with a comment I made over the winter during a particular frustrating day. We had reached that point where the kids had gone through all the snack food that was suppose to last at least a week in less than two days. I told the older two that I would rather give them money to do their own shopping so they would understand the ramifications of eating $6 worth of snacks in one sitting. They loved the idea and asked to start immediately. I decided that summer would be a better time to try our experiment so we could venture to a bigger grocery store on a regular basis when the kids were out of school.

On June 4th with calculators and lists in hand Sam and Julia each got a cart and set off to take charge of their own food choices. I knew it was also going to help them learn to budget money AND food, but they didn’t need to know that. :)

Here is a breakdown of how it works based on our food budget:

They each get $30 to spend each week.

They are responsible for writing out their menu with a grocery list that has a place on the side for tallying their total.


They shop for 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and all of their snacks/treats for the full week.

I am responsible for dinner 7 days a week and for breakfasts and lunches on the weekends.

Any extra money left over from their $30 gets banked for Valley Fair or other festival spending money.  (This is huge because then I don’t have to shell out money we don’t have in the budget on top of entrance fees for those extras.)

If they go over budget they have to work off the extra by weeding the garden. (This only happened to Julia once by $3. Lately they have been super careful and are banking $10-$15 a week for future spending.)

If we are at Costco and we want to eat pizza for lunch then I don’t cook dinner – they eat their original lunch for dinner because I paid for their lunch instead of dinner that day.

If we take an impromptu trip we do our best to make their menu fit the outing. They pick pretty simple things that can be switched around as needed.


Soon after we started the experiment I took the kids camping and so instead of heating ravioli on the stove in the kitchen we heated it on the camp stove. The kids packed their cereal for breakfasts too.

To encourage them to value homegrown food they can eat as much from our summer kitchen stash of applesauce, jelly, salsa, tomato sauce, etc…and produce from the garden is ‘free’ as well.

I realize that $30 isn’t a lot of money for that many meals so I take care of any staple items like milk, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, spices. I want them to learn that baking at home is way better than buying a $4 package of cookies at the store and that their money will stretch further if they have a well stocked pantry.

Their food is off limits to Elsa, Daddy, and I unless they offer to share. (They are spending my money after all so if Daddy wants to have a bowl of their cereal they have always said yes.)

The change in Sam and Julia’s eating habits was instant. No longer do they eat a whole box of crackers in one sitting. Sam takes two weeks to finish a box of Cheez-Its now. A bag of cereal lasts up to two weeks instead of two days. Granted it could happen that I pay for three bags of cereal on any given week now to cover Sam, Julia, and Elsa since they have their own bags. Those bags last much longer though.

Best of all the kids are eating when they are HUNGRY not just bored. Nothing bugs me more than boredom eating!!! They have completely stopped asking me for snacks. They are in charge of snacks and they have taken on that responsibility beautifully. Sam even thought to pack snacks for an outing without being prompted.

Overall the experiment was a huge success. Are there things I would change? Absolutely? (Did you see the menu choices????) Cereal five days a week? One kid bought 72 waffles at Costco the other day and figured out how many he/she could eat each day. I stayed out of it and focus on making the ONE meal a day I have to tackle nutritious. (Can I get an hallelujah about that fact that I have been able to hand over a significant portion of the menu planning!!?!?!)

Unexpected Results: * Kids are trying new foods (especially fruits)* Over time they are adding more variety to their menu

* Grocery shopping is FUN! The kids focus on their lists and don’t distract me from mine. You would think would be more difficult, but they are old enough to handle the responsibility themselves. The checkout can get a little crazy as we divide up the items in the confined space of the lines.

* They worked together to make some meals by sharing the cost


* I HAVE to make sure we get to the store each week so no more limping along on fast food until we get to a bigger grocery store. SAVES money!!!

* They are willing to share with Elsa quite often, but for the most part I try to make sure that Elsa has similar foods or gets to buy that particular food the next time because she saw Sam or Julia eating it.

* They clean up after themselves and are learning their way around the kitchen too!

* I’ve been able to keep my portion of the spending around $80 a week. We used to spend around $120 a week, but then make 1-2 extra trips for $30 each time. Now we only shop ONCE a week.

* I had no idea how much they were eating just to make sure they got what they considered their fair share. Sibling rivalry is alive and well here!

* They really like the idea of spending as little as possible so they can SAVE MONEY.

So there you have it! That’s how we’ve been able to eliminate the food battle in our home and teach some life skills in the process. I would love to hear if you’ve tried anything similar or if you have any questions. You can reach me at [email protected] if you prefer to contact me privately or on my blog:

I’m not super active on my blog, but spend way too much time on Instagram as 4MamaBear.

This post originally appeared at Simplicity in the Suburbs.

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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