Snack foods for a classroom
September 19, 2017 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy 300 snacks for my son's kindergarten class. What's the most cost effective way of doing this?

My son started kindergarten this month and one of the things parents are asked to provide classroom snacks for two weeks out of the year. Without really thinking about it, I signed up for two weeks in a row.

My son's class is amazingly small for a public school (15 kids!) but snacks are twice a day, so I'm looking at buying 300 snacks here (15 kids x 2 snacks a day X 5 days a week x 2 weeks. Right?). Snacks must be ready to go (no slicing fruits or even plating out things). No allergy restrictions. I don't have a Costco membership but could get access to one. Doesn't necessarily need to be "healthy." I'm willing to do a little work on my end if it means saving money.

Suggestions on providing 300 snacks without spending an enormous amount of money?
posted by Ideal Impulse to Shopping (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would look at Amazon, Costco (pretty sure you can still buy without a membership - there is a surcharge), even someplace like Staples. Amazon has a fair number of foodservice-type packaged foods in big quantities and I use this for office snacks. Getting things shipped also means less of a headache.
posted by hijinx at 12:07 PM on September 19, 2017

I would think Costco-buy a bulk tray of chips/crackers/trail mix/clif bars/etc. They should have multipacks of individually-wrapped single portion sizes. They may also have big crates of tangerines or other bulk, portable, not too perishable fruit. Not sure if you have access to a fridge but they should also have things like yogurts, string cheese, etc.
posted by stillmoving at 12:09 PM on September 19, 2017

Those gigantic boxes of goldfish crackers that you can get at Costco. I have never known a child to object to eating as many of those as they can get their hands on, multiple times a day, for multiple days in a row.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:12 PM on September 19, 2017 [20 favorites]

No plating it out is a silly restriction. It means so many options are off the table (pun intended), and the costs are so much higher. Will they allow pre-portioned things done by you? I'm thinking finger food cereal in a ziplock bag for each child or yogurt covered raisins wrapped in a napkin. Even baby carrots in little ziplock bags. Anything preportioned/pre sealed is going to get expensive at that kind of volume. :-( I'm very glad my school doesn't do this!!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 12:14 PM on September 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Will they allow pre-portioned things done by you?

Chances are, no. It's all about allergies and cross-contamination. Every public school system I am familiar with has moved to "snacks given to the whole classroom must be pre-packaged with nutrition labels on them." It's a liability thing.

Take advantage of the Costco membership you could have access to and take a look around at what they've got. Truthfully, the snacks really don't have to be substantial, especially if they're doling out two snacks plus lunch. I'd recommend the snack-sized bags of Goldfish. soren lorenson is correct in that kids LOVE them. But don't get the gigantic box because I'll bet you can't pre-portion at home.
posted by cooker girl at 12:18 PM on September 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

When you say no plating out, does that mean that snacks have to be individually wrapped? If so, assuming you're in the US, the fact that it's close to Halloween could work in your favor. You can probably find bags with small packets of raisins or goldfish crackers. Even though you say it doesn't have to be healthy, I'm guessing straight up candy would be a bad idea.
posted by FencingGal at 12:20 PM on September 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd go with clementines for half of the snacks, then prepackaged snack packs from Costco for the rest.

Being Halloween retail season, I've been seeing things like big bags of 50 packs of pretzels at the drugstores on sale.
posted by kapers at 12:20 PM on September 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

I snack-feed Girl Scouts with regularity.

Costco has an (I believe) 80 pack of Mott's brand fruit snacks in single serving packets. These are tasty and not too-too terrible in terms of nutrition and are the best price-per-unit of fruit snacks that Costco has to offer.

There is also a Kirkland's brand line of soft&chewy granola bars. I think the only flavor is chocolate chip. These are very tasty, popular with the kids, and are the best price-per-unit of granola bar Costco has to offer.

If you need to provide a beverage, Costco has the 100% juice no sugar added Capri Suns in a multi flavor pack. They're popular and go on special in the monthly circular every other month or so. The Kirkland brand 100% juice no sugar added juice boxes are cheaper per ounce, but you get less in each box and the flavors aren't quite as popular with the kids (in my experience).
posted by phunniemee at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2017 [23 favorites]

Many grocery stores sell prepackaged small bags of baby carrots, and often you can find ones of sliced apples, too. Or a bag of small apples, clementines, etc. There are also often individual cheeses (string cheese, cheddar, packs of Babybel, etc) for sale. There's also granola bars, jello packs, go-gurt or normal yogurts, rice puddings. Aside from those, I imagine you're looking at those 100-calorie bags of "fruit" snacks/dried fruits/pretzels/goldfish/teddy grahams/nuts/cookies/etc.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:24 PM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

300 sounds like a lot, but it will be easy to buy that many at Costco. Really, you just want 6 snacks that come in packs of at least 15.

Applesauce pouches

Granola bars or animal crackers
String cheese

Pretzel or popcorn packs or Pirate Booty
Fruit snacks
posted by LKWorking at 12:33 PM on September 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

You do need a membership to shop at Costco stores, but you can get around it by buying a gift card for part of the balance and paying the rest of it with cash. There's a 5% surcharge if you buy online.

If I were in your shoes, I'd buy a Costco gift card or go with a friend that has a membership -- if you're using a friend's membership, the friend has to pay for the order. Some cashiers will let you pay for the order yourself, even if your name isn't on the membership, but this is by no means a guarantee.

If ordering all this from Costco, I'd get a box of the 60 count pretzels, a big box of the 60 count granola bars, a 45 count of the peanut butter crackers, an 80-count box of those fruit snacks, and one more box of pretzels, since they're the cheapest thing that would put me over 300 snacks, with 305 total snacks. All this would cost $65, shipped from Costco's website for a member, and some things may be cheaper at the store.
posted by PearlRose at 12:34 PM on September 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've noticed you can get bags of 48 cheese strings relatively cheaply on sale, given it's cheese. And those things take forever to go off, even if they say keep refrigerated. A cheap cooler bag would be more than sufficient. I'd buy 7 bags and call it done, but thats just me. Just 1 bag would get you morning snacks for 3 days though.
posted by cgg at 12:36 PM on September 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oops, just realized you want two weeks not two days! But same principle applies and in fact you can aim for packs of at least 30 then. Then you can just plan on repeating all the snacks (and things that come in even bigger packages you can repeat a couple times).
posted by LKWorking at 12:36 PM on September 19, 2017

Costco doesn't do trial memberships but Sams and BJs do if those are an option for you. You can also buy bulk snacks from Amazon and some grocery stores will get you a discount if you buy things by the case (but you have to ask and it's not universal).
posted by Candleman at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite] might be another option; there are a number of other online options for large quantities.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:48 PM on September 19, 2017

*Addendum - there's a 5% surcharge if you buy online and are not a member. The $65 price I quoted is for me, a Costco member who doesn't have to pay a surcharge. I just tossed snacks people mentioned that were available on the website into the shopping cart until I had over 300 total items in the cart.
posted by PearlRose at 12:49 PM on September 19, 2017

You said you have access to a Costco membership--does that mean that you have a friend who has one? Costco sells a ton of stuff online and you don't have to ship to the member's address. I have a friend who wanted to buy something at Costco and I just gave her my login and she ordered it to her home address, paid with her CC, no problem. Way easier than navigating the store!
posted by radioamy at 1:05 PM on September 19, 2017

Use snack size ziplock bags, Print the nutrition info on a label and affix to baggies. Crackers, chunks of cheese(separate baggies), baby-cut carrots, small apples (they won't eat them), cut up veggies - celery, red peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli. Get some small cups, make jello with fruit and pudding, use press-n-seal cover. Peanut butter can be scooped in to a small paper cup for dipping, same with dressing for veg. and can be covered.

Pre-packed - teddy grahams, corn chips, pretzels, crackers, popcorn, apple slices, fruit cups, pudding, applesauce, granola bars, small packets of ranch or french dressing, salsa packets & chips, peanut butter, laughing cow and other cheese, yogurt.

If you buy packets of anything, maybe pass them along to another parent. The single-serving requirement is environmentally bad and stupidly expensive. It will cost you so much more to buy commercial products, and you'll be so limited, and worst of all, it will all be full of sugar, salt, & hydrogenated fats. Kids who only eat single-pack foods never eat raspberries or real cheese or all sorts of great foods. I would make a fuss.
posted by theora55 at 1:12 PM on September 19, 2017

O, I would def. do something along the lines of carb & protein in the morning, fruit or salsa or whatever in the afternoon.
posted by theora55 at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2017

Restaurant supply stores often have Costco prices on prepackaged snacks, and in many cases are open to retail customers. Google to find one nearby, and look online to find out if they sell to retail customers. They often have a wider selection than Costco. (But Costco will totally do you fine.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:20 PM on September 19, 2017

I think most schools these days want factory-sealed packages only. Because if you bought the big bag of chips and put them into individual Ziploc baggies you could put salmonella or rat poison in there, too. My insanely picky nieces and nephews approve of string cheese, goldfish crackers, and m&ms, and not much else ....
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:21 PM on September 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If going bulk from Costco I'd look at the little packets of crackers they work out cheap per serve. You can get 45 Austin crackers with PB on them for like 9 bucks, that's 20c a snack. A mixed flavor box is a $1.50 more but then you get kids arguing over who got what so maybe avoid that. A 60 count box of bags of pretzels comes in at $11 so 18c a serve. This is the online price & doesn't include taxes.
posted by wwax at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2017

I think you should ask the teacher what people have done in the past. This is not new. You wanting to be efficient and cost conscious is not reinventing the wheel.

With those requirements, I would get 300 individual serving bags of Fritos, chips, pretzels, etc. You can go to Costco and get a one day trial membership for free. Also, consider looking at Amazon if you have Prime.

If this is a public school, see if the group that runs the cafeteria (Aramark?) can get you something at a reduced cost.
posted by AugustWest at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

Can you clarify whether the snacks have to be packaged commercially with nutritional labels or not? That would really affect my answer.
posted by kitcat at 1:58 PM on September 19, 2017

You can also shop Instacart, if they serve your area (or the area of a friend who will receive delivery for you) and get Costco without the membership prices. In Seattle they also do Cash & Carry, which also has packs of snack-size serving items. And it shows up at your doorstep like magic.
posted by katemonster at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Annie's also has Halloween size, pre-packaged crackers and bunny cookies at this time of year. Also, Sunmaid raisins used to come out with micro boxes of raisins at Halloween time.
posted by quince at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding to talk with the teacher, or alternately whoever gave you the signup form, and see what sort of requirements they have wrt factory packaging and dietary restrictions. Wouldn't want to see you buying a bunch of peanut butter crackers (for instance) only to have to throw them out because someone in the class has a peanut allergy.
posted by Aleyn at 4:12 PM on September 19, 2017

Assuming you are allowed to prepare and portion the food yourself, and are not required to provide commercially packaged individual snacks, you could make small sandwiches -- one full size sandwich cut diagonally into four pieces. These were a popular children's party food in the 70s. If there are no allergy restrictions, you could do peanut butter and jelly, or cream cheese and jelly, or butter and jam, on whole wheat or a multigrain bread. This would only require making 8 sandwiches per day. (8x4=32)

Wrapping them in plastic wrap is cheaper than using ziplock baggies.

If it's too small a snack you could add a few grapes, or a couple of cookies.

If you're able to make the time to bake, that would be cheap as well. Banana bread or something similar cut into snack sizes and wrapped in plastic wrap.

If plastic wrap might be too difficult for the children to unwrap, sandwich bags that have a flap that you tuck in are cheaper than ziplock baggies.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 9:31 PM on September 19, 2017 is another good source of bulk items. They have lots of options with individually packed snacks (like Annie's fruit snacks or Pirate's Booty) and the prices are just as good or better than Costco's and Amazon's. I would link to some items but they make you have a log in, so I don't think my links would work. Anyway I've shopped there for kids' snacks and had a good experience. I think you can get 15% off your first purchase, too.
posted by katie at 2:42 AM on September 20, 2017

Amazon has Pretzel Goldfish, 300 count, for $59.99. Obviously, you might not want to serve those twice a day for 2 weeks, but there are lots of options on Amazon for not very much money.
posted by momochan at 6:59 PM on September 20, 2017

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