Setting Up Self Serve Snack and Lunch Drawer

With more kids home doing school while parents are at work or working from home, there is one way to make lunch and snack time easier for everyone. Making a self serve drawers in your pantry where kids can make their own healthy snacks and lunches is key

We have updated this post since 2012.

The kids have purchased their school supplies, I have replenished their wardrobes and now it is back to the bittersweet part of back to school…School Lunches.

Making three lunches really should not be a chore to a mother but in fact a chore for the kids. My children are definitely old enough to fill in their lunch boxes with snack, fruit and drink choices. It is about time I started getting organized in the kitchen.


Part of my children chores in the evening is to pack their lunches. I am happy to make the sandwich, Quesadilla  or hot noodles but feel the kids really need to pitch in and fill in the other basics.

I decided to designate one pull out in my pantry to just school lunch choices. They are not to come here for a snack after school or weekends.
Simply the cost of the smaller snack size items are in my opinion for convenience not every day consumption.
Obviously in 2009 my kids were younger and I also filled little snack Tupperware with snack foods they could just grab. They have been instructed to pick a fresh fruit or vegetable, milk product, either milk box, yogurt or cheese stick and another drink either water or juice box.

Here is the updated 2012 version. Now, I also have another pull out that has snack size plastic bags they can use if the reusies are dirty. They can fill up with boxed or bagged snacks without moving a finger!!


 My middle schooler decided to make a menu of her meals, designating which days she could have a dessert. This menu is taped inside the pantry. I hope she can stay this organized.  Keep scrolling to find our kid friendly free printable grocery list. 


If you have teens in your home you can appreciate the phrase, the kids eat you out of house and home.  You know the drill, their lunches are packed to the top, they attack the kitchen when they get home from school and are begging for dinner an hour later. 

I know this too shall pass, once they leave the house for college, so I guess I need to embrace the never-ending munchers and just start preparing and stocking the house with nourishing and filling after-school snacks.

Jif Power Ups snacks for teens 1



Kids get bored so you need to mix things up almost weekly so they will continue to pick the healthy snacks instead of craving sweets.  I know they would love to eat ice cream for every meal, who wouldn’t? 

We have created a snack drawer in our pantry that is stocked with snack items that not only appeal to teens but are nourishing and energizing. 


Setting up a Snack Drawer for Teens

  • ORGANIZE BY SNACK: When setting up a snack drawer for teens, they are not going to spend time rifling in a pile for a snack.  I find it is best to organize the items by type.  Whenever I added mixed nuts and trail mixes in a tub, they seem to go uneaten.  Maybe it’s just my kids.
  • Hang up a grocery list of things the kids want you to buy again.  It has been my experience to not buy the same snacks three times in a row, wait a few weeks and recirculate them again.

Other After School Snacks for Teens:

  • Frozen Chocolate Banana bites for a tasty after-school snack.
  • Fruits and veggies cut up
  • Yogurt: Greek or Low-fat
  • Nuts and seeds- homemade trail mix is always great
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • Muffins-– pumpkin and apple oatmeal are great.
  • Fig Bars
  • Pretzels and Hummus Dip
  • Cheese and crackers



Teen Grocery List Printable

Print out this Free Teen Snack Printable to hang near your cabinet so the kids can pick their snacks for the week.


Keep your child fueled up during the day with healthy snacks.  What is your teens’ favorite after-school snacks?

After writing this post I decided to browse the web quickly for any other helpful hints. I found these tips  from Professional Organizer Lea from Organize Right Now LLC.

SELF SERVE SNACK DRAWERSTeen snack grocery list

I feel I am on track with her advice. Glad to hear as I sometimes don’t think I am that organized.
  • Rethink your cabinet space. Choose a cabinet to be designated for the lunch center. If you still have short people at your house, be sure to choose a low cabinet so everyone can reach.
  • Empty that cabinet of its current stuff. Sort through it and find new homes for those things.
  • Gather all of the lunch supplies: Plastic bags of snack and sandwich size, napkins, plastic flatware and all of the non-refrigerated food that you approve of for lunches – even the peanut butter and a loaf of bread. Organize the supplies and the food products in the cabinet.
  • Grab a plastic large food container, minus the lid, and open the refrigerator. Place the lunch meat (make sure it is in its own sealed container), cheese sticks, fruit and so on that may be used for lunches into this plastic container. Place it on a shelf next to the drinks purchased for school lunches.
  • Take time to instruct the family, pointing out that the lunch cabinet is off limits for after school snacking. There should be plenty of other things in the pantry for that use. Also point out the section of the fridge that is for packing lunches.
  • Packing lunches the evening before is a great way to relieve morning stress. During the after-dinner clean-up, have each child go to the lunch center and choose their side items. The next morning, all that needs to be added is the sandwich and drink. Sandwiches can be made ahead and refrigerated, if you wish.
  • Keep the cabinet stocked. Now that everything for lunches is in one spot, it is easy for you to pop open the door and eyeball what is needed from the store.”

This is not a bad idea for adults either. How often do you find yourself scrounging for something to grab for lunch and end up eating junk? We could probably be a lot healthier if we followed our own rules!! Now the trick will be to see how long it takes before this plan falls apart:)


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