We’ve all been there – red Koolaid spilled on the carpet, Cheezits crushed underfoot, tables sticky with food, a bin of half empty bags of crackers, cookies, and chips taking up your storage space. Over the years, I have found a few easy tweaks to large group snack time to help make it easier on volunteers, the custodial staff, and your budget.

  • If possible, let kids sit on the floor. Buy some large vinyl tablecloths and have them sit on the floor with the snack on the tablecloths. This accomplishes several things: no sticky tables, the mess can all be gathered up in a bundle to be shaken out over the garbage can, spilled drinks are contained as well. The tablecloths can be wiped down and reused and are inexpensive to replace.
  • Cold water, no ice for drinks. Years ago we started substituting water for Koolaid, juice and other drinks. We have never had a single complaint from kids about having water to drink. We noticed, before we made the change, that a number of kids would always ask for water anyway. This is a great way to cut dollars from your snack expenses. Pour water that’s been chilling in pitchers or dispensers, rather than using ice. Water is way easier to clean up when spilled when there is no ice to scoop up and pick off the floor.
  • Use coffee filters instead of paper plates to hold snacks. The beauty of this is that a huge bag or box of coffee filters is a lot cheaper than a comparable number of even the cheapest paper plates. The coffee filters have sides so they contain the snack better (less Cheezits on the floor!), and can just be crumpled up and thrown away when kids are finished, taking less room in the ever overflowing trash cans.
  • Use up all those half empty bags of snacks to create a trail mix. This is a way to get more bang from your snacking buck. Combine all your leftovers in a big bowl, then give each kid a generous scoop. The kids always love this, and it makes great take home snacks, too, just put some in the little plastic snack bags and you’re good to go!
  • Buy snacks your kids will actually eat. I know, hello Captain Obvious, but oftentimes we look at snacks from a standpoint of what looks good to us. This costs us a bundle when it gets mostly thrown out. Find several things your kids really react well to and keep them on your snack rotation. Just be sure to keep food allergies in mind.

So there it is – take a look at how you currently serve snack to your large group and see if these changes will help squeeze some money from there that you can then use in other ways to benefit your kids.

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Joy Feemster is a 20-year veteran of children's ministries and is currently the Director of Christian Education at Neely's Creek Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her passion in life is pointing people to that "1 Thing" relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 10:38-42).