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We’re spending some time with family down the shore in NJ this month and while a lot of how we’re feeding everyone is similar to regular weeks at home, there are a few things that have jumped out as Different. And more helpful than I expected. So I wanted to document them here in case this helps anyone else who might be traveling in the near future.
(This is a random list in no particular order written late at night after long days with the kids, so forgive me if it’s at all disjointed. I figured I’d try to share it in real time to help me not forget what’s been working!)
Eat mostly the same breakfasts and lunches. I love nothing more than to have fewer decisions to make, so relying on mainly the same foods for these two meals has been hugely helpful. Cereal and fruit, bagels and cream cheese, leftovers (pizza, pasta, whatever!) are easy and fast. (I did make Yogurt Pancakes once, shown below, but otherwise…this!) Lunches have mainly been sandwiches…peanut butter and honey was a surprise hit this week.
It’s been a good reminder that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel as much as I often think I do.
Give yourself the option to eat after the kids. We almost always eat dinner together as traditional “family meals” at home, but eating after the kids has allowed us to meet the needs/demands/requests of the kids—and then to also to enjoy our food. (We also have three generations in one house, so a lot of moving pieces.) We have sent the kids off to play when they finish or have embraced after dinner screen time. If you have younger kids who have earlier bedtimes, this could also work to eat after they go to bed.
Buy all the melon. Melon—cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew—is (currently) the one food that I know they will reliably eat at any time of the day. I love this because melon are usually less expensive and more delicious in the summer. And they’re a great way to help the kids stay hydrated when out in the heat all day. (Last year I made all the Ice Pops out of blended melon so that is an option too!)
Find the local store brands. Groceries are a lot kind of no matter what, but we have really leaned into local store brands this year (our stores have been Shop Rite and Target) and it’s been more helpful with our food budget than I expected. The basics like milk, yogurt, cheese, beans, pasta, mac and cheese, etc, have consistently been much less expensive than other options.
Take shortcuts that work best for you. When my kids were younger, I often got an assortment of finger foods from the salad bar at grocery stores to have fast options on hand while in a hotel or rental house. Beans, corn, roasted beets, shredded cheese, cubes of chicken, hard cooked eggs, and more are great for this! Now that they’re older, we do things like order hoagies for dinner. Or just get some pizza. Or pick up bbq chicken as an easy dinner component.
Know that wild fluctuations in appetite are normal. New routines, no routine, different foods, different activity levels, different sleep…all of it can change the way that kids eat while away. I keep joking that my youngest eats their fill every third day and the days in between are anyone’s guess. However your kids eat on vacation is probably normal! (More on “normal eating” here.)
Enjoy the ice cream. I’ve been coming to the same beach for my entire life, so there are a few ice cream places that are musts for me. And yes, we have had more ice cream and popsicles than normal this week, but I love vacation exactly because of this—it’s a break from the normal!