Back to school snack ideas for busy families

Back to school snack ideas for busy families

On the go with less kitchen time? Check out these quick, easy snack ideas.

Key tips to remember

  • Homemade snacks are the best snacks
  • DIY snacks are fun and delicious
  • Make your own, and you’ll skew healthier
  • Teaching kids to cook is a gift for you both
  • Kids learn about culture through foods


Who doesn’t love snacks? We can think of a guy, but he won’t read this post anyway, so let’s just forget about him. The rest of us are pretty fond of nibbling between meals, and the choices we have when we start thinking about snacks are vast. Some are super-healthy; others, not so much. But even if you’re trying to lose weight and focusing on healthier, homemade snacks, sometimes a treat is nice too. Sure, you can buy all kinds of prepackaged healthy snacks — and there’s even more options for prepackaged unhealthy snacks — plus kid snacks, low-carb snacks, fat-free snacks and even pet snacks. But you might find that making your own selection of homemade, DIY snacks ignites a passion within you for providing delicious options for yourself and your family. You might even trend toward healthier options without even realizing it.

Whether you’re looking for ideas for school snacks for kids, office snacks for yourself or any sort of snack, why not enjoy a few health benefits along with your extra calories? Keeping your metabolism charged throughout the day is a good thing, so check out our snack ideas (and a few recipes) for delicious, easy-to-make snacks. Then get inspired and create more of your own!


In terms of healthy, delicious and versatile snack ideas, hummus — the tangy, savory, creamy dip made from chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans — reigns supreme. Easily created in a small food processor with a can of beans, a few spoonfuls of tahini (sesame-seed paste), and your choice amounts of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper for a little kick, hummus is a tasty and satisfying snack. It pairs wonderfully with raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and peppers, not to mention crackers, chips, pretzels and more. Make a black-bean version and add a little cumin if you like. Make sandwiches in pita bread for a pocket delight.


Speaking of healthy, delicious and versatile, another great snack sauce/spread is pesto, also simple to create in your small food processor. Combine two cups of fresh basil, one-third  cup of pine nuts (or far-less-expensive walnuts), along with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and your choice amounts of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Aside from being fantastic over pasta, pesto is also a great vegetable dip, potato seasoner, bread spread, chicken glaze or soup elevator.


Though hummus and pesto tend to get more press, tzatziki is quite the contender in the healthy, delicious and versatile snack sauce/dip/spread category. Sometimes known as Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce, tzatziki is made from yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, fresh herbs like mint or dill, plus parsley, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Zesty and refreshing, tzatziki is served chilled and pairs well with just about anything, from veggies and starches to grilled meats and sandwiches.

Peanut butter

Whether you’re a stalwart fan of name-brand, shelf-stable varieties or don’t mind stirring up your jar when the oil separates from your “natural” peanut butter of choice, this American standard of condiments deserves a seat at your snack table. Peanut butter’s unbeatable combination of salty and sweet also manages a powerful protein punch, and it’s a great way to snack. Perfect with apple slices and cinnamon, celery and raisins, or as one-half of the classic PB&J, your peanut-butter-utilization applications for snack-making are limited only by your own imagination.

Cottage cheese

Here’s another protein-packed, all-purpose heavy hitter that’s good on just about anything. Our favorite is a Triscuit cracker topped with a dollop of cottage cheese, a fresh-from-the-garden cucumber slice and a pinch of salt. As with peanut butter, the only limit here is your imagination.

Carrots and ranch (or blue cheese)

Why mess with an indisputable classic? Packed with a powerfully satisfying crunch, your humble carrot stick also packs healthy carotenoids like beta carotene, which are best absorbed by your body with the help of a little fat, which you’ll find in your favorite creamy salad dressing.

Canned fish

There are few pure-protein delivery systems more efficient than a tasty, albeit pungent, can of tuna, sardines, herring, salmon, anchovies or mackerel. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids proven to decrease your risk of heart disease and other health issues, canned fish also brings vitamins and minerals, along with real snack-time versatility, so get creative!

Tuna salad

A simple classic that’s tough to beat when snack cravings of all ages activate, tuna salad is easy to make and supremely satisfying. In a mixing bowl, combine one can of your favorite tuna with dill-pickle relish, chopped carrots, minced celery and diced onion. Add a little salt, pepper, garlic and some ranch dressing (or mayo, if you prefer). Mix well and make sandwiches on toasted bread with lettuce, tomato and cheese, or serve it solo with crackers.

Salmon-cucumber stackers

If you’re in the mood for fish but feeling a little fancy, grab some herbed goat cheese, salmon and chilled cucumber slices. Simply cut them into whatever shapes you prefer, then stack these three distinctive ingredients into a delectable stacked-snack combination everyone will enjoy.

Greek salad

Refreshing and delicious, a Greek salad is the perfect accompaniment to many a savory meal, and yet it rarely receives the credit it deserves for being a truly excellent snack all on its own. To make one, layer your favorite lettuce leaves with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives and feta cheese. Top with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mix well.


If you’d like to try a salad with flavors similar to the Greek version but more focused on hearty grains and the protein and fiber they contain, try making tabbouleh. In a mixing bowl, combine bulgur or quinoa with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion, salt, pepper and mint. Mix briskly with lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.


Olives are a versatile snack that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. From tapenades you can spread on crackers to pizza toppings, whether stuffed with garlic or blue cheese, or all by themselves and in lots of places in between, olives are a snack that’s ready when you are. Our esteemed editors recommend pairing yours with a well-aged hard and sharp cheese.


Mentioned as a casual aside within many of our other snacking recommendations, the humble cracker deserves an individual tribute of its own. Few snacks are so comfortable and welcome in so many settings simultaneously. Whether paired with an array of cheeses or accompanying any variety of dips, sauces and toppings, or even all alone in a pinch, crackers define snacking.

Cheesy turkey-matzo melts

Speaking of crackers, behold the wonder that is matzo. If you’re not familiar with matzo, it’s like a giant-size, incredibly crispy saltine, but so much better because it’s baked with wonderfully browned bubbles of crispy, malty, crunchy goodness. You can top matzo with just about anything. In this case, try turkey slices, shredded cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Turkey and Swiss roll-ups

Since we’re already on the turkey train, let’s call out one of the best turkey-based snacks. It’s easy: Just grab some large slices of deli turkey and large slices of Swiss cheese. Roll them up together, and you have a perfect snack. If you think it needs a little something, add an ingredient of your choice in the middle, like a nice mustard. But if you ask us, this snack really doesn’t need anything else. Well, maybe a little matzo.

Hammy melon-ball skewers

While we’re on the topic of rolling things up for maximum snackability, grab a melon baller and scoop out a bunch of small balls. Meanwhile, acquire a supply of high-quality, thin-sliced ham or prosciutto. Wrap each melon ball in a slice of ham. Skewer it with a toothpick, then serve and enjoy.

Caprese skewers

One good skewer deserves another, so how about trying a vegetarian version this time? Again here, minimizing your high-quality ingredients in the right combination can really knock your snack sensation out of the park. All you need for this one is fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Skewer it with those toothpicks, then serve and enjoy.

Hard-boiled eggs

File this one under traditional, but if you need a satisfying snack that’s sure to tide you over till dinner, it’s tough to beat an egg. Yeah, we went there. With protein and vitamins, your hard-boiled egg will deliver the nutrition you deserve in the satisfying snack form that you’ll crave.

Mixed nuts

With no shortage of healthy fats, proteins and fiber, nuts pack a caloric and satisfying punch into a handy, portable snack that needs no refrigeration and may even reduce your chance of heart disease, cancer, depression and more. Mix up your own favorite varieties and enjoy.

Roasted spiced nuts

Begin with a large mixing bowl and fill a third of it with a combination of your favorite nuts. We suggest anything from peanuts, pecans and almonds to cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts. Add pinches of cayenne, chile powder, habanero powder, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, and maybe a little honey if you’re feeling extra sweet. Roast for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees.


Behold, the sweet, rich date, often overlooked but every bit a worthy replacement for processed and refined sugars and syrups that make up so many desserts from the store. Dates can also make some great snacks, like oat-and-date balls made by simply spinning oats, dates, nuts and seeds in a food processor with a pinch of salt to make a paste that you can roll by hand into balls. Try stuffing dates with almonds, bacon, and blue or cream cheese. Bake at 350 for five minutes, watching closely to see when the bacon is crispy but not burned — delicious.

Trail mix

Another great way to enjoy all your favorite nuts is to add your favorite varieties of dried fruits, like bananas, pineapple, apples, and any other dried foods that might pair well in a homemade trail mix, like seeds, raisins or even chocolate chips. Mix it all up, grab a bag and get going.

Granola bars

Many of us enjoy the occasional granola bar, but few decide to make our own. Why is that? It’s easy to customize your own granola bars with all your favorite ingredients, if you’d only take the time. Mix granola, rolled oats, your choice of nuts and dried fruit with butter, honey, brown sugar and a wee bit of salt. Line a pan with parchment and bake for 20 minutes at 350, then cool and cut.

Kale chips

Before you flee in terror from the concept of a healthy chip, allow us to reassure you that kale chips really are quite tasty, not to mention exceptionally good for you. All you do is remove the stems and ribs from freshly rinsed kale leaves and toss what remains in a mixing bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and maybe something spicy. Bake for five minutes at 375.

Baked potato chips — your style

If you have a potato slicer, aka a mandolin, use it. If not, very carefully make thin, chip-size slices from a clean potato with a very sharp knife. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle your chips with sesame seeds, curry powder, garlic or any sort of potato-chip seasoning that sounds good to you using your favorite hot sauces, vinegars, spices, cheeses and more. Once you decide how to season, bake at 425 for about 12 minutes.

Sweet and savory bagel chips

Wondering what to do with all those stale bagels? Why not slice them thin and make crispy, delicious chips? Just brush your slices with melted butter, sprinkle them with your favorite flavors and seasonings, and bake on both sides for 10 minutes at 325. Much like the chips we just described, it’s easy to customize these chips to the flavor profile that strikes your mood.

Chex mix with cheese

As if the Chex Mix from the store wasn’t good enough, here’s a hack you’re sure to enjoy. Take three cups of regular Chex cereal, mix it with two cups of pretzels, a half-stick of melted butter, a cup of grated cheese of your choice, and a little garlic and onion powder. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.


If you’ve got leftover chicken, pork or steak from last night’s dinner, you’re in business. Shred the meat with two forks and use it to top some rice and beans that you can whip up in a jiffy. All you need to make this impromptu snack explode with flavor is salsa, cheese and chips.

Bean dip

Here’s another snack-time staple that you can easily stretch into a meal, much like the nachos we just described. It’s also a killer solution for the random assortment of ingredients in your kitchen, if those include beans, salsa, cheese, onions and peppers. You can mix it all up in your small food processor, or add extra cheese and bake for an indulgent version. Just add chips.


Here’s a classic (and classy) snack that’s always a crowd-pleaser. It’s also a great way to use up any leftover baguettes or any other hearty, crusty bread you need to eat. Besides the bread, all you need is some fresh tomatoes and basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Drain the tomato pieces, combine with the other ingredients to top the bread, and voila — snacks!

Pepperoni muffin pizza

If you’ve got extra English muffins, some mozzarella and parmesan cheese, red pasta sauce and a bag of pepperoni, have we got a suggestion for you! The kids will love this one. Split the muffins, brush them with olive oil, and then decorate them with all the above ingredients to create your own mini pizzas. Sneak in some veggies too, if you can. Bake under the broiler until you see bubbles and browning. Shake on a little oregano or Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Crunchy garbanzos

Who knew beans could ever be this delicious? Take a can of garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas, and cook them for five minutes in a skillet with olive oil, garlic, salt, onion and the spices of your choice. We like cumin, smoked paprika and habanero powder. Once all the ingredients are evenly distributed, bake the beans for 20 minutes at 425 or until crunchy and enjoy!

Hungry yet? We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our selection of customizable snack ideas. If you’ve still got the kiddos on the brain, you might be interested in our post on how to make chore charts for kids. As you prep for fall, you might also enjoy our fall checklist for home prep. See you next time!

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