My Ultimate Mom Hack For Keeping My Children’s Meals On Schedule

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Most days I feel like the food slave.
“Mama, can I have a snack?”
“Mommy, when are you going to give me a snack?”
“When is it going to be lunch time, Mama?”
“Hey Mom, is it dinner time yet?”
“I’m so huuuuuungry Mom!”
“I’m staaaaarving now!”

In having 5 young kids (aged 5, 4, 4, 2, 2), friends would always ask me for advice on how I handle meals and snacks. I never really knew how to respond because in all honesty, meals or even food in general was total chaos every day. I didn’t have a system! The only “system” I had was knowing in my head that each of the 3 meals were always between the same times as well as snacks being twice a day. “We usually do snacks between 10-11 and another round of snacks between 2-3.” Then they would ask me, “okay, but how do you handle them asking for food all day long?” Umm, I guess after so many kids you just start tuning it out? I always knew when snack time was, but they never did. That alone had me thinking. I decided to pay attention to how many times my kids actually asked for food. 97 times. Between the five of them, they asked me 97 times for food.

There’s got to be a better way to do this.

Woman takes a photo of her five children sitting on their back porch together
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

I started thinking about how there’s clocks to show kids when they can get out of their beds in the morning, there has to be a clock that shows them when it’s time to eat. I never googled it, I just decided to create my own. Our very own meal clock! In all honesty, it’s the most genius mom hack I’ve ever thought of! The clock was less than $4 from Walmart and I grabbed 4 crayons. I taught my kids that when the “black line with the big bump at the end” is in between the colors, that’s when food will be served. Again, these are toddlers I’m dealing with, so my explanations had to be simple enough for them to grasp. I also explained which colored areas mean what and they caught on really quickly to the concept. Note: in buying your clock, be sure the two hands look a little different than each other. It’s easier for them to find the shorter hand when it is more distinguishable, rather than saying “the one that’s shorter” (learned the hard way).

Now before people think I ration my kids’ food, I don’t. They’re always allowed fruits and veggies 24/7. If ever they are hungry during the day, they’re always allowed to grab an apple, orange, cut up cucumbers, carrots, etc. Those kinds of foods are always an open policy. It’s the goldfish, cheese sticks, fruit snacks, etc. that are regulated with this system.

It’s awesome because once they get the hang of it, they know what to expect. They did try to outsmart me by arguing that since the line was still in the yellow after they had a snack, they’d be allowed to have more. So, then I had to explain we only get one snack during that time. I also had to explain I may still be cooking the meal once it hits the pink, green, or blue, but that we would definitely eat before the color ended.

Mom takes photo of clock showing her children's daily routine
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

These are the times that work for our family, but I definitely suggest families do what works for them! My five kids all wake up in the morning at different times, which is why breakfast is more drawn out. Our afternoon snack time is also drawn out longer to accommodate those who take naps.

I know a lot of moms are constantly doing the food battle with their kids, so this might help out a little bit! It’s created way less conversations about when we’re eating since they can all just run up to the clock and look for themselves. But again, if they are hungry before it’s time to eat they will just walk to the fridge to grab a handful of grapes or some blueberries.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Molly Schultz. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.

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