Reader Question: Food for Playdates

Reader Q&AI am totally delinquent in posting this question from my reader Amanda (please forgive me!), but I’m hoping my smart readers will have some suggestions for her.

I have a question for you or your readers about play date food.

I have been trying to move my family to a more organic and natural diet.  My kids prefer whole wheat bread and brown rice to white.  I use natural peanut butters etc.  And while I use my coupons and sales they are still expensive and we don’t waste it.

I have had two kids over recently for play dates.  One took a bite of a pb & j sandwich and said she was done.  The  other took two sips of my organic milk and left it.

I know kids will be kids and my kids don’t always eat everything on their plate.  But this could get expensive not to mention wasteful as we enter play date zone.  Is this just a price of parenthood that needs to be added into my budget?  Or am I missing something?

Any suggestions/tips on handling this as we move forward.  My oldest is 5 so we are new to the school play date scene.  I had a friend who used to buy the cheap cheese (she wasn’t kosher) and use that for cheese sandwiches for play dates.  I never understood why until now.

What are your ideas for Amanda – and the rest of us – on keeping play date food “on a budget”?

(Personally, I do a lot of fruit – in season, of course – and popcorn. Busting out the cheese sticks is a sure way to blow through a few bucks!)


  1. I like to have organic milk much of the time in the fridge. But I have now stopped serving it for play dates — it’s just so $$$$$

    I do a lot of homemade popcorn, Country Time lemonade ( drastically cheaper than pre made) Basically I really reduce my standards when other kids come over — this is after years of seeing what other people serve! Regular peanut butter is much cheaper and won’t hurt anyone now and again. Also, kids love plain spaghetti with a bit of butter and salt or sauce and a little cheese along with carrot sticks. I used to be much pickier when the kids were little, but now that they are preteens, I go for foods that have a lot of volume. I also feel very free to invite kids over between meals, and just serve a snack. One cute snack: Teddy Grahams with peanut butter as a dip, along with (nonorganic) milk.

  2. I spend a lot of money helping my kids entertain their friends. Seems like I feed the whole neighborhood some days! I do blow through a lot of money of snacks, but I see it as part of our budget to keep well-stocked, and it’s my choice – I would rather my kids feel comfortable hanging out at our house and knowing that they can always bring kids by when they want to. I get tubs of pretzels, animal crackers, make popcorn, and get cases of ice-pops. I don’t love it when we go through a package of string cheese in a day, so I do have a one item per person per day rule. We only use chalav ysiroel, so I don’t have as many cheap options as other people. I will say that the Trader Joe’s peanut butter is inexpensive, and only uses peanuts and salt (no sugar added!). Popcorn is probably the cheapest snack option, we have an air popper and I buy a huge thing of kernels at BJs. Just go for it and good luck!!!

  3. I’ve resigned my self to half eaten food. I end up eating it alot. I also have taken to saving it and feeding it to my kids again. I won’t feed partially eaten food to other peoples kids and I know many people will find it icky and germ spreading but that’s my strategy. Between kids that are in day care or school and seem to get all the best germs anyway and a father who ate my partially eaten food, I’m used to it.

  4. It makes me uncomfortable to have one set of food for my children, and another (lesser?) set for someone else’s.

    However, as the parent you decide what to serve. If celery sticks, popcorn, and water are what is in your budget, don’t offer anything else. Your house, your rules: “No I’m sorry, I’m not serving milk now, our snack for today is popcorn and water.” Play dates are only at your house for a couple of hours — kids will do just fine with what you tell them is available, or they can learn to say “no, thank you” if they don’t. They’ll be able to eat what they like when they go home to their parents.

  5. my kids are still little so we don’t have many playdates but the few times we did, if it was lunch time I just served (whole wheat) noodles and some cut up tomatoes and cucumbers on the side, and maybe some tuna.
    also, we always start with small portions, which is what we do even when we don’t have guest over, so that we wont be wasteful.

  6. I think the best advice to avoid the waste is to start w. small portions. My son can eat 2 bowls of pasta easily, but I have learned that others eat less then 1/4 of that amount. So I start w. small portions and they are welcome to have more as long as we have it. (i.e. I make 1 box of pasta and whatever is uneaten can be served or refrigerated).

    If you’re serving PB&J sandwiches, try cutting them into cute shapes or triangles and have the kids take 1 at a time. You can save the leftovers for another day’s playdates.

    Popcorn is great (we make it either in a paper bag in the microwave or, as a treat, we make fresh kettle-corn in our own popcorn pot (we did this as shaloch manos this year too). Cheap, tasty, and not the most unhealthy treat.

    Raisins (I buy in bulk at the price club) are also popular. And nuts, if there are no allergies.

  7. I’m with Dara – I make the rules. Unless it’s a sleepover, for example, I won’t serve milk for a snack. I usually don’t ask what they want (assuming no allergies) and I just plop a snack on the table. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. If not, they’ll go home soon and eat there…it’s always a snack that MY kids will eat so I figure it’s probably safe 🙂

    I have a neighbor kid who comes to my house and basically begs for things, particularly strawberries. I’ve started just saying no…

  8. Thank you everyone for the great tips! We had afternoon kindergarten so we would do play dates/lunch and then take the kids to school. My DD will chow down an entire sandwich (including crusts). I always ask the parent if their kid will eat a whole sandwich or half. In the case she said yes and the child didn’t. I like the idea of serving small and asking for more. Makes a lot of sense. And I appreciate the cheaper choices and I make the rules suggestions too.

    Play dates in the future can and will be between meals so it will be easier I think.

    Thanks to Mara for posting 🙂

Leave a Comment