My Healthy Oatmeal Pumpkin Bars Recipe + How I Get My Kids To Eat Kale

Try not to faint. Today I bring you a RECIPE. That’s right. Your pleas, your emails, your notes, your requests have not gone (entirely) ignored. You all want frugal food. Specially, you want MY frugal food. The last time I shared a recipe was January 2015, which was, uh, over four years ago… So apparently I’m on the one-recipe-every-four-years schedule. I have good reason for this, people! I am not our household’s–nor anyone else’s household’s–cook. Mr. Frugalwoods is our chef-in-residence and he is a master of frugal + healthy + delicious. But he doesn’t cook from recipes. And he doesn’t write down his creations.

My hearty, healthy oatmeal pumpkin bars

Truth be told, his meals are different every single time he cooks them, which we love, but which makes recipe writing nigh on impossible. The massive downside of this approach is that he sometimes forgets stuff he cooked and when I ask him to make it again, he has no idea what I’m talking about.

He did something with split peas, tomatoes, carrots, and chicken a few years ago that I pine for to this day. He swears he has no recollection of creating such a dish. But he did! I can still taste it!

There is one thing I do in the kitchen: BAKE! And so today I bring you my newest invention: oatmeal pumpkin whole wheat bars. I’ll put the recipe here at the top so that you don’t have to scroll for it, but fear not, I wrote a ton of other things about food after the recipe.

Frugalwoods Healthy Oatmeal Pumpkin Bar Recipe

I did not get this idea from my own brain. Rather, I adapted, changed, and added to this Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Cups recipe over the course of several months to get it where I wanted it. Below is where I’ve landed with my modifications.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of oats (not quick oats)
  • 4 cups of boiling water
  • 3 cups of white whole wheat flour (this is a whole wheat flour that’s less dense than traditional whole wheat, which makes it lighter for baking, but still has all the nutrients of whole grain)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1.5 teaspoons allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • One 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, just plain pumpkin)
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Measure oats into a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and let sit while you combine the other ingredients.
  • Combine all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the oats
  • Mix until well integrated

Baking:

  • Spray two 9 x 13 pans with cooking spray
  • Divide batter between the two pans
  • Bake for 45 minutes
  • They’re done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean

Slicing:

  • Immediately turn out onto a cutting board and use a pizza slicer to slice into bar shapes
  • I cut six rows by four rows, which makes 24 bars per 9 x 13 pan

Yield: 48 bars (depending on how big you slice them)

Storage: store in the refrigerator. Since 48 bars is a lot, each batch lasts us several weeks and they keep well in the refrigerator.

Note: I originally made these in muffin tins, but I find they’re much better as bars. The muffins were more dried out and not as conveniently shaped. Plus, it took a lot more time to ladle batter into muffin tins.

These Are Not Very Sweet

Slicing with a pizza slicer: sooooo easy

Before you get too excited, I must warn you that these things are not super sweet. They’re hearty, dense, and–in my opinion–delicious. But you might have a tough sell if your kids are envisioning a sugary dessert. It’s all in how you frame it, I think.

But They Are Very Good

Despite not being very sweet, my family adores them. They’re ideal for the baby to eat because she can maneuver them well with her little paws and they’re not too firm or crunchy. They’re ideal for the toddler to eat because they’re portable and not too crumbly. They’re ideal for me to eat because they satisfy my sweet tooth without an overload of sugar. All in all, I think we’ve landed on a winner.

A Years-Long Quest

For years, I’ve quested after a baking recipe that would yield something:

  1. Healthy
  2. Easy(ish) to make
  3. Portable
  4. Tasty

The finished product: 24 bars per pan

I essentially wanted to make granola bars, but without all the labor that making actual granola bars entails (I googled it once and was instantly overwhelmed).

Since we try not to buy packaged food because it’s more expensive and less healthy, I’ve been experimenting with various muffin and bread recipes over the years. Most of these recipes flopped because they were either too much like a dessert (delicious, but with too much sugar or butter) or too much like cardboard that’s been used to mulch a garden. In other words, bad.

I made a “cranberry nut loaf” once that was so unpalatable (roughly the shape, texture, and heft of a brick) that Mr. FW wouldn’t eat it. I froze it and hate-ate it over the course of several years. Abysmal.

Kids + Food

This quest for a healthy, homemade baked good began long before we had kids, but our two niblets accelerated my kitchen experimentation. My children are always hungry. Always. ALLLLLL the time. I swear I feed them. ALLLLLL the time. Most of our foods are whole and cooked from scratch and I want our snacks to be the same way. However, this approach left us without many portable snacks, which leads me to…

Times When These Oatmeal Pumpkin Bars Have Saved My Life

Yes, I took my bars outside for a photo shoot and yes, Kidwoods found me and was OVERJOYED

The time is 4:00pm. The day is every single day of my life. The issue is what the issue is every single day of my life: my children want something. They would say “need,” but I refute it’s a want. I’m doing laundry/cleaning the kitchen/combing play-doh out of hair and the small mammals are hot on my trail. Littlewoods recently joined the rest of the family in standing up and she loves to pull up on my legs while I’m mid-chore and just sort of hang on, hoping she can hitch a ride around the house.

Kidwoods likes to plunge her hands up the sleeves of my sweater to “snuggle your arm skin.” Direct quote, in case you’re wondering. They both desire to attach themselves to me, in the mistaken evolutionary belief that mama was once, is still, and will always be their entire source of sustenance. Despite the fact that neither of them still breastfeeds.

I begin to fling organic carrot sticks (which I dutifully peeled and chopped myself) on the floor, in the hopes that this’ll tide them the entire ONE HOUR until dinner. Yes, my kids eat dinner at 5pm. I know it’s ridiculously early, but I can’t fend them off any longer! Yesterday they ate at 4:45pm. I didn’t know what else to do–they’d eaten all the snacks–including several slices of grilled chicken (which wasn’t intended as a snack, but which they devoured like the wild animals they are).

The time is now 4:10pm. The day remains a carbon copy of every other day at 4:10pm, because 4:10pm is always 50 minutes away from dinner and always, always interminable. The (chopped, organic, wholesome) carrot sticks are being used in four ways:

  1. As food. Kidwoods ate AN ENTIRE glass tupperware of carrot sticks by herself last week.
  2. To sharpen fangs. Littlewoods gamely uses her 5 and 1/2 teeth to serrate individual carrot sticks in much the same way as I imagine an electric pencil sharpener would. Some carrot is ingested. Other bits of carrot go down her shirt. Most of the carrot can be found on the floor, dispensed from her mouth in grass blade-sized shavings. Carrot serration: yet another reason why my Roomba is my BFF.
  3. As weaponry. As all parents of all siblings everywhere are aware, anything can be weaponized. One has not lived until one has heard “she’s chasing me with a carrot stick” shrieked by a three-year-old in reference to a one-year-old crawling (and not fast either) toward her with a carrot stick held aloft, which is only held aloft (in the style of a bayonet, I’ll admit) because the one-year-old needs the other hand to propel herself across the floor.
  4. For the toy barn animals. I discovered, recently, that some of the fresh veggie snacks are making their way into the toy trough for the toy pigs in our toy barn. Unclear how long this has been going on, but safe to say probably for quite some time.

Note the serrated veggies (carrots and yellow peppers) on the floor. And yes, Kidwoods is holding two bags of dried beans. Also yes, there’s a dinosaur in our barn.

4:15pm: I escalate my snack offering to peppers. Red peppers, yellow peppers, and green peppers are adored by my girls. I don’t know if it’s the color or the sweetness, but they devour them. Also serrate/weaponize/feed them to plastic fauna. I really don’t care what they do with all this fresh produce as long as they stop trying to climb all over me, pleading for food.

I’m now back to doing laundry/cleaning the kitchen/combing play-doh out of hair/trying to write this post and the escalation of screams tells me what I already know: they would please like more substantive snacks. Desperation and perspiration mounting, I ransack the fridge and assemble a picnic* of:

  1. Hard boiled eggs
  2. Cheese
  3. Almonds (for the toddler, not for the one with 5.5 teeth).

Protein, I think! Protein will fill them up. They chow down.

*”picnic” is the word I use when I let my children eat off of the kitchen floor

But alas, they also need carbs for quick fill-up and so I turn to my ringers. My guaranteed-five-minutes-of-peace, my healthy things I’ve convinced my kids are a “dessert,” my surefire, spitfire oatmeal pumpkin bars.

5:00pm: both girls sit down at the dinner table and proceed to eat an entire meal of baked chicken, kale, sweet potatoes, and berries from our garden. I know many parents struggle to get their kids to eat and I feel their pain. Somehow, I find myself in the reverse position and can’t seem to feed my kids enough.

Other Times These Bars Have Been Useful

  1. In the car
  2. While driving in the car
  3. Going somewhere via car
  4. When out and about, because we went somewhere in the car

Thrilled with this discovery, Kidwoods made off with a bar

On longer-ish car rides, my restless creatures need snacks. I refuse to snack them on short trips, but for 45 minutes or longer, I find things go better with a few snacks. We try not to buy food when we’re out running errands or playing, so I’m an epic packer of snacks and water bottles.

Since I refuse (for the most part) to buy packaged snacks, I’ve committed several Sins Related To Owning A Car While Having Children:

  1. Do not give a toddler a hardboiled egg as a snack in the car.
  2. Even if the toddler insists she will “handle the egg properly,” do not believe her.
  3. Putting the egg in a tupperware bowl DOES NOT HELP.
  4. Regardless of how great an idea it seems (what’s the worst that could happen?!?), refer back to item #1.
  5. If anyone knows how to get hardboiled egg out of upholstery, please contact me.

Another bad thing I have done:

  • Do not give a child a veggie pouch in the car.
  • There is no way to prevent veggie pouch spray from hitting both ceiling and floor.
  • The properties of physics that allow this to happen remain unknown and unstudied.
  • NASA, take note.
  • At this time, I would like to share that I PAINSTAKINGLY made homemade, reusable veggie pouches for my kids and they both refused to eat them. They, of course, love storebought veggie pouches, which are THE SAME THING (I tasted them to be sure), but cost $87 each. So, no more veggie pouches for us.

Things that are moderately OK in the car:

  • Cheerios (one of the few packaged things we do buy. I get the generic store-brand of sugar-free cheerios, which works to distract my kids more than it actually feeds them).
  • Baby Mum Mum crackers (another of the packaged things I used to buy. These are rice crackers made without sugar and with kale powder. Yum. I’ve stopped buying these for now since they seem sort of pointless from a nutritional standpoint).
  • Best car snack EVER

    Small pieces of fruit. Apple slices, orange slices, anything that’s not too mushy.

    • Sidenote: Do not give a child a banana in a car. EVER.
  • Almonds, for those children who can reliably chew, which leaves out 1/2 of my children.
  • Cheese sticks. Kidding. I thought these were working well until I cleaned out our Prius last summer and discovered 900,897 particles of string cheese encrusted beneath the carseats. Never more. After making similar discoveries of petrified cheese stick inside our home, I’ve learned that my kids don’t like cheese sticks. This is odd because I was previously unaware there were people in the world who didn’t like cheese. I’m still processing this information.

Best car snack:

  • You guessed it, the oatmeal pumpkin bars. They are filling, wholesome and when they drop crumbs, they’re usually large crumbs that I can swipe out without too much consternation.
  • Helpfully, they work well as adult car snacks too!

Unrelated to food, a good car thing we did (to try and balance out all of our Sins):

Following last summer’s eye-opening/disgusting excavation of our Prius, Mr. FW and I purchased this backseat cover from Amazon (affiliate link). It covers the entire back seat (both the backs and the seat parts), which saves the upholstery of our Prius from unmentionable acts perpetrated by our tiny passengers. It is, purportedly, washable, but I have yet to remove it and wash it. It does, however, wipe down pretty well with baby wipes.

How Do You Get Your Kids To Eat Kale?

Kidwoods in the chard

Other parents often ask me how we get our girls to eat such healthy foods and I have several responses:

1) I have no idea.

No one knows what they’re doing with parenting (least of all me) and every child is different.

2) My kids love to eat.

What can I say? They’re eaters.

3) We don’t have sweets or junk food at home, so they know that’s not an option.

A kid can’t beg for chicken fingers and Oreos, for example, if you don’t have chicken fingers and Oreos in your house. By not having junk food and sweets in our house, I don’t have to contend with kids asking to eat those foods.

When we’re at, say, a birthday party, we let Kidwoods eat junk food and sweets. However, she understands that we don’t have those foods at home on a regular basis. When she asks about candy or cake or the like, I respond with my standard line of “we don’t usually eat that in our home.” This phrase leaves it open for us to do that when we’re at a party or on vacation, etc.

These plastic eggs have no candy in them. None whatsoever.

One workaround I’ve found: sometimes we make special food when friends come over. When we host playdate lunches, for example, I almost ALWAYS make boxed (organic, no butter) mac-n-cheese because it’s warm, easy, and quick. Kidwoods devours it, but she also knows that we only have it when friends come over. This eliminates (most of) the begging for something special like mac-n-cheese. Same goes for tasty foods we have at the holidays and on birthdays.

4) I don’t offer substitutes for food.

I learned this the HARD way. I used to let Kidwoods select from a panoply of foods for every meal. If she requested avocado instead of chicken, then like a fool I’d hop up and get it for her. If she wanted cottage cheese instead of yogurt, I’ll smile and make the substitution. After about a year of this, I realized we were setting a terrible pattern.

While all the foods she requested were healthy (since, again, that’s all we have in the house), Kidwoods was learning to be demanding and rude around mealtimes. So we stopped cold turkey. Those first few meals were ROUGH. She begged and cried for other foods, but I remained firm. I would not swap out anything on her plate. And after about a week? She settled into the new routine and forgot all about our old bad ways.

Now, I prepare plates of food for each meal (the same thing for both kids because I’d like to make it to my 36th birthday), and then I don’t deviate. If they don’t eat it? Too bad, they’ll be hungry. If they’d like more of something that’s already on their plate? Sure! If they ask for anything different? Nope, nope, and nope.

5) We don’t talk about food during mealtimes.

I’m clearly an excellent conversationalist

Despite how much I’ve just written about food, Mr. FW and I work hard NOT to discuss food at mealtimes. We don’t say things like:

  • Just take another bite
  • You need to try everything on your plate
  • You haven’t eaten enough
  • You’ve eaten too much
  • Just one tiny bite, please

We typically don’t say anything at all about the food. We talk about other things, we try to focus on the experience of eating a meal together. Admittedly, the conversation topics are limited with a three-year-old and a one-year-old, and the experience isn’t all that great for the parents. Mostly, we try to get them to keep the food on the table and not drop it into their laps and on the floor and each other.

I will sometimes cut the kids off if they’re on their 90th helping of a certain food and tell them to eat the other things on their plate if they’re still hungry. And again, since all of the options are healthy, I’m not bothered if they just eat their chicken and broccoli and leave the sweet potatoes untouched. I just pop the uneaten sweet potatoes into the fridge and bring them out for the next meal.

The more I say about food? The more of an issue it becomes. The less I focus on the food itself, the less of an issue it becomes. I’ve found that sometimes reading books during a meal is helpful when the kids are super tired/cranky/hungry. They can relax, listen to me read, and eat calmly without commentary or consternation.

6) Don’t take the bait.

Yep, still no candy in those eggs.

I don’t take the bait of Kidwoods’ classic toddler exclamations of “I DON’T like avocado! I’m NOT going to eat it!” My response? A super breezy, “ok, then don’t eat it.” Her eyes get wide, she looks from me to Mr. FW to make sure we heard her right and then, I don’t hear about it again. 50% of the time? She’ll eat the avocado. The other 50% of the time? She won’t eat the avocado. Either way, we haven’t made an issue about it, I haven’t told her, “but you love avocado,” I don’t reason/rationalize/bargain/plead. Just a simple “ok, then don’t eat it” and we move onto the next thing.

My goal in doing all of this is to not create issues or complexes around food for my kids, which I’m sure I’ll manage to do anyway just by virtue of trying so hard not to… I find that when Mr. FW and I dig in on ANY topic with our kids, that’s an instant guarantee it’ll become an issue. When we stay firm but calm, things seem to go more smoothly. I want my children to appreciate healthy, whole, cooked-from-scratch foods and to eat only when they’re hungry.

7) Involve them in cooking and growing/buying food.

Cooking with kids: not actually this much fun

This one can get really annoying really fast, but, we find that the more we engage Kidwoods in cooking and preparing food, the more invested she is in the process and the eventual eating of the food. In her toddler tower of power–built by Mr. FW last summer–she can stand at counter height and “help” us cook and bake.

She’s also an active presence in our veggie garden and loves to sit between the rows, munching on fresh veggies. I swear most of her summertime meals are consumed straight-off-the-vine. But you don’t have to grow veggies in order to engage kids in their food.

8) Don’t offer a snack workaround.

If my kids don’t eat a meal, they don’t get a snack immediately after the meal. If they’re hungry, too bad. Both of mine learned VERY QUICKLY that if they are hungry, they need to eat at mealtimes. We do, of course, have about 59 snack times throughout the day, but, crucially these snack times are never immediately following a meal.

Additionally–and this is key–our snacks are not “treat” or junk foods. They are… basically the same foods eaten at mealtimes. On the below list, you will see a lot of “ambiguous” foods, which my kids eat for both meals and snacks. When I stopped making a delineation between “meals” and “snacks,” life became easier. For example, if my kid refused to eat her chicken and broccoli and I immediately offered her a snack of a chocolate chip granola bar, she’s going to internalize that she can get a treat if she simply refuses to eat her healthy food. I mean, being totally honest, that’s what I WOULD DO if I could ;).

9) Don’t get caught up on kids’ weights and percentiles (they are not going to starve themselves).

Me and Kidwoods baking her birthday cake together. We only had to dump out incorrectly measured ingredients once.

Kids grow and develop at different rates and there’s a wide range of “normal” within that continuum. Kidwoods has been pretty middle of the road in terms of weight and height percentiles, and I think she’s currently at around the 60th percentile. Littlewoods, on the other hand, is living up to her namesake and is a peanut. She’s currently in the 4th percentile for weight, but she’s perfectly healthy and happy. My fabulous pediatrician–it is so important to have a pediatrician you love and trust–constantly reassures me that both of my kids are healthy, no matter their weight percentiles.

Another friend of mine who is a pediatrician recently explained to me that children under age six are not physiologically capable of starving themselves. In other words, they will eat when they’re hungry. And if what’s on their plate is broccoli? They will eat it. For example, Littlewoods did one meal where she refused to eat, she was hungry (I imagine), and she never did it again.

Plus, as my pediatrician explained to me, kids eat cyclically. Kidwoods will eat helping after helping of scrambled eggs for one meal, and then for the next meal, won’t take a single bite. Like not even a teensy nibble. And I do not sweat it. If she doesn’t eat, it means she’s not hungry. Pushing her to eat could create an unhealthy relationship to food and decrease her ability to determine when she’s actually hungry.

Here Are the Things My Kids Eat Frequently

I can just feel this question bubbling up and so here’s a list (to the best of my frazzled recollection) of what my kiddos typically enjoy eating. We’re a bit biased towards easy-to-chew stuff right now since they eat the same foods and one of them is short on teeth.

  • Oatmeal (not instant, not flavored, just standard whole grain oats)
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Avocados
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Hummus (homemade from garbanzo beans, olive oil, water, and lemon)
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Quinoa (caution: this stuff gets EVERYWHERE when you feed it to a baby)
  • Brown rice
  • Kidwoods munching cucumbers in our garden last summer

    Popcorn (plain, no butter or salt, made using our air popper)

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Scrambled eggs (easy to sneak veggies into this)
  • Grilled chicken
  • Beans (black beans, kidney beans or garbanzo beans, in plain bean format)
  • Almonds
  • Frozen veggies (cheaper than fresh and already chopped! I can get a 4lb bag of organic frozen vegetables from BJ’s for like ten cents).
  • Carrot sticks
  • Green/red/yellow peppers
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt (no flavors, no sugars, just plain yogurt)
  • Cheese (but not very often since they don’t seem to like it?!?)
  • Berries (picked from our garden last summer and frozen)
  • Tomatoes in any format
  • Salad greens (varied success, but with some homemade salad dressing, usually a hit)
  • And, of course, my homemade oatmeal pumpkin bars

I’m always looking for more food ideas, so please share what your kids love!

Will These Bars Change Your Life?

Probably not, unless your life was really bad to begin with. However, these bars might let you eliminate a few packaged items from your grocery list (and thus save a tad more money). They might also allow you to decrease the amount of sugar you consume. They might allow you to trick your children into eating something that contains a vegetable and a lot of whole grains. You might just like them yourself. You might also think that I should DEFINITELY NOT become a recipe blogger. Fear not, there’s no danger of that happening since, based on my track record, I will not be posting another recipe until 2023.

Come Hang Out With Me In NYC!

Ok this is not at all related, but I am SO EXCITED to share that I’ll be speaking at The Financial Gym (134 W. 25th St., New York, NY) on Thursday, May 2nd from 6-8pm. The event is FREE and, naturally, boxed wine + snacks will be served. Space is limited and so you need to RSVP here in order to reserve your spot.

Shannon McLay (Founder and CEO of The Financial Gym, friend of mine, all-around excellent person) and I will discuss financial independence, other money-related topics, and likely quite a few topics that aren’t related to money at all… Then I’ll do a Q&A! Did I mention there’ll be wine?! I hope to see you there!!

If you can’t make the event, you can watch via The Financial Gym’s Facebook LIVE starting at 6:30pm on May 2nd. The Financial Gym is a personal financial services company that takes a fitness-inspired approach to their clients’ finances. By working one-on-one with a Certified Financial Trainer, each client learns to make smarter money decisions.

April is financial literacy month and The Financial Gym is hosting FREE educational events every single night this month. If you’re interested in working with a trainer at the Gym, Frugalwoods readers can sign-up for a free introductory phone call here and save 20% on a Gym membership.

What are your favorite frugal + healthy snacks?

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99 Responses

  1. Rosalie FE says:

    OH, the carrot serration! This is a favorite pastime at my house too, but I just can’t cope with the slobbery bits of carrots so I mostly don’t allow it. I am also very thankful to have a 2yo who eats most anything and who almost never receives a separate meal (only if I cook something spicy, in which case she gets some heated-up peas and corn from the freezer, and shredded cheese).

    Our favorite toddler snacks are: goldfish crackers (Trader Joe’s has “rocket ship” crackers that look enough like fish to pass), little rice crackers (also TJs), those pouches that cost $87 each (4 for $2.50 at TJs, we go through 3 boxes a week…), Clif ZBars (pretty cheap on Amazon Subscribe & Save and chocolatey enough to be a beloved treat for kids and grownsups), mixed dried fruits, and of course endless quantities of fresh and frozen berries. If you want to see a toddler who looks like a zombie feasting on fresh brains, give them a bowl of frozen blueberries. They stain fingers and get all around fingernails in the most hilariously gruesome way.

    I’ve been meaning to throw together some kind of mini muffins or bars to healthify and frugalize our snack options, will definitely give these a try!

  2. Alicia says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have a 2-year-old (and one in the way) and I’m always looking for ways to get him to eat. I always cave to the pressure of making him something different and I am also guilty of begging and bargaining. But, like you, I believe in giving him healthy foods. My main fear is that he will not eat enough and will wake up asking for snacks (frequent occurrence). I also struggled with eating a lot as a child to the point of becoming ill, and my son had trouble gaining weight when we transitioned to solids, so I’m curious how you deal with it when they refuse to eat anything at all (or do they eventually give in)? Does it ruin the strategy if you eventually give them something they will eat before bedtime? I get that this isn’t a parenting blog but I appreciate any insights!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh gosh, yeah, I am NOT a parenting expert ;). So I really do adhere to the model of not offering substitutes or treats. I make a meal and if they don’t eat it, they are legitimately hungry and they figure out REALLY QUICKLY that if they want to eat, they need to eat the food that’s offered at mealtimes. Mine LOVE snacks too, but all of their snacks are healthy (and bear a strong resemblance to their meals), so they’ve realized they can’t use a snack workaround to get treats. Hah! My older daughter is around the 60% for weight and my younger daughter is at the 4% for weight, but the pediatrician reassures me that they are both totally healthy and that they will eat when they’re hungry.

      • Tara says:

        that’s something I think people forget–that unlike adults, kids’ brains are much more “animalistic” in a sense in that if they are hungry, they will eat, and if they are not hungry, they will not eat. Unless the kid has an underlying serious medical condition, the kid will eat as she/he needs to and trying to get them to eat more because you think they need it only makes things worse. As long as the kid continues to grow in weight/size, the kid is healthy (and sometimes they don’t, but generally ! My friend had a girl who was low percentage like yours, but she’s also petite lady (around 5’1″), so sometimes you have small kids by genetics… and those growth averages really don’t work well in that regard.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Yes yes yes!! 100%

          • Rachel says:

            Just a shout out for the parents with kids where this isn’t the case.
            The ones with the kids who will just go hungrier and hungrier, cry all night and vomit because they’re so hungry.
            The kids who repeatedly refuse food and say they’re not hungry then go pale with low blood sugar.
            The ones who gag and retch at particular textures or smells.
            The ones who are terrified of trying new things (including cakes, biscuits, ice cream).
            The ones who do this with no particular diagnosis and whose parents have tried everything for a good chunk of time with no change.
            I totally get this article is full of helpful tips – but just a comment of solidarity for parents where these things don’t work. It can sometimes take very specialised input to help certain children so parents – don’t beat yourselves up.
            We’re currently working with an occupational therapist and speech and language therapist. And physio.
            It’s hard, hard work.

          • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

            Thank you for bringing this perspective, Rachel. I appreciate you sharing and I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through this. Sending you all best wishes!

    • Molly says:

      We have a “back up” food that my kid can request at any meal. It’s unexciting, healthy, filling, and doesn’t require much work to make (because I already made a meal). Currently, it’s black beans from a can. That way my kid isn’t starving from missing a meal (we don’t have any snacks after dinner). But he’s not getting to dictate the food either. He doesn’t request it very often.

      A lot of what Mrs. Frugalwoods is talking about is called division of responsibility in feeding: grown ups decide what food and when, kids decide how much and if at all.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        That’s genius, Molly! Thank you for sharing. And thank you so much for introducing me to Division of Responsibility in Feeding–I just googled it and it sounds like almost exactly what we’re doing. I’m excited to research more and see what else I might learn and incorporate.

  3. holly says:

    good eaters makes things so much easier! I don’t have good eaters and it’s a STRUGGLE to get nutrition in them. They keep getting bigger so I guess I’m doing something right…….

  4. Meg says:

    I really loved this, especially the section about not talking about food during mealtimes. Obviously people’s mileage may vary but it seems like that would make life slightly less insane.

  5. Amanda says:

    First, I’m very excited by this recipe. It will be made this week for toddler/mom snacks. Second, my husband is the chef too and cannot for the life of him recall certain recipes. I swear he’s made a certain dish before and I crave it… but he claims he doesn’t remember. Although I have roped him into recreating dishes before, it is a rare occurrence.

    My kiddo will eat anything other than raw garlic, but really, who would? He LOVES kale fresh from our grandparent’s garden. Really anything fresh from the garden or freshly washed from the store he will eat. We’re pretty frugal vegetarian eaters ourselves and I’m so relieved that it is rubbing off on him! The uber frugal lunch recipe is our favorite and is made every week!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! Let me know what you think about the recipe. I feel like I make little tweaks every time I bake it, so I’ll be curious to hear what other people think about it.

      • Amanda says:

        I finally made these and they are such a hit with our Little Guy! At 13 months he still short on teeth so I break them up for him. He engulfs them.

        I thought it would be a wonderful idea to double the recipe since the can of pumpkin in my cupboard was 29oz and I went for it. Almost immediately I regretted it. Ha! It is almost as if you need a vat to stir all the ingredients in. Oh well, lesson learned. It has also been realized that these store wonderfully in the freezer (because the doubled recipe makes 9273232 bars). Thanks again for a super wonderful and healthy recipe!

  6. Diane says:

    When my youngest was little he used to like to chew on licorice root sticks – not candy but the actual root of the licorice shrub. I would get odd looks sometimes as folks probably wondered why I let my little one chew on a twig!

  7. Tara says:

    my 3 year old also hates cheese and a lot of food in general, lol. We also have issues with solid #2s (went to a pediatric gastroenterologist and awaiting results) which have been inhibiting his toilet training and it may turn out to be caused by some carbohydrate intolerance (an issue I didn’t know existed!) but carby foods consist about 50-75% of his diet so I have no idea what he’ll eat if it’s the case!

    I try not to push him about food, but I realize that we do offer him substitutions too often so we should try not doing that. My mom watches my son during the weekday and she is a bad snacker and he will snack with her which often results in him not being hungry for a real lunch/dinner at all. On the weekend, because we don’t spend all day snacking, he’ll actually scarf down the chicken or STEAK (he loves steak strangely) and ask for more because he isn’t filled up on junk. It’s a process my mother is slowly improving on, but a process nontheless. But living with a husband (whom I love dearly) who refuses to eat corn and peas to this day because he was forced to eat them as a kid, the last thing I want is my son to develop a weird aversion to eating foods so I do agree with you on the no stress eating bit.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I’m with you on not forcing them to eat stuff. I feel like the less I say, the better! Hard for me with my big mouth, which is one reason why I love reading them stories during mealtimes–forces us to not focus on the food at all!

  8. Anne says:

    I laughed out loud at “picnic” is the word I use when I let my children eat off of the kitchen floor”! My kids love peanut butter sandwiches on wholewheat bread, any kind of melon, tortellini, pees, wholewheat crackers, tofu, and pasta with pesto. Tip for snacking: if you keep the bananas within reach kidwoods could take one and peel it herself – and probably love the autonomy!

  9. Kiryn says:

    Sometimes I’ll act like the veggie I want my daughter to eat is a special treat that only mommy gets to eat. Then she steals it off my plate. She LOVES raw spinach and maybe it’s because of this? She likes broccoli because pureed broccoli was a basic food when she was a baby, but I never made her spinach back then. Never gotten her to like kale though. I think the texture is too tough for her. Even the spinach stems usually end up on the floor.

    One packaged thing we do buy that my daughter LOVES are crispy seaweed. She just calls it “snacks” and would eat five bags a day if I didn’t pull out the old “but you already had seaweed today, you need to eat something different now” line. Definitely no shortage of green foods in this kid’s diet.

    And yes, not making a big deal about food at mealtimes and not swapping out foods if she doesn’t like them are two things my husband and I agreed on early. We both grew up pretty poor, and in many cases if we didn’t want to eat what our parents were offering, there simply wasn’t anything else available and you’d learn early on that the alternative is going to bed hungry. “Hey, if she doesn’t want to eat, she doesn’t have to eat” is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in our family — though I do have a hard cutoff on snacks a certain period of time before dinner so that it’s actually a case of “I don’t like this” and not “I’ve been snacking all afternoon and I’m not hungry.”

  10. My husband is the same way with the meals he cooks – no recipes to start, no recipes written down, and he can’t even tell me how long it takes for something to cook 😂

    The one thing we do differently is the snack workaround – our kid is a bottomless pit so he will pretty much always eat his meals no matter how many snacks he also eats. Send help for his teenage years.

  11. Ann Leggat says:

    You are spot on with how you handle dinner. My kids, now 26 to 37 were allowed to refuse dinner if they didn’t want it. My only difference was I would offer a bowl of cereal in place of dinner if they were hungry before bedtime. The leftovers were offered the next day at lunch and usually consumed!

  12. Renza says:

    Do you have a recipe for hummus? One of my toddlers is allergic to sesame which rules out all store-bought hummus except a pricey one from whole foods.

  13. My mom got super frustrated with her 3 girls. We (me specifically) ate her out of house and home growing up. She said “I had girls so I wouldn’t go broke grocery shopping!” but when you raise girls who are athletes and swim multiple miles a day, ya need to feed them. I refused to eat some veggies growing up that I love now – beets and brussel sprouts. Turns out I like the veggies, but not the way my mom prepared them. My sister was forced to eat some foods growing up that she hated…… turns out she’s intolerant of tomatoes and allergic to peppers! No wonder she didn’t want to eat them!

  14. Jen says:

    I look forward to trying these out, but also – granola bars can be easy too! I like this recipe (works fine without the coconut which I skipped because I didn’t have any in the kitchen):

    http://www.pbs.org/parents/kitchenexplorers/2013/08/29/homemade-chocolate-chip-granola-bars/

  15. Carol says:

    It’s great to see your children growing and maturing (may not seem like it when you’re in the middle of it). I get a kick out of seeing both of their parents reflected in their faces. Also suddenly thought of them as the Frugalwoodsies or the Frugalwoodsles. I don’t have young children but can relate that my mother would call the pediatrician when my brother and I were babies because we just kept crying for more milk. The pediatrician said ok to give a little more. We wound up tall and healthy, with my mother using a similar approach to yours. Few, if any, struggles over food. I learned to eat what was on my plate, try something that was new or odd, wait until the next meal. Healthy snacks, variety, trying new foods at restaurants or other people’s homes. My mother had no problem with my mixing spinach and custard. As long as I ate it, why should anyone care? I eventually learned to grocery shop with her and got a kick out of being able to do that. That included getting fruit on sale at the end of the day at the local fruit stand, where the vendor would add up the prices with pencil on a paper bag.

  16. Kristen says:

    If you decide to give an oat-type bar a try, these from Oh She Glows are really good. I substitute a variety of things depending on my mood, what dried fruits & nuts are available and not pricey, etc but they’re a tasty snack to grab and go!
    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/65/60/be/6560bedd030e6bf4e2855bf4c636826e.jpg

  17. Bec B. says:

    Mrs. FW, you’ve moved into #1 food blogger status in my mind (even though you don’t post recipes that often) because you posted the recipe THEN your hilarious commentary. That is my biggest pet peeve when searching for recipes. Give me the goods and then I’ll peek around if you’ve sufficiently impressed me.

    Much to my husband’s frustration, I cook like Mr. FW. Nothing ever tastes the same even when I follow a recipe. We’re still mourning the perfect cheesecake bars that I made 4.5 years ago and have finally given up on replicating. I’ll just pretend that we’re practicing non-attachment with our cooking instead of, for me at least, being heavy handed with the spice jar plus a short attention span.

  18. Becca Matthiesen says:

    I came here to comment similarly to Rachel but in a much less well-written way. We are able to follow a similar process as in the article for our neurotypical kiddo, but my neurodivergent kiddo does starve. The one and only time I tried to force the issue (before we knew what was going on) they lost nearly 15% of their body weight in about 2 weeks. It was our cue to switch pediatricians and get real help!
    My workaround is to be sure to offer at least one “safe” food and one familiar but possibly not on their “safe” list food at each meal (as part of everyone’s food) alongside foods that might be less familiar or a stretch. I still plate the food and offer all of the foods to each child, but placing new foods on a separate dish. We also don’t bring junky foods into the house so the begging for food is greatly diminished.

  19. Paula says:

    Please allow me to chime in on kale. The whole family might well like a homemade version of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana. My own recipe is made from what I liked of three different copy cat recipes floating around, but if you’ve ever eaten this, it’s pretty easy to figure out anyway. Ingredients are potatoes, onion, kale, cooked crumbled sausage, condensed milk, chicken broth, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. I’m picky how I trim and chop my kale and don’t use the stems, which someone mentioned children hating.
    My husband is crazy about pumpkin, so I think he would like the pumpkin bars.

  20. Karyn S says:

    My kids est what we give them at meals Breakfast and sometimes lunch they get to choose, but dinner is what it is and everyone gets the same thing. They love their veggies and fruit and 1/3 of my children had a zero interest in cookies/cake/sweets/popcorn/chips/or basically any kind of junk food period and instead will ask for apples or whatever fruit we have as treats instead. I don’t know how that happened and I wish it would happen to me. We set the expectation very young that what we serve is what they eat. We expect them to finish the meal on their plate and give them portions we know they can definitely finish so it’s a realistic expectation. I think if you serve your kids real food from the beginning they will eat it and not expect things that they aren’t really exposed to. That being said, my kids have definitely also been exposed to way too much junk food due to having lazy parents who live in a place big enough to have various junk delivery options.

  21. One Sick Vet says:

    I am reasonably confident that you are an excellent parent. However, the word “small” is allllllllll by itself atop one of the pumpkin bar photos, and my brain automatically filled in the rest of the Monty Python line…”rocks.” Again, I am sure you do not feed your children small rocks, but the quote leapt to mind regardless. Maybe small rocks would keep them occupied longer and serrate those teeth even better?

  22. Pennywise says:

    Mmmm, I love pumpkin so much! It gets so much attention in the Fall, but it’s good year-round.

    Still reeling from the idea of a being that doesn’t enjoy cheese…

  23. Katie Camel says:

    Oh my gosh – thank you!! I’ve been trying to put together a healthy pumpkin oatmeal recipe. I discovered a banana oatmeal recipe and have been playing around with it, but I haven’t managed to create a good pumpkin oatmeal version. Yours looks promising. https://www.bluezones.com/recipe/banana-oatmeal-cookies/ Perfect timing! Yours looks delicious, so I can’t wait to try it in the coming weeks. It thrills me to see how well you feed your children. Unfortunately, most people don’t feed their children this well, so you are a shining example. Cute post as always!

  24. Erin says:

    I love this recipe, in part because I, my adult self, have the same 4pm issue as your children. 2 year old child operates on the feast-or-famine wild swings of appetite you mention above.

    I actually have a much lazier, similar recipe that I make often for both of us, which I’ll offer in case it’s useful to anyone:
    Easiest Banana Oat Bars
    1) Mix equal quantities of mashed banana and oats. (Bananas can be frozen or fresh, oats can be quick oats or regular).
    2) Add any extras you want (small pieces of dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, powdered PB, chocolate for the adult version)
    3) Form into small shapes (bars or cookie shapes) on baking sheet.
    4) Bake subjectively until they are no longer too squishy, at 350F or whatever temp if your oven is on for something else. (For me it’s about 6 min at 350 but will depend on your shapes, also I’m at substantial altitude.)

  25. Kim says:

    thank you thank you thank x10000 for this. we have a 16 month old and your food advice is refreshing, simple, and helpful. i appreciate your honesty on all of this!

  26. Ha ha, I found this hilarious. And completely relatable. And now I’m going to tell you about one of our favorites–the blender oatmeal banana muffins from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (I’ll drop the link below). You can substitute honey in for the sugar (I always do), and they are fabulously delicious. As for being a good car food, well…I can’t give you that, but these are seriously easy and just need to be on your radar in general:

    https://www.melskitchencafe.com/blender-banana-chocolate-chip-muffins/

    • Anne says:

      Thanks Torrie! I’m totally trying this muffin recipe with the substitutions of the first commenter (I’m allergic milk).

  27. Ginny says:

    I work at a grocery store and I’ve heard parents say, as they roll up with 15 boxes of frozen chicken nuggets in their cart, “It’s all my kid will eat.” Or at the sample station, a kid wants to try something and their mom says, “You won’t like that.” I respond, “No worries! It’s totally fine if they try it and spit it out. Purpose of a sample!” And the mom’s like, “Oh, thanks, but we don’t want to waste it.”

    And they wonder why their kids are such picky eaters.

    When I was a kid, my parents made food and we ate it. Period. Us kids were encouraged to try new things…nay, we LOVED to try new things. It’s a life value that we all maintain to this day, and it’s how I’m going to try to someday raise my kids.

  28. Ashley H says:

    Everything you suggested is EXACTLY what is advised in the baby/toddler eating handbook the public health nurse gives new Moms in my province (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada). Basically, the parent decides what is eaten and when its eaten and the child decides how much to eat. Don’t cajole or talk about food. Eat meals together and everyone eats the same thing. Works so far for my 18 month old son who eats pretty much everything (but like yours, one day he may gobble broccoli, and the next, he may decide not to eat it – but as adults we do the same thing!). Beckett also like standing on his stool and “helping” cook supper. I plan on doing the exact same thing with my next baby who is due in less than 6 weeks!!! Good job Mama! Just wanted to let you know that what you are doing is what is recommended by health care professionals somewhere in the world 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s so great to hear that your son is such an independent and adventurous eater! I’m also excited to hear that this is what medical professionals recommend! Yay!

  29. Kris says:

    Really appreciate writing this post Mrs. FW!! My 3 year old absolutely refuses to eat veggies especially greens(kale, celery, beans) and we have been trying to find ways to have him eat them. We show him that we eat them too and how they are good for you but he’s dead set on eating them. I’ll try the snack workaround approach and see if that will do the trick. We do provide snacks after every meal so we’ll try to take that away if he refuses to eat most of his meal.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I think it’s an ongoing process. My kids go through phases where they won’t eat something or other, but I just don’t make a big deal about it, I keep offering a wide variety of healthy option and they eventually “forget” that they supposedly don’t like something :). Good luck–toddlers are TOUGH!

  30. Jen says:

    On the topic of 4pm hunger crazies- when my brother and I were kids my parents actually switched snack time and dinner because we were always so hungry right after school and a snack just didn’t cover it. We would come home and immediately have our dinner (around 4-4:30 pm) and then at 7 or 8 we would have a small snack. My parent’s friends thought that they were nuts but it worked really well for our family and it meant that we had eaten a full meal before evening activities (sports usually started at 6pm). It doesn’t work for everyone depending on afternoon schedules but I think that the idea is nice- eat meals and snack at times that work for you not at times that work for everyone else.

  31. Cheryl says:

    Two observations:
    1. Your daughters are little dolls! I have three granddaughters who are little dolls! This is how I know yours are too!
    2. This post was hilarious from a messy car standpoint.
    oh wait another:
    3. My husband made the most delicious marinara sauce one Mother’s Day that involved italian sausage, chicken AND shrimp. He has no idea how he made it as I have been asking him ever since (which has probably been around 20 years since we have been married 40). Another thing he has never gotten quite the same again, a shrimp burrito with some sort of red pepper cream sauce that was to die for!!! Also can’t quite remember how he made it. It’s wonderful to have a husband who does all the cooking, which mine did for 35+ years, but so annoying when they can’t remember how to make something or yes….doesn’t even know what you are talking about!!

  32. Mel says:

    NASA already know about the issues with toddlers and pouch food. They have the same issues with their astronauts on the space station. They have a specific area where they can open the food pouches because the food goes everywhere and they only want to cover one part of the station in food. So take heart that your daughters are just practicing for when they’re astronauts.

  33. Sandy Moore says:

    When my granddaughter was having severe constipation issues at 12 to 18 mos. we made her veggie smoothies with lots of spinach and kale and added a small amt of frozen fruit and or prune juice to mask the veggie taste. On nights when our dinner doesn’t have lots of veggies, we drink veggie smoothies.

  34. Liz says:

    I love popcorn too! Careful with small children though – I was surprised to learn that it’s one of the top choking hazards for children under 5!

    From https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/health/25choke.html: “On a July afternoon in 2006, Patrick Hale microwaved a bag of popcorn for his two young children and sat down with them to watch television. When he got up to change the channel, he heard a strange noise behind him, and turned to see his 23-month-old daughter, Allison, turning purple and unable to breathe.

    “As a Marine, he was certified in CPR, but he could not dislodge the popcorn with blows to her back and finger swipes down her throat. He called 911, but it was too late: by the time Allison arrived at the hospital, her heart had stopped beating. An autopsy found that she had inhaled pieces of popcorn into her vocal cords, her bronchial tubes and a lung.”

  35. JoJo says:

    With regards to your hummus, switch out the water for white vinegar. Adds a delicious tinge of acidity.

    I like to make a standard hummus batch and then halve it, and pimp one half up with coriander (I think Americans call this cilantro?)

  36. Jess says:

    I take a similar approach to feeding my almost four year old in that she gets served what we are eating and she can either eat it or not. We also taught her she’s not allowed to to take any food she doesn’t want to eat off her plate

    I will say her ability to argue and negotiate for special occasion treats has only gotten more nimble with age. Or maybe she is a future lawyer.

  37. Mary P says:

    There is a feeding method (philosophy?) that is called Division of Responsibility that is very effective and you are following it without even being aware of it. I also followed it (although it didn’t exist then) when my kids were young simply because I thought that was the way you were supposed to do it and had no patience for making separate meals. They were all excellent eaters although some of them did have their picky times, but I never made a big deal of it. My basic rule was if you didn’t eat a decent meal, there were no snacks until the next meal. I never made them eat something they didn’t like (I remember gagging on cold peas when I was a child and vowed never to do that to my own kids). I have six kids and the youngest just turned 35, and they are all healthy and enjoy all types of food.

    That being said, I also have an autistic grandson with multiple sensory issues and when he was younger, he would only eat about 4 foods. He is 10 now and eats a larger variety, but is still pretty restrictive. For some children, eating is far more complicated and they definitely need specialized help and acceptance of the fact that they may never be adventurous eaters.

  38. Carolyn says:

    My kids like the junk and unfortunately that is all they get at their dad’s because he is too lazy to do anything other than microwave. On our homestead we are planting a lot this year again. The kids love the cherry tomatoes right off the vine and the carrots freshly picked and raw, rinsed off first of course. We maintain our garden as organic so there is no worry about pesticides on them or in them. Some people think it is ok to use the pesticides in the garden, but they are fooling themselves as the systematic pesticides are water soluble and are taken up through the plant and remain in your food. While i love the kale and spinach, the children aren’t fond of it, so instead of cooking it, I serve it raw in salads with carrots and tomatoes. My hubby is the chef and I am the baker, it’s funny we both do it that way, but he is a far better cook, so he does it 99% of the time. I like your pumpkin bar snacks and my husband probably would as well as he doesn’t like food too sweet. When I made jams last year, I drastically cut back on the amount of sugar the recipes called for as it made it far too sweet and among the customers I had that I sold them to, they agreed that they preferred to taste the fruit rather than be overpowered by too much sugar. I have not been as firm on the snacks as my husband. If the children turn up their nose at dinner, he tells them they can eat or go without. No snacks and no dessert. I used to let them have something later, but I saw it was counterproductive and they certainly didn’t want to eat their dinner if they got something before hand. And yes, I realize I have become just like my mother in terms of food. But I don’t try to make them eat cauliflower, Brussel sprouts or liver as those are foods kids generally hate and I never liked liver. My two actually like broccoli, green beans, carrots, potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and squash. My older son will eat cauliflower and is ok with asparagus. And recently they have both gotten into adding hot sauce on different food items. It takes time, but now that both of my boys are teens, they are getting to like adult food versus the kiddie fare.

  39. Allison says:

    Reminds me of when my son was little and I would try to get him to eat broccoli. He was very adamant that he did not like those “little trees.” LOL. He’s 15 now and still won’t eat it. Sigh….

  40. Dee says:

    Believe the word you are looking for is Grazing! I raised 4 little Graziers and help with 6 Grands. They were all Graziers! Wouldn’t have it any other way. They are all healthy and eat most everything today. So enjoy your sharing your life and Family with all of us. Thank you for all you do for all of us. Sincerely. Dee.

  41. Allison says:

    This reminds me of when my son was little and I tried to get him to try broccoli. He told me very firmly that he was not going to eat those “little trees.” LOL. He’s 15 now and still won’t eat it.

  42. Noel says:

    I love this! My 2-year-old is an eater, but we struggle with skipping parts of meals in favor of snacks. I love the idea of offering the same foods at meal and snack time. Also I love your refusal to talk about food during meals! We do the “take 2 bites” game and again my toddler is an eater so he’s almost always compliant, but I think you have a point here about creating healthy relationships with food. I did recently panic at the grocery store when they were out of chocolate milk, decided to forgo it since it’s sugary anyway, and it turns out he accepted “there was no chocolate milk at the store” as an answer. Now he drinks plain milk only and has never brought it up again. Sometimes I think we as parents create the issues and I love these ideas for avoiding food drama.

  43. laura says:

    OMG. What a gifted writer you are! The last time I read anything so good was when you recapped Christmas Service with children. This time I had tears rolling down my face as I read it to my husband. My kids are now 20/19/16/14. The five words that I hate, make me sweat and cringe and shudder all at the same time are “What is there to eat?” And these are usually uttered by the pickiest who is the youngest and operating under the delusion that whatever he wants should be ready to be warmed. My answer to the problem is an index card listing what his options are, and when the option is consumed he has to draw a line through it. I shoudl add that we are at the stage in life where people work/take college classes/attend sports practices and games seven days a week. Thanks for the share and laugh and keep up the good work, Mama!

  44. ERIN KIRKENDOLL says:

    Love the pet seat cover for the kids. Because if it was a kid seat cover it would be 3x the price!

  45. Natasha says:

    Our approach to food with our 4 and 2 year old is very similar to yours. Don’t want what’s on your plate? Then don’t eat it; that’s fine. You’re not getting anything else. I’m pretty sure our 4 year old could quote the phrase “Mommy is not a short order cook”. I am envious of your ability to get your kids to eat leafy greens, though. Ours won’t touch them, even though there is a salad on the table on many nights.

  46. kristi says:

    I love this so much and I wish I could just forward this to my brother and sister-in-law and well grandma to those nieces. My nieces are very picky. I was a picky child, but I also had rules. We cooked a wonderful thanksgiving dinner. As soon as we sat down to eat, my SIL heated up hot dog wienies (no bun) and sat it on my nieces plate for them to eat. Naturally, the super duper picky one refused to eat after eating said hot dog. She tried to tell us she didn’t like turkey, but we know she does. She was just full. They forced her to take a bite and she rudely spit it out on to the plate and said gross. She is eight. Yes, I was picky, but if I ever went to someones house to eat and threw up food on to a plate, I would have been severely punished and I wouldn’t eat. But my parents didn’t heat up a hot dog right before the plate was served. I was livid at my family for allowing this to happen. And grandma will go get Whataburgers for the nieces right before we sit down to eat. I just can’t fathom this. They aren’t picky just like I wasn’t picky, I just had too many options and Happy Meals close by that were quickly picked up to eat. Now, I eat everything that I can.

  47. Melanie says:

    Your photographs are beautiful! This comment is mostly to tell you that I saw your book at the library, I just finished it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  48. LongTime Frugal says:

    The days of feeding children (girls) who had two hollow legs. I will tell you at some point, the quantity of food they eat does decrease. But you’ll have to live through the years where the two of them will eat as much as you and Mr. Frugalwoods. Mine were pretty neat when they ate. Perhaps you’ll get to experience a child who eats a lettuce salad, no dressing.

    Food in the car – I remember one trip where I thought I had packed enough snacks for the 1.5 hour drive. Wrong – they consumed it all before we were 30 minutes into the trip.

    My experience – offer a variety of foods. And yes, the eat it one day, don’t want it the next is normal. Toughest thing for me was breakfast. I have never been a breakfast person. But I put on my “mom face” when one kid liked to have cottage cheese for breakfast.

  49. Karin says:

    As this is the first time I comment your blog I firstly want to thank you for all the inspiration you gave to me. I live in Germany and some circumstances of course are different.

    I‘d just like to share the favorite fast recipe my teenage daugther loves..
    chop some ginger and sear it in olive or sesam oil
    Add chopped cabbage
    Spice it up like you want. To be honest my daugther loves it with some instant broth.
    On days we are hungry and I do not have the time to cook a complete meal this is our healthy tasty option. As this is our whole meal such days I do not hesitate to add some more oil for a good taste and we miss nothing.

  50. Jeanne Swygart says:

    Your daughters are darling. My grand daughter’s 14 month son eats all the time! And she feeds him only organic foods. He is very healthy but an eating monster! 😂

  51. Betty says:

    Love this post as I wrestle with my own toddler at meal times! Question for you – do you eat with your kids at 5 pm, or do you have an adults-only dinner after they go to bed? I love your tip of reading to them if they’re cranky at mealtime, but I eat dinner with my toddler and wondering how I’d feed myself lol.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh good question! I should clarify that. We eat breakfast and lunch together as a family and then do dinner separately. The kids eat at 5pm (accompanied by a parent reading them books) and then they go to bed at 6:30pm and my husband and I have adults-only dinner and conversation at around 7/7:30pm. It really helps keep us sane to have an uninterrupted adult meal every evening!

  52. Mrs. Gardener says:

    If you’re interested in this topic, read the “War and Peas” in the Complete Tightwad Gazette.

  53. Ashley says:

    Love your blog! I have 3 kids, 5 and under and our mealtimes can be pretty crazy sometimes. One snack I found helpful for toddlers: 1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour, 1 egg, 1 avocado and 2 ripened bananas (mashed). Use mini muffin tin, makes up to 24 muffins (bite size and easy to transport!). Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 mins or until golden. Freeze well too! Always enjoy your posts, especially those surrounding the trials or parenting 🙂 Thank you for being so candid!

  54. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I’ve been hoping to find new and inexpensive snack options for my kids- and myself 🙂 I’ve read that popcorn, raw carrots, and nuts can be choking hazards even for older kids up to age 7 so I have tried not to give those foods to my kids yet. I admire your frugal and healthy lifestyle and I truly enjoy your writing!

  55. Caroline Bowman says:

    Just quickly, here in SA we don’t have canned pumpkin, so would the equivalent amount of mashed, steamed (or roasted! I LOVE roasted pumpkin or butternut) pumpkin work? I like the look of these bars. Maple syrup is VERY expensive here, so I might sub in raw wild honey or some honey (very strong taste) and a little brown sugar.

    Such a great recipe! It can of course be ”jazzed up” to proper junk party food. How?? Well! Let me tell you a secret I have learnt in my 12 years of parenting, if you put sprinkles on almost anything that may vaguely resemble cake or a treat (such as these here bars), ESPECIALLY if you dribble the smallest quantity of simple water / lemon icing over, I’m talking maybe a tablespoon for all 48 bars, plus a couple of teaspoons of bright sprinkles, it is immediately party food. It is in fact birthday cake. Try it and you see how right I am!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! Canned pumpkin is just steamed, mashed pumpkin, so you’ll be good to go. And you can absolutely substitute in any other sweetener for maple syrup. LOVE the sprinkles idea :)!!!!

  56. Elina says:

    The comments have great suggestions. We tried crunchy sea salt chickpeas one day from Costco and found that they made a great snack. We make them now and they are easy on the go snacks. Dried fruits are a big hit in our family.

  57. Justine says:

    Try these… super similar but with sweet potato! We skip the topping and just add a very light drizzle of honey and my 3.5 and 1 year old DEVOUR them 🙂

    https://www.budgetbytes.com/sweet-potato-casserole-baked-oatmeal/

  58. Renata says:

    My son is allergic to eggs so I made this with flax substitute and it worked quite well. Thanks for the great recipe!

  59. Jen says:

    Has anyone else made the pumpkin bars? I made them this weekend and they are soooo wet. Did anyone else have this experience? I ended up adding raisins to try to soak up some liquid and baked them an extra 20 minutes but they are still the consistency of mushy oatmeal inside. Great flavor though! I am thinking I’ll try a cup less liquid on my next go unless any one has a different suggestion 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hmmm, mine seem to harden up a bit after spending the night in the refrigerator, but they are kinda mushy–they’re more the consistency of brownies than say a firm granola bar.

  60. Courtney Walsh says:

    I know tahini is a bit pricy but, combined with chickpeas, it makes hummus a complete protein and a much better snacking option.

  61. Becky says:

    These have been a big hit lately: https://www.healthy-liv.com/mixed-berry-baked-oatmeal-cups/

    Tasty, portable and reasonably healthy! I’ve been doing them with apples and/or cranberries instead of mixed berries because there’s less smearing and staining. They’re also good with maple syrup instead of honey. 🙂

  62. These sound good. I’ll have to try them- but half a batch, since there’s only two of us and we fast two days of the week 🙂
    I will be subbing applesauce for eggs, since I’m vegan, but I don’t think it’ll matter to the recipe. Excited to check them out- thanks for sharing!

    • Winifred says:

      I’m going to try them veganized too. I use 1T ground flax meal and 2T water, let sit a few minutes to get thick, for “vegan eggs.”

    • Ruth says:

      Can you please let me know how the “veganized” version goes for you? How did the applesauce replacement turn out? Thanks so much!

  63. april says:

    really enjoyed this article. I like the idea of not making mealtime conversation about the food, and not engaging much i’f they say they don’t like something, thanks.

  64. Brianne says:

    I made these bars with quick oats, and they turned out! Very delicious, as you said. I really love how they’re not too sweet and even have a noticeable level of saltiness which is great for a snack. Most muffin/bar/loaf recipes are too sweet.

  65. Anne says:

    I made these! Twice. I used quick oats, and one batch had crushed pineapple instead of pumpkin and the other had mashed banana instead of pumpkin, and both had applesauce instead of maple syrup. Definitely less sweet, but we loved them! I love that they’re not too crumbly, and so easy to make. Thanks!

  66. Cath says:

    The recipe sounds great. I’ll have to try to adapt it to gluten free for my daughter, who misses granola bars.

    On the subject of food with kids, I had awful problems with my daughter until she was about 8. It was a constant battle and she kept losing weight. Nothing helped. We saw many Drs and in the end I solved it, not the Drs. My daughter had inherited my intolerances to food. We can’t eat any pulses or gluten (among other things). All blood tests were clear as intolerances don’t show up so the Drs kept saying she was being awkward. By the time my daughter was 9 she was eating EVERYTHING I gave her, started to finally sleep through the night (yes, I didn’t get a nights sleep in 9 years!), started to gain weight (from the 5th centile despite being 98th centile for height), finally got out of nightime nappies (diapers), and became a lovable child. She has autoimmune problems now sadly, as I do, from years of eating trigger foods. If a child really struggles and isn’t thriving it’s worth trying a modified exclusion diet. Please get advice though. I did it alone but am a Dr. With children it’s best to only exclude one food group at a time rather than starting with chicken and rice. They are growing and can’t do total exclusion.
    Another example of children who will starve themselves are autistic children. My brother is autistic and would have starved if he wasn’t allowed to (eventually) eat his favourite cereal every meal. He got better but on his own terms. Although as a 35 year old he still doesn’t have much selection. If you are concerned about your child speak to a Dr, there might be a good reason why they don’t eat.
    Last year, I cut out ALL remaining processed foods (not that there were many left) from our family’s diet. Except gluten free bread that I’ve failed to make! I’m good at baking bricks though and am well on my way to having enough to build a house! Since cutting out all processed foods both Missy and I have had less pain (from autoimmune problems), sleep better, and have more energy. The other benefits are that our food bills have dropped a lot (no more over priced yucky gf foods) and our bins are almost empty without all the food packaging. Win for us, our wallet and the planet! 😁

  67. Leslie says:

    Love your writing as always! Quick question: you mentioned not using butter in the mac and cheese or on the popcorn. Is that a health choice or a frugal choice or both? Thanks!

  68. Kara says:

    Mrs Frugalwoods, that is a beautiful healthy list of things your kids eat. But their behaviour sounds like me as a child. My mother had an “eat it if you want it” attitude toward me, and I was STARVING most of the time, could not make it to 5:30 until I was 15, and then weirdly periodically not very hungry for several weeks. She snacked me continually until I was a teenager, and I was hypoglycemic, nauseous and frequently only wanted things I later turned out to be allergic to. I understand it’s the fashion to imagine that kids don’t need adults to regulate what they eat other than offering only good stuff, but some children who don’t have an underlying medical issue that anyone can find really do need help eating enough to stay alive. My son legitimately attempted to starve himself, first by weaning himself at 8 months (never having eaten anything but breast milk) and again from about 2 years old. I offered many healthy choices, giving him what he would eat without conflict like all the advice says, and he finally got so hungry he screamed for six hours a day every day for nearly a year. But he did not eat. And since I was following all the good advice, it was difficult to figure out what was wrong. It turns out he needed an adult to draw attention to the behaviors of eating (scooping a bite, putting it in your mouth, chewing, swallowing, getting another) to, as they say, “make an issue of it,” and to decide for him how much he needed to eat (by trial and error, just enough to stop the screaming). It took him six hours a day sitting at the table for a year to figure it out. Now he’s six, he’s a giant like his dad, thin but healthy weight, and able to decide what and how much to eat himself (you know, on good days. Not every day is good when you’re six). And me? I finally figured out, at the age of 32, that I will not be hangry if I keep my carbs below about 80 or 90 grams a day, on average. Go above that for a week or two and the hunger-as-emergency is back, and the migraines are more frequent. The kids also eat approximately that lower level of carbs, and while they might mention they’re hungry if the previous meal was light, and ask for a snack if they notice it’s snack time, they won’t notice a missed snack, or a meal that is two hours late. They are super active, tall thin 4 and 6 years old. I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong at all, your kids look healthy (unlike some I’ve seen lately) I’m just saying, you might want to try upping the cheese, see how it goes.

  69. Erin says:

    Thank you for posting, I decided to try these. It was not surprising to me that I liked them, what was surprising was how well they satisfied my desire for a quick sweet treat. They remind me of Budgetbytes Baked Oatmeal recipes, except in more of a bar form. So I thought some folks might want to check those out for other flavor ideas. https://www.budgetbytes.com/?s=baked+oatmeal

  70. Robyn says:

    These were very good! I guess I have a crazy oven because these cooked in 30 minutes for me, though.

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