Growing up in my house, we had four kids and a tight budget. My mom invented all sorts of quick and easy, kid-friendly after-school snacks. I’ve used her same fun, budget-friendly food ideas with my kids. Many of these recipes not only make great after-school snacks, but can be modified for lunches, dinners and desserts.

1. Broiler Cheese. Ingredients: Sandwich bread and sliced cheddar cheese. Directions: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set oven to broil. Lay out slices of bread on the baking sheet. Place sliced cheese on the bread— not leaving much of the bread showing. Broil until cheese is melted (keep a close eye on this) and serve open-faced.

Variations: This recipe can easily be modified based on the ingredients you have on hand. Bread can be swapped with left-over hamburger buns. Cheese and be replaced with parmesan or mozzarella. You can even put pepperonis on top and serve with marinara for an easy weeknight dinner.

2. Banana Smushies. Ingredients: Bananas, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and Jimmy sprinkles (optional). Directions: Slice bananas into quarter- to half-inch thick circles. Lay banana circles out on a plate — exposing the surface. Drizzle chocolate syrup over the sliced bananas. Decorate with dollops of whipped cream and add some chocolate sprinkles for fun. Then serve!

3. Crescent Roll Sammies. Ingredients: One package of crescent rolls, cheddar cheese, salami and yellow mustard. Directions: Cook crescent rolls according to package directions. Once out of the oven, cut in half horizontally leaving a top and bottom. Put two salami slices and a half slice of cheese inside. Squeeze yellow mustard onto the top half of crescent roll. Put assembled sammies into the microwave for approximately 30 seconds and serve.

Variations: The great thing about this recipe is its versatility. I have made these with all different kinds of meats, cheeses and condiments. Ham, swiss and honey mustard; turkey and American cheese; pepperoni, parmesan and marinara; plain American cheese served with tomato soup. These make a great quick lunch or dinner as well.

4. Bean and Cheese Roll-Ups. Ingredients: Can of refried beans, shredded cheddar or jack cheese, salsa or hot sauce of your choice, flour tortillas, chopped onions, diced chilis, and black olives (optional), and paper towels. Directions: Spread a spoonful of beans in the center of the tortilla. Sprinkle a handful of cheese, salsa and any other desired ingredient over the beans. Roll or fold the tortilla to close and wrap it in a paper towel. Place on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds. Once finished, unwrap and serve. 

Variations: Any ingredients your kids do not like can be left off. My youngest always requests a plain cheese roll-up. Served with fruit or veggies, this makes a great dinner as well. It's also prefect for older kids on the go.

5. Apple nachos. Ingredients: Sliced apples, caramel sauce, chopped peanuts, pretzel pieces, peanut butter or chocolate chips. Directions: Slice apples into small wedges and place around a plate in a circle. Either drizzle with caramel sauce or spread peanut butter on the slices. Top apples with peanuts, pretzels, chocolate chips — or any other combination of sweet and salty you like.

6. Quick cheese sauce. This is such a simple cheese sauce that my grandmother taught me when I was a kid. I use this for everything. Serve with broccoli or cauliflower, dip pretzels or tortilla chips, dip apples, or serve over a baked potato or pasta. Cheese can be swapped (as long as it is a good melting cheese) and things can be added like a can of Rotel or other spices to dress it up.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of flour, one cup of milk, one cup of grated cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste and food to dip (crunchy or soft pretzels, tortilla chips, veggies, apples, etc.). Directions: Add butter to a small saucepan. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine. Add milk and stir until warmed through. Add salt, pepper and grated cheese and stir constantly until completely melted and smooth. Serve warm with desired dipping food. 


Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

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