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Monday, November 16, 2020

Keeping the Mood Festive: Our Pandemic Snack Jars

One of my roles during this period has been to keep my family's spirits up. All of our lives have been severely disrupted (to say the least) with the imposed restrictions on social and work activities, death or illness of family or friends, and fears of contracting the virus ourselves. It is easy for depression or anxiety to settle in for all of us under these circumstances. To counter this, I do whatever I can to keep the mood cheerful around here, such as these pandemic snack jars. 

Under normal circumstances, I don't stockpile commercial snacks or breakfast cereal, even when I do find a good price. My reasoning (which comes from our family's experience) is that these commercial goodies, like chips, pretzels, and cereal, are often favored over the homemade foods for quick snacks and gobbled up in a flash, regardless of how much I buy at any one time. Here's an example: Years ago, when triple coupons were a thing, I bought about 15 boxes of assorted packaged cereal at a steep discount. While the boxes of cereal were considerably less expensive than their regular price, the cost per ounce/serving was still above what I would spend for homemade foods. I don't eat most commercial dry cereals; so imagine my surprise when about 10 days later, I opened that cupboard to make room for more groceries and was met with 14 mostly empty boxes (the bran flakes were the only untouched box, ha ha).

So, keeping a small stockpile of commercial snack foods is out of the ordinary for our household. However, this is an out-of-the-ordinary time in all of our lives. Wanting to provide quick, easy, and quasi-fun snacking experiences for my family members, I did buy several packages each of saltine-type crackers, graham crackers, pretzels, roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, toasted oat cereal, applesauce, and canned pineapple to have for quick and easy snacking. You'll notice, I deliberately did not buy the uber-fun, sugar-sweetened, brightly colored or super cheerfully-shaped treats. Those would be devoured far too quickly. I stuck with rather boring versions of snack foods. 

Even so, I've found the best way to ensure that our supply will last for months and not weeks is to ration what is available through some fun (fun is a subjective word -- my family thinks these jars are fun) jars on the kitchen counter. (As you can see, the jars themselves are simply jars that I already had -- nothing fancy.) To keep things new, I rotate what goes into each jar every Sunday or Monday. Some weeks I add a sweet treat like a very small jar of chocolate chips or small candy pieces. This week, we have Cheerios-type cereal, oyster crackers, raisins, roasted sunflower seeds, and candy corn.

To give you a comparison indicating how this is a change for us, in "normal" times, cereal would mean homemade granola or a cooked cereal, crackers would come out as an accompaniment for soups, raisins would always be available in the pantry, nuts and seeds would be occasionally out, and candy would be for special occasions, like movie night. In the past, snacking for us has mostly meant simple foods like popcorn, homemade tortilla chips, toast or pbj sandwiches, raisins/other fruit, carrot sticks, or any baked good. But nothing really sitting out on the counter, at the ready for impromptu munching.

Do any of you remember the character Julie from the TV show The Love Boat? Julie's position was that of cruise director. I've often thought of "cruise director" as an appropriate title for my own role in our household. On a cruise ship, the cruise director is responsible for entertainment, hospitality, and social events -- the job of making fun for everyone onboard. This may not be the Love Boat, but call me Lili the cruise director for the Mounce family cruise, which features such highlights as a pandemic and a heated national election. 2020 has been a doozy. Anyway, keeping jars of snacks has been a part of what I'm doing to keep the mood in our house festive and not gloomy.

As an aside, I'm so glad that I had already been planning a cook-out for our Thanksgiving with our son and daughter-in-law. Our governor announced yesterday that indoor gatherings with members from outside our household are prohibited, including Thanksgiving dinner. The only exception is if every person quarantines for 14 days or for 7 days plus a negative COVID test. So, outdoors for Thanksgiving it shall be!

I hope your week is off to a good start! 

Time for me to get back to cruise-directing.


  1. The bran flakes...we too have a bag of untouched bran flakes that my husband wanted but hasn't eaten. I won't even tell you how old it is. I hate waste but I don't know what to do with it. Do you think it would be good as a chicken coating? It's been moved around so much that it is now mostly crumbles.

    Interesting about cereal. When the kids were young they also would gobble up the cereal but now none of my adult kids eat cereal at all. My husband is the only one who does. I don't eat it either.

    Our governor gave us some more restrictions for three weeks so that includes Thanksgiving gatherings. We are not having a big gathering but hope to only move my son that weekend or shortly after that. If it happens to be Thanksgiving weekend, we'll bring along food and cook it at his house for just our family.


    1. I love bran flakes. I must be the only one. How about making bran muffins with them? A good grab and go breakfast ��.

    2. Hi Alice,
      I second Kris's suggestion for bran muffins. They freeze well, so you could make a batch to store in the freezer, then family can grab and microwave one in the morning for a quick breakfast o snack.

      Your Thanksgiving plans sound like they'll work out well. Good luck helping your son with his move.

      Have a wonderful afternoon, Alice!

  2. When my kids were younger, I'd occasionally buy lunchmeat, but then they could eat the whole package easily--meaning it would be gone the next day. Growing boys are good at things like that. So I stopped buying it. It was too expensive to disappear so quickly and there were plenty of other ways for them to get full.

    As I've said before, you're family is very lucky to have you holding down the fort. Not only are you like Julie McCoy, I think you're the whole crew. :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That was always my thinking -- there are plenty of other ways to get full/snack. I can only imagine what your grocery bill must've been like with two teenage boys in the house. They seem to be bottomless tanks at times.

      Aw thank you. I do feel like the cruise director at times. But I don't mind that role one bit.

      Wishing you a nice evening, Live and Learn!

  3. Hi Lili! This is a fun post. I've set up our hot cocoa corner for some holiday cheer as well. I have a treat bowl of sorts that I set out with miscellaneous treats. I noticed that some weren't being eaten. I bag those up and add a couple of different treats to the bowl. After a while, I'll bag those up and offer the other set.😊

    Great idea! Thank you for sharing! Have a great day!

    1. Hi Lona,
      I love how you're managing the treat bowl. The rotation seems to keep everything "fresh" and appealing, doesn't it? I made a batch of cocoa mix a couple of weeks ago and am just now noticing that I'll need to do another batch soon. That tells me that family members are enjoying themselves in this cooler weather. We need some more mini marshmallows, too!

      Have a lovely rest of your day, Lona!

  4. I remember Julie! I sometimes think about a line from the tv show that was also on at that time, Fantasy Island. Ricardo Montalban would tell everyone, "Smiles, everyone, smiles!". I think we all need to be real and I don't in any way endorse a fake approach ..... but sometimes I remind myself that if I approach something in a positive way, it gives that upbeat energy to others around me. Including my family!

    I bet we are all being cheerleaders for our family right now. Our department of health has issued new orders which include high school students returning to online schooling for 3 weeks to help clamp down on our covid numbers. My kids are understandably unhappy about that, so last night we ordered a take-out dinner from our local Italian restaurant. The price wasn't bad but the calorie load ..... well, I can't do that too often, haha. But the smiles were worth it.

    Thanks for sharing how you are boosting your family's mood right now. Hoping to hear from others so I can glean ideas. I'm not so worried about keeping spirits high for the next month .... Christmas preparations should help with that .... but I think things will get tough in January.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Oh yes, I do remember Fantasy Island. I haven't thought about that show in years. I agree -- it only takes one person to start a good mood going in the house. I'll remember that line, now -- "smiles, everyone, smiles."

      I think sometimes breaking our normal patterns is called for, like with your take-out meal just after the school's changed back to all online. I know I've been spending more on food for the last several months, simply because we need a boost to our morale. This is such a difficult period for everyone. I keep thinking that if only we could escape for a week -- but there's no place to escape to. All we can do now is pray.

      Enjoy your evening, Kris.


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