I think this is the 2nd or 3rd year that I have done snacks at Vacation Bible School (VBS). I do a lot of planning and often read what others have written about the program and shopping experiences/food prep experiences. I thought I would share my experience with this years program. Our theme this year was SHIPWRECKED – Rescued by Jesus.
I started with a booklet from “EASY VBS GROUP” called Tropical Treats. This booklet gives menus for each day along with the Bible reference and teaching suggestions. RECOMMEND!!!
FOOD ALLERGIES – What a great guide for making snacks that were “allergy friendly, no peanuts, and had easy modifications for gluten and dairy allergies“. I also used the information I got from Snack Safely when shopping and verifying various items for the “allergy issues” I had on my list! This year I had “cow’s milk, mango, peanuts, egg, dairy, cashews, pistachios, rice, oat, wheat, meat,corn, cantaloupe, banana” all on my list for kids that were registered. The menus were “less tricky” than last year with the allergies, and my husband was a good shopping helper, as we read labels etc. I spent a little time “refining” the grocery list, calculating servings per person, etc. The allergy issues were a little easier this year too, because the parents checked the menu & ingredients and in most cases brought a suitable substitute the day a treat was being served to accommodate their child’s special needs. Kids who had allergies were served FIRST the first day, and their name-tags indicated their allergy. Their group leaders understood that when they lined up, they were always to be first in line at snack time. This ensured we didn’t goof up.
Shopping – We spent one day hitting 2 stores price checking and coming up with a cost per ounce. We wanted to get the most value and be careful with the church’s resources. Then, when we got to the 3rd store, we KNEW if the item was a buy or not in that store. I deviated somewhat from the menu when I found it to not be cost effective. We shopped at BJ’s warehouse, Redners and Walmart, and at Dollar Tree for decorations and non-food items. I had one parent who was gracious to shop for ice cream and strawberries later in the week too. Walmart did not carry the Herr’s brand for the pretzels we needed.
Logistics – I have 2 big storage bins with removable tops, and I “filled them up” with the groceries, based on the day of the week. I took the snacks “the day before” to the church so they were on hand for the next morning. I also take a cooler, and bags of ice cubes I have saved over the month from my home ice maker, and a couple of those “blue ice” products that re-freeze. I have a wonderful cart I bought at Harbor freight, which makes moving large quantities easy from the parking lot into the church. I leave one of the storage bins at the church to pack things away in overnight that will get used the next day, like crackers and napkins etc
We had 111 children registered in advance and every day I kept track of attendance. On average we had 88 children per day. I did all the shopping based on the 111 kids. While it felt like, I “over purchased”, I had to be certain that if EVERYBODY showed up on a given day, I would have enough! Because the attendance varied, I was able to offer the 35 staff members snacks too.
Food Prep – The guide book has the children working as teams to prepare the snacks. We have VERY large groups, and determined this was not going to be easily managed, so we had a team of teen-agers and adults who worked all week on snack prep and serving. I will note how we managed this each day.
Our snacks were “Sand-elicious Parfait; Gone Fishin’, Castaway Cracker Mix, Fruity Floats, and Graham Raft.”
SNACK SPECIFICS –
DAY ONE – Served 89 children and some staff. The Sand-elicious Parfait started with a pre-packaged pudding cup. I was able to purchase the pudding packs for $1/for 4 pudding cups on sale at Redner’s, a local supermarket. The pudding was “shelf stable”, that did not require refrigeration for storage. I did refrigerate the night before and kept them in a bowl of ice during the day while we were serving. The recipe called for 4 vanilla wafers per child, crushed, to be the “sand”. I bought 2 large boxes of Vanilla Wafers at BJ’s Warehouse. Each box had 2 bags. I crushed 3 bags in a food processor and put the crumbs in 2 – 1 gallon ziplocks. This was twice as much as needed. I had my helpers using a measuring tablespoon to scoop the crumbs (aka SAND) on top of the pudding. The actual pudding cup would not hold more than a tablespoon. We also offered “whole” cookies to those that were “still hungry”. We were to use “fish shaped or other sea creature shaped gummy candy” on top. I could not validate Swedish fish for “nut allergies”, so I picked up some additional sweet & sour gummy worms (from Dollar Tree) that were certified nut free for the 7 kids with nut allergies. I was unable to find dairy free pudding alternative, and for those kids we were prepared to offer just cookies and Swedish fish (from BJ’s). My FOOD PREP team went “assembly line” opening the pudding cups, putting on the “sand” and topping with a Swedish fish or Gummy Worm. They put the prepared snacks on a plastic serving tray. and only prepared the quantity for the group as indicated on the class rosters. Got a thumbs down from about 10 kids on the snack. The rest ate it up and were looking for more. I considered it a filling snack! Pudding cost alone was $30 for 120 units, Vanilla wafers 2-30oz boxes @ 6.99 each; Swedish Fish – $7.29, Gummy worms $1 OVERAGES – about 20 pudding cups and 4 cups crushed cookies, and ½ bag of swedish fish. Note; crushed cookies used for refreshments on Sunday.
DAY TWO — Served 99 children and staff. This was called GONE FISHIN’ -Ingredients were Skittles candy and popcorn, sealed in seperate parts of a cello bag. The size cello I needed was available at Dollar Tree in the party goods aisle. I purchased 5 packages (25/pack). The bags came with silver twist ties. The “recipe” called for using a rubber band for closure and the small bands I purchased just snapped. We decided quickly on just the twist ties, and clothes pins .
I used my personal air popper and popped 1 1/2 quarts of popcorn kernels. My machine does about 6 popped cups at a time (enough for 6 bags). I pre-popped and stored in a 32 quart storage tote enough to pre-assemble snacks during the first hour or 2 of VBS. Off and on during Monday I continued to pop corn and assemble the snacks. It took about 2 hours of work to prepare half of the snacks on Monday. We ‘ran out’ of skittles and had to make another trip to BJ’s for more. Prep finished on Tuesday morning while the first groups were being served. We used a sharpie marker to draw a cute “fish-hook” on the clothespin! A couple of helping hands put skittles in the bag and twist tied them closed, while someone else measured out popcorn and twisted the bag close with the clothes pin. Heart stickers went on for the eye. They were really cute. Feedback from kids – only a few commented on the unsalted unbuttered pop corn. The rest ate it up. They had to “get thru” the popcorn to reach the skittles. Bigger kids figured out quickly how to get to those skittles! Only the smallest children needed help removing the twist tie. The popcorn quantity was too much for the littlest kids. Overages – about 10 cello bags and a cup of skittles. This was an intensive prep snack. But, the results were worth all the work! I underestimated the volume on the Skittles, and had to send the hubby back to BJ’s for 2 more large bags. We used 4 large (warehouse store size) bags of Skittles with about 1 cup left over! Skittles cost was almost $28, bags were $1 for 25 bags, and packages of clothes pins were $1 x 4 packs.Heart stickers 2 packs/$4.50.
DAY THREE – Served 90 children. Castaway Cracker Mix – Simply stated – COLORED GOLDFISH. Instead of using 5oz cups as recommended in the guide, we used snack size zip-lock bags and measured the recommended volume. We added in left over Gummy worms & Swedish Fish as a surprise treat, and used the extra heart stickers on the outside of the bag, to remind the children that Jesus loves them. EASIEST treat day of all. The snack bags helped if kids wanted to take their snack with them. Overages-even though we used a measuring scoop, there was excess. I purchased 5 large cartons based on 5 oz per child. We had about a carton and half left over. We gave LOTS of second helpings and used them for supplemental snacks later in the week. Goldfish was $7.49 per carton x 5 at Redners. Snack bags – 2 box – Dollar Tree, 50 per box, $1/box.
DAY FOUR – Served 86 children. Snack was Fruity Floats – Deviated from the menu and used 2 buckets of ice cream and scooped into the cups vs using much more costly ice cream cups. Used wide milkshake style straws, and cut off about 2” of extra length. Straws came from Big Lots and were perfect for the thicker drink. Snack set up was done by the crew, scooping ice cream and topping with tropical blend V8 Splash and (TIP) inserting the straw. As we served the children we topped the float off with the sparkling water. (Inserting the straw BEFORE the seltzer is key to it not overflowing!!) 9 oz cups were used. Ice cream was kept in a bowl of ice at the serving table. Volunteer parent purchased and delivered 2 containers of ice cream on Wednesday evening. Quantity of ice cream was perfect. Overages – 2 bottles of V8 Tropical Splash and 98% of the V8 Orange left over and 2 bottles of seltzer water. V8 Tropical Splash contained Mango so the V8 Splash Orange was a suitable substitute to accommodate 2 children. V8 Tropical Splash from BJ’s – 2 pack for $5.49, total of 4 big bottles. Redner’s -The V8 Splash Orange ($2.29) and the lemon lime seltzer (2 ltr/$1.19)x5 bottles. Comment – this was MY personal favorite snack. The ice cream melted quickly and the drink tasted like an orange dreamsicle!!!!
DAY FIVE – Served 75 children. Snack was Graham Rafts – Deviated by “adding” a small amount of pre-packaged frosting (vanilla) on the graham cracker to “hold down” the strawberry half. Prep work- set up the crackers on the plates, affixed the strawberry half with the frosting and counted out pretzels, along with measured pieces of fruit by the foot. Kitchen scissors helped there. Kids did a great job building their rafts. Had to remind the smallest children to take the paper off of the fruit by the foot. A Volunteer parent purchased strawberries and delivered them prepared on Thursday evening. OVERAGE – 1 large container of strawberries, 1 LARGE carton of graham crackers and 1 bag of pretzels. Served them after Sunday service. BJ’s – Big boxes of Honey Maid Graham Crackers 2 @ $8.99 each; Redner’s – Herr’s pretzels 2 @ $3.00 each; Fruit by the foot 6 @ 2.89 each. Used less than 1 container of vanilla frosting. Note – no complaints about this snack at all!
Cheese sticks (4 @ 5.88 each) were purchased at Walmart and were served when ever a child was “really hungry”. Also, the extra box of Goldfish was distributed on Thursday. One volunteer provided a box of graham cracker cookies for extra snacks. We didn’t want anybody to be hungry, and even though this was just a snack, we found many kids in the morning hours had appetites! (Did they all skip breakfast??)
Our snack station is located in the Narthex of the church, which is carpeted. Kids sit on the floor. Previous years I used old bedspreads , but this year I decided to use tropical print beach towels. Purchased 8 new beach towels at Big Lots, and arranged them in a semi-circle. This made a great floor covering, were easy to gather up and take outside to shake out. We figured out that arranging them in a circle eliminated little bodies getting “too touchy”, and it allowed us greater access to serve the children the snacks. Lots less pushing and shoving than having them line up.
We decorated using the tablecloth (plastic) purchased with the program. Additionally, I added a bit to the windows. I purchased at Dollar tree 2 “tropical” grass skirts, a fishnet and some luau flowers. I added sea shells to the fishnet from our personal box of sea shells! Hubby drilled 2 holes in each seashell, then I used cotton thread and ran a few strands in to make loops. I attached them to the net with paperclips. The grass skirts were unrolled and hung across the window and in the center was the fishnet.
Volunteers made great backdrops for VBS – the picture below shows what they did for the sanctuary, which was the gathering place for the beginning and end of the day –
You may wonder what we did with the leftover food. We have fellowship after the Sunday service and served them, along with dozens of donated cookies.
I made “SAND” with the leftover ground up cookies. My youngest daughter recommended the recipe from a blog called http://manouvellemode.com/. Here is the link to the recipe – Sand Pudding . My daughter has a friend who makes this for every party/pot luck and there are never any leftovers. She was right about the NO leftovers. I did serve in a glass bowl instead of the sand pail. I explained to the adults I served that this was the “upscale” version of what the kids had. I even put leftover swedish fish on top! I also mixed up some of the Fruity Floats for the parents, minus the straws!
All and all, a great week at VBS and a great week sharing the message about the love of Jesus to all of the children.
Hope my post helps you if you are led to doing snacks with your church program.