I know hearing "fresh produce" and "fruit" as an already underpaid and on-the-verge of broke teacher can be scary. The idea of providing our kiddos with some delicious and nutritious snacks before the dreaded tests we are mandated to give is wonderful and I'm sure most, if not all of us, want to provide them. But nutritious + fresh always = expensive... right?
I gave my students healthy and delicious snacks on the day of testing for the three years. I taught at a small, private Christian school where I administered the Stanford Achievement Tests. They were broken up over the course of two weeks, and in third grade I also give the OLSAT. So, in all, we typically tested for about 7 days. Yep, you read that right. SEVEN days of testing. It was a lot on my students (and me!) By the end we are all exhausted and each morning could be a dread to get up and go in when you know what's coming. But once I began giving out these delicious (yet healthy) snacks, it didn't much feel that way. My students were excited to come in each morning to discover the new "surprise" snack on their desk, and I looked forward to seeing their eyes light up, hearing a chorus of "Thank you, Mrs. Morrison!"s, and listen to them try to read and "get" the pun on their note card. <<side note - the iced tea pun is always hilarious... it sounds more like "tootly" when they read it instead of "towteally." I love it.>>
These treats have been circulating on Pinterest and the TeachersPayTeachers' social media pages for the past two years, and recently I've seen some comments about how expensive it can be. At first, that thought discouraged me because to me cost it nothing. My students are precious and deserve the world. I want them to know how much I love them and will show them any way I can. If I have to go without for a few days so that I can buy my students some healthy snacks to eat for breakfast [especially knowing some aren't getting that before they come in] then I will absolutely do that. With that all being said, at the time it was just my husband and I at home. So, I probably did have a little more time and money than others might to make this happen. But even if I didn't I would make sure I could in most affordable way possible and wanted to share some ideas and tips I have discovered over the years to do so. (and now that I'm a mom, I would love to know that my child was eating healthy to help them succeed and do their best at school, and know that their teacher cared enough to do this for them!)
I took a trip around the grocery store and compiled a bunch of ideas to share with you to help provide your students with healthy testing treats and treat your wallet kindly at the same time!
I went to my local Giant Eagle, which is not the cheapest store in town, to show you that even there it can be done affordably. But don't forget, that with large class sizes, Sam's Club, Costco, and WalMart are all viable options that will more than likely be even cheaper than the deals I show you here. If you live near an Aldi's, they too offer very affordable produce options. I just prefer my local grocery store and usually purchase everything on one day to use over the course of the week and I have found that Aldi's produce won't stay as fresh as long, so it's not my first choice. That's just me personally. But I know you can save a bundle there too! and of course, local farmer's markets would be most ideal, it all just depends on where you live and the time of year you are testing. Heck, you could even grow some of your own if you plan it out in advance and live in the right climate!
Okay, let's take the grocery store tour and see what kind of deals we can get...
I'm first going to start at Target, because I was so excited to find something for APRICOTS without having to actually buy apricots. I was also able to take advantage of a coupon on their app, so I scored a GREAT deal. Check it out...
I found these Target brand apricot fruit strips for just $2.99 for a box of TEN! I only needed 2 boxes for my class, which was just about $6 total. Not bad.
Then, I found their app had $1 that same brand when you spent $5, so I automatically got one dollar off at checkout, and spent just $5 total on all of my students for that treat day. It comes out to about 28 cents per student... not a bad deal at all! I know I've even seen this brand on their Cartwheel app for a 5% off before, it just didn't happen to be on there this time. But it's just one more way to save! So make sure to take advantage of those couponing apps - they really do help you save a bundle!
Now let's tour Giant Eagle. I have a variety of fruit options in my Healthy Testing Treats pack on TpT for a variety of classroom needs and taste preferences, so I wanted to make sure to show you a variety of options for each one.
Typically, I like to give my students this Honest Kids grape juice because it's got the same little saying on it as the note card, but when I spotted this AMAZING deal on grapes at the store I just couldn't resist.
I did pick them up still when I was at Target. I got 3 boxes (because I have 18 students and the boxes come in 8) for $10. Not a bad price compared to Giant Eagle's above. Plus, I saved the extras for me and the hubs! Which is always the added bonus when taking care of this project too.. there are ALWAYS some leftovers for our lunches too!
But like I said, I couldn't pass up this deal when grapes were A DOLLAR A POUND!
One giant bag was enough for my whole class, and I spent about $2 on it. Each kid got 15 grapes plus a pouch of grape juice and I spent less than a dollar per child.... and they LOVED it.
Raisins are also a great option for grapes because, well...they're just dried grapes. These Sun Maid raisin boxes wouldn't be bad... you'd get 24 boxes when you buy two bags for just $6, or 25 cents a student. Not bad at all (if you like raisins..)
and now added to a new pack is a fun note
for raisins! so no matter what, you're covered!
Okay, let me just say.. berries CAN get expensive. But if you plan and shop right, it's really not so bad. I took my tour of the grocery store AFTER I had already given my students the berries, so these are NOT the prices I paid. They were all on sale when I got them.. so let's break down what I actually spent.
Four pound strawberry containers were on sale for just $7.99. So, I spent right under $2 a pound for fresh berries. I was able to cut up 3 strawberries per students and still have several left for the hubby and I to enjoy.... so in total, for 20 people I spend about 40 cents each. They also had blueberries and blackberries on sale for buy one, get one FREE! so I spent $8 on 4 containers of those. Now, looking back, my students got so many of each, that I really only needed one container of each. But the Italian in me worried I wouldn't have enough so I bought way more than necessary. Every child got at least 10 blueberries and 5 or 6 giant blackberries, and again I had a BUNCH left over for the hubs and I to have some too. So again, another 20 people was about 40 cents per person. I also grabbed just one container of red raspberries. They weren't on sale, so I paid the full price of $3.99. Each child got 2 nice big raspberries, and there were still some left over. So, that was about 20 cents per person there.
In total.. I spent just about ONE DOLLAR for all of my students, my husband, and myself to enjoy a large quantity of fresh berries. I could easily have cut out the extra containers of blackberries and blueberries, or even just cut out the raspberries, and still would have spent less than a dollar on each of us. Considering they are not typically cheap and extremely delicious, I am more than happy with those deals! I only spent about half an hour prepping the bags of them in my kitchen.. and boy did my students gobble them up the next morning!
On top of the in-store savings you can get right away, don't forget to take advantage of rebate apps! One of my personal favorites is ibotta. They usually offer a wide variety of rebate options, and when I shop at Giant Eagle, my store reward card is linked to the app and the rebates come off automatically! I saved $1 on a bag of oranges, and $0.25 when I bought the bananas thanks to their any brand rebates for produce. So, be sure to check that out and take advantage. If you sign up with my link here, you'll also earn $10 when you redeem your first rebate... and you can transfer your rewards straight to PayPal, so it's legit MONEY back to you! I highly recommend it.. I've already earned back over $300 since joining!
Now this one is a great one, but you may have some students who don't like them, and they would probably be better for an afternoon testing session. But the price of pickles is CHEAP! and I think I might be partial to the pun on this new note I made!
You can get a large jar of pickles like this one at Walmart for just $4.28! One jar would be plenty for an entire class if you gave one pickle spear to each child. You can also buy the whole pickles for the same price and cut them up... but why waste all that time when you can have the work done for you?! For my class of 18 this was only 24 cents a student, not including all of the extras I had for my hubby!
I always overbuy pears. Which is totally fine in my house. My husband loves them for his lunch. So extra doesn't bother me. I usually buy the sliced pears for my students, and this store brand is $1.25 per can. I'm sure you can buy them elsewhere for cheaper, but I like to work smarter, not harder, and I find my time to be just as valuable, so instead of running all over the place hunting down deals, I shop in one spot. I also don't have a Super Target near me and mine doesn't stock their brand of pears so I stick with these. I can get enough for 3 students out of one can of sliced pears, so that works out to be just 42 cents a student. Not bad. Sometimes I can get these on sale for even cheaper, and I'm sure they are at Walmart, so for less than 40 cents a student they can all have some yummy pears! If you see them on sale for a good deal early on, just stock up a few at a time and you'll have plenty by the time testing season rolls around!
Bananas are delicious! and your students will love them! They are probably also one of the cheapest snacks, as they usually cost around fifty cents a pound! A bunch of about 5 good-sized bananas will be around a dollar... so for about $3-$4 (depending on your class size) you should be able to get all of the bananas you need! They are also the quickest because they require no prep! I just use a permanent marker to write a little note of love to my kiddos, and plop on their desk! presto - you're done!
There are SO many ways to make this work for your budget and your classroom, but most importantly, YOUR STUDENTS!
One final way that you can implement this without breaking the bank is a suggestion I saw on Facebook from someone commenting on TpT's post of my treats... ask your students' parents! I guarantee you would have a great response from parents willing to help chip-in in some way to help their children have healthy snacks during testing season!
I created a sign-up sheet so that you could put it out at an Open House or send it home with a classroom newsletter for parents to sign-up and return to you. It is pretty open-ended and works with all of the snack notes in my Healthy Testing Treats packs. There are also reminder cards so that once parents do sign-up, you can send a reminder home a few days before!
I've added several new healthy snack options to my TpT store in a second pack, and also bundled them all together with black & white printer friendly versions so now you can really give your wallet a break by saving ink too! and an added bonus? Students can color them when they've finished for a personalized touch!
I've bundled them all together in this giant pack of testing treat goodness that you can grab here for only $10! Buy it once and you're good to go for years to come!
Click here to check them out! >>>>> Healthy Testing Treats on TpT
I hope you found some useful, budget-friendly ideas for testing season! Do you have any tips or suggestions?! Feel free to share them here! I'd love your input!