How to Prepare Make-Ahead Snack Packs

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I think I speak for everyone when I say there’s nothifng worse than picking raisins out of trail mix.

Vertical image of a pink container with compartments filled with assorted food next to a blue towel and plant, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Not to say that I don’t occasionally get down with the wrinkly dried fruit, but doesn’t it seem like there’s always at least one ingredient in a packaged snack mix you could do without?

This is one of the many reasons why I choose to be active in the kitchen. I want what I want.

Baristas would undoubtedly get irritated with me if I asked for the three flavored syrups, two splashes of dairy and non-dairy milk, and four sprinklings of fall flavors I really wanted in my cold brew.

Though, there’s actually nothing wrong with a vanilla-hazelnut-toffee coffee with cream, a dash of oat milk, and a pile of pumpkin-y spices… just sayin’.

At home, I can mix and match to my heart’s content. And while these snack packs aren’t a “trail mix” that tumbles everything in one bowl, unless that’s how you’d prefer to enjoy it, they represent the perfect compilation of exactly what you like, instead of just settling for what you can find at the store.

Want to know what else I love about the concept of pre-portioning?

I’m looking out for future Fanny, and you can be on the lookout for your future needs as well.

Other examples of this practice include: arming the coffee maker the night before, so it can begin its aromatic drip the minute my alarm goes off, and prepping a breakfast burrito or sandwich that simply gets thrown in the toaster oven when it’s time to eat.

Vertical image of a pink container with compartments filled with assorted food next to a blue towel and plastic spoons.

Sometimes my present time is best spent preparing for the future. I think “Doc” Brown said that, in Back to the Future…

When that midday hunger hits, you don’t always have something easily accessible or healthy to turn to. But that’s the problem this make-ahead option solves. And though it takes some extra planning and leg work, it’s the kind your impending rumbling tummy will thank you for.

Although these make-ahead mixes suggest a specific assortment of ingredients, the beauty is in the eye of the snack holder, and whatever you put in your portable pack is up to you. Be sure to brainstorm for ideas the next time you’re meal planning, and include healthful, unprocessed, and exciting snacking options in the mix!

I’ve opted for a mishmash of items that all accomplish their own goals and I’m going to walk you through each treat. Let’s begin by going a little nuts.

Nuts in any form are a must-have when I’m looking for a crunchy nosh to keep me full. This maple mixture calls on pecans and walnuts as well as pumpkin seeds to make the bulk of the base, all good sources of healthy fats and protein.

Nuts are notorious for suppressing hunger, so you don’t need a lot to gratify those aforementioned grumblings. Including them in your diet regularly has also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, so we’re talking a win-win situation.

The ones showcased here are spiced with hints of the holidays – namely, ginger, coriander, and maple syrup – and they don’t rely on artificial sweeteners to bring robust flavor. A hit of salt is added to give you that sweet-and-salty profile your taste buds dig.

Vertical image of a pink container with compartments filled with assorted food next to a blue towel and plant.

If you typically opt for oats as part of your nutritious routine, no-bake bites are a stellar sub (or addition, depending on how many chambers your container has to offer) for the nuts. They’re protein-packed, easy to eat when you’re on the go, and make less of a mess than shoving crumbly handfuls of granola in your mouth.

These chocolate energy balls or cacao bliss balls get a boost of sweetness from dates, while this chewy PB and jelly balls recipe is a delicious reminder of childhood.

Next up, what’s snack time without chips?

We’ve exchanged greasy, carb-heavy tater-based chips for light, airy toasted coconut ones. I find them utterly poppable, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re a great source of fiber. Each tropical bite makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

With less salt than potato chips, they’re not too sweet. But if something straight-up savory is a must in your mix, reach for mustard greens or kale and chomp into a crackly, crave-worthy batch of homemade green veggie chips instead.

Back to the realm of sweetness, though I love the occasional handful of sugary, animal-shaped gummies, I’m not a big fan of processed food. Maybe magic-kiwi-tango-berry is a real thing somewhere, but I’ve never seen it in a fruit bowl.

I do, however, often have strawberries and mangos on hand, and these oven-baked dehydrated fruit strips are worthy of an outdated phrase: they are the bomb dot com.

Vertical image of a pink container with compartments filled with nuts, fruit rolls, coconut shreds, and chocolate chunks on a wooden surface.

They’re infused with a touch of natural sweetener (cane sugar, honey, or agave syrup), but the amount of sugar in these is minimal compared to the ones you’d find on grocery store shelves.

They also boast a woody and floral vanilla undertone, and you’d be hard pressed to find that flavor combo in the snack section. Plus, if you have other varieties of fruit on hand or you prefer something different, you can change up the recipe with your choice of favorites.

Dark chocolate “bark” or homemade chunks, another tasty addition to this mix, is a brilliant backup for what your brain really wants when you’re hungry: seventeen candy bars.

Look for quality store brands laced with nuts and seeds, or turn to our almighty almond chocolate toffee matzoh crunchies and swap in dark chocolate chips for the health benefits. For something a bit more brightly flavored, this refreshing peppermint bark is a no-brainer when the holidays come around.

Either way, these slightly bitter morsels are a powerful source of antioxidants and good for your heart.

A blissful belly, and a happy heart? What more could you ask for in the afternoon hours?

Well, maybe a nap…

How to Prepare Make-Ahead Snack Packs

These simple snack packs feature nutritious bites like tropical homemade dried fruit rolls, and ensure that you don’t go hungry between meals.

Horizontal close-up image of a pink container with compartments filled with nuts, chocolate, coconut chips, and fruit rolll-ups.

The proportions below should provide enough fuel to get an adult through the afternoon, but feel free to decrease or increase the amounts according to the needs of you or your family.

To begin, gather your ingredients. To pack the snack that you see pictured here, I used:

Homemade items like bark or fruit rolls can be cut into bite-sized pieces, or larger sizes. And you can feel free to swap in a selection of your favorite treats like I described above, such as energy balls for the fruit rolls, or veggie chips for the coconut.

In a small lunchbox-style or snack container with separate compartments, arrange the chocolate bark, coconut chips, nuts, and fruit rolls, or your choice of fun-but-healthy and homemade snacks and snack-ready ingredients, free of added sugar, preservatives, and dyes.

Sweet and savory options are all welcome here, and if you prefer to mix everything up for a DIY trail mix, go right ahead!

Until you’re ready to eat, snack packs should be stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature.

A Delicious Cure for the Midday Munchies

The concept of a snack pack screams kid-friendly, but let’s be honest. We all get that wave of afternoon hanger sometimes.

Horizontal image of a pink container with compartments filled with assorted food next to a blue towel.

Whether you load your little container (P.S. the one I snagged and photographed here is available on Amazon in several different colors) with nutty energy balls or maple-spiced nuts, the key is simplicity and the overall message is in the word “make-ahead.”

These nourishing blends take a little time to put together, but they can stop you from snatching thoughtless quick-fixes like cookies or chips, and ignite you to do something better for your body.

You only get the one, so I think treating it like a temple instead of a trash can is something we can all get on board with.

Hungry for more? Here are a few other shelf-stable health-conscious snack recipes to fill your compartments:

What snackable staples will you reach for to make these your own? Let us know what you decide in the comments below!

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 14, 2012. Last updated on October 20, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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