5 Alternatives to Ballpark Snack Shop Dinners

Spring is here. If you have kids who play baseball, you know what that means. Ballpark dinners. For the past 9 years, our family has spent several evenings a week at the ballpark watching our sons play baseball. The snack shop offers the usual candy, chips, soda, and while the burgers and local burritos are actually tasty, the cost adds up.

Games are typically at 5:00 pm leaving us with a dinner conundrum: Buy a mediocre pizza slice and bag of chips from the snack shop (times 5 family members) or find some alternative.

In years past, and I mean every year, I start out with the best of intentions. But somehow, we still end up eating way too many ballpark dinners and our kids enjoy a steady diet of ring pops and sunflower seeds. I’m determined to go on the offensive this year, and won’t be taken by surprise when we end up on the bleachers during dinner hour.

Here are 5 alternatives to ballpark snack shop dinners that I will absolutely be implementing this baseball season:

Packed Cold Dinner

OK, this is the obvious alternative. It just takes some planning ahead and prep. You’ll need a cooler with ice packs and possibly some utensils. Beyond the usual suspects of sandwiches, fruit, and chips- your basic Subway meal, here are some more interesting ideas to throw in the cooler for the whole family to share:

  • Hummus & Naan bread (or pita wedges)
  • Carrot sticks/cucumber slices
  • Grapes
  • Rotisserie chicken pieces
  • Cheese slices
  • Pepperoni/Salami
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Raspberries/blueberries
  • Watermelon cubes
  • Cashews/almonds
  • Cherry tomatoes

The Slow Cooker Saves the Day

While nobody is leaving the ballfield hungry after that smorgasbord picnic, there may be days when you crave a hot meal. For these nights, let your slow cooker do the heavy lifting. This takes some looking ahead to the week’s schedule, but will be worth it. I mean, you’ll be chowing homemade food in the stands while watching your kid on the mound. It doesn’t get much better.

Try this recipe or make your favorite pulled pork in the slow cooker. Just before heading out the door in the evening, spoon pulled pork onto a hamburger bun, add pickle and wrap in foil. Ready for transport.  Alternatively, if you’re like my husband and are particular about food getting soft or soggy, consider transferring meat to a portable container and packing it to the field (in a cooler). Bring buns separately and assemble sandwiches after you get all situated on the bleachers. Don’t forget the pickles!

While I love to stuff my pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and eat the whole thing with a fork, that’s entirely too messy for the ballpark.

Make this perfect coleslaw earlier in the day and it will be good to go for dinner:

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 TBSP canola oil
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1/2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Walking Taco

Alright, I admit this one may not be the healthiest, but it’s a lot of fun and the kids still get to stand in line at the snack shop! Here’s how it goes:

  • Cook your favorite chili at home and transport to field in glass container (in cooler)
  • Pack grated cheese and sour cream (in squeeze bottle) in cooler
  • Pack serving ladle and spoons
  • Buy bags of Fritos at snack shop
  • Open Fritos and ladle chili and toppings into bag
  • Eat with spoon while walking around otherwise it would be a sitting taco

Jars to the Rescue

Maybe these are a little hipster, but I think they’re genius. Use mason jars or plastic cups with lids (stick a fork where the straw would go) to pack chicken salads, cold layered rice salads, chia pudding with fruit, or re-heated leftovers (eat during the first inning).

Shift Meal Times

You’ll have to determine how this works in your family, but we are early eaters. Like, 5:00 pm dinners. Unless sports or other activities get in the way. Like baseball season. In this case, I like to serve a pretty significant meal around 3:30 pm and save light snacking for later on. My kids are usually starving after school anyway, so this approach is well-received in our home. I simply make whatever I normally would for dinner, like lasagna, tamale pie, pasta with chicken and vegetables, etc.

This way we all get a chance to sit down together and have a family meal, even if it’s in the middle of the afternoon! We go our separate ways- several of us to the ballfield, and can easily throw a snack in our bags in case hunger strikes in the evening.

I’m certain there will still be days where I’ll give in to the kids’ requests for ballpark dinners or snacks. I’m sure I’ll get a hankering for a burrito on occasion. But after 11 years of hot dogs and Cheetos, I’m determined to cut down significantly on the frequency, which will be better for our family’s health and bank account.

Here’s to this spring being the best yet. Play ball!