New York City event planner Amy Atlas has catered for Brooke Shields and Oprah, but at bake sales for her sons, Joshua, 4, and Zachary, 6, Atlas keeps it simple; a few of her treats don't even require cooking. Her other keys to sweet success? Sensible portions (most treats are 200 calories or less), a nut-free policy, and affordable prices. She often charges 50 to 75 cents apiece so buyers are apt to let you keep the change!
Kids love this bite-size version of the classic snack. You can also display these treats in clear jars decorated with ribbons and stickers.
Slip these bars into simple construction-paper wrappers and set them up front -- bar cookies are big sellers. Let kids write on the price or use stickers.
Buyers are sure to get a kick out of this ice cream cone look-alike. We used banana cake and chocolate frosting, but you can use your favorite combination.
These fruity muffins are perfect for morning bake sales. If you prefer, swap the raspberries for an equal amount of blueberries or chopped strawberries.
Everyone loves a classic oatmeal cookie. Stack a few and tie off with bakers twine for a pretty display. Have baggies on hand for the kids to take them home.
Sure this frosted bread is more of an indulgent treat than a healthy snack, but parents can feel good knowing each slice actually counts as 1/2 serving of fruits and veggies.
Look for a low-sugar granola or cereal; dried fruit and mini chocolate chips add plenty of sweetness.
Pretzel rods are dipped in melted chocolate then rolled in bright red sprinkles for a decadent but simple twist. Show some spirit and use sprinkles in your school's team colors!
Explain Your Cause
Sure, it's the school bake sale. But exactly what are you raising money for? People will be more likely to buy from you (and perhaps even toss in a little extra) if they know what you plan to do with the money. Make a sign to fill customers in on what they're supporting, whether it's new playground equipment, a second-grade class trip, or art supplies.
Spread the Word
Make sure everyone in the school community knows about the event. Post an announcement on the school website, and arrange for e-mail blasts or phone-tree messages to go to parents. For teachers and other school staff, put up signs on the front entrances.
Pay Attention to Nutrition
Keep the portions kid-size, and have a least three or four options that are naturally healthier. Some good options: trail mix, pumpkin muffins, or apple lollipops (Use a melon baller to create small apple balls, press in a mini lollipop stick, and dip in melted dark chocolate.)
If you simply set all the treats out on the table, some will get buried in the back and you miss out on sales. Stack your delicious goodies on cake stands, boxes, or cartons to help them get noticed. Added bonus: Your table will look less cluttered.
Sell little bottles of water, juice boxes, and mini milk cartons. Almost every kid is going to want a drink with his treats so it'll really increase your profits. What's more, beverages are the perfect contribution from families who want to help out but don't have the time (or desire) to bake.
Label the Treats
If customers have to ask lots of questions -- What's that bar with the chips over there? How much do the cupcakes cost? -- you're going to build up a line and slow down your sales. Have the kids make signs with the name of the treat and the price.
Put It on a Stick
Cookie pops, cake pops, or even fruit kebobs are always huge hits with the kids. Let your bakers know.
Show School Spirit
Decorate treats in the school colors or make cookies in the shape of the school mascot. Your balloons and table cover can also coordinate with the school's colors.
Originally published in the October 2010 issue of Parents magazine.