Cheap Homemade & Store-bought Snacks on a Budget

By ERIN TURNER

It seems every year about this time, my sons have some major growth spurts.

While it is a wonderful sign of their healthy growth, it also absolutely kills my grocery budget! These three boys love their food and in order to keep their tummies full, I’ve had to develop some budget menu planning, which I’ve written about in the past. Growing and raising our own produce, chicken, eggs, and pork also has helped our budget, plus I feel better about feeding these things to my family.

But if your kids are anything like mine, they eat all the time. I need to be frugally-minded when it comes not only to our meals but, more importantly, to their snacks (aka: mini-meals!). I like snacks that are easy for my boys to prepare on their own or just grab-n-go. After cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner I really don’t have either the desire or the time to prepare three more mini-meals during the day! So, I try to have things that, a) my kids like, b) are healthy and filling, c) easy to prepare or are ready to eat.

Keeping up with these three growing boys gives the Coupon Queen a run for hermoney!

Here are some things which I try to have on hand for these growing young boys:

  • Jello. Albertson’s had pre-made Jello and pudding cups on sale for 50 cents per four-pack a few weeks back. I stocked up on those. Walgreens regularly has their Jello and pudding packages on sale for 2/$1. I’ll make up a pan of Jello or a bowl of pudding when I don’t have the pre-made cups.
  • Homemade pancakes or waffles. These are so inexpensive and my boys love them! When I’m making them for breakfast, I will just make up another quick batch, let them cool, and then pop them into the freezer. These are a lifesaver for me! The kids can just grab them and either eat them plain or put peanut butter on them. If you don’t have time to make them (although, they are SO easy and quick) you can score great deals on frozen waffles or pancakes at the grocery stores from time to time. This week at Safeway, they have a coupon for 30% of your frozen breakfast food.
  • Chicken noodle soup. My boys are absolutely in love with this soup. There is never a drop of it left when we make it from scratch. Now in order to appease them during snack time, I do buy cans of it. The boys just pop open a can and heat it up. These cans are often on sale for around 50-59 cents fairly often. I recently scored a bunch of them at the Amish Discount Store for 25 cents each!
  • Produce.Fortunately, my kids love their fruits and veggies. We do try to can and dry a lot of fruit for the winter, and we also freeze and can all our veggies. But sometimes, there is nothing like a fresh piece of fruit. And talk about a quick prep snack! So, I always have the fruit basket filled with something. Right now, oranges and tangerines are in season so they are inexpensive. My boys love those easy-to-peel tangerines and seem to eat three a day. I also buy the overripe bananas at Albertson’s. They put two large bunches in a bag and slash the price by 50% – last week I picked up a bag and paid $1.61! These are perfectly fine bananas as long as you eat them fairly quickly. If not, just use them to make smoothies or banana bread…another great snack my boys love. Safeway has bags of baby carrots for $1 this week and I’ll be stocking up on those. A perfect after-school snack paired up with ranch dressing or hummus.

    Chex Mix makes a great snack especially when you have coupons for thecereal.

  • Chex Mix. Last month with the holidays, Chex cereal was on sale and with a coupon I was able to stock up wisely. Now, we’ve been enjoying lots of homemade Chex Mix! If you go to the Chex Mix website you will find a whole variety of recipes. We love the original recipe but have enjoyed some of the sweet versions as well. Since I can regulate the amount of butter and salt, I find this snack much more healthy than the pre-made snack mixes on the shelves.
  • Tofu. I know… it’s so crazy that my kids love this stuff. (Honestly, I can’t stand it. It’s a texture thing for me.) But when my oldest was a toddler, I bought some, cut it up, and put it on his high chair tray. He scarfed it down so fast that I thought he had thrown it to the dog. (That’s what I would have done!) Since then, all my kids have a love affair with tofu. They pull it out and slice off a piece and eat it cold (ewww!). But it’s healthy and I do love the fact that despite my hang-ups with it, they love it anyway. Safeway has packages of tofu for $1 this week and I’m stocking up on those! I just recently read that you can freeze them. The texture changes slightly and is a little more chewy. I’m going to try a package and see what my kids think. If they don’t mind the change, then my freezer is going to get filled up!
  • Crackers and cheese. This is more my kind of snack! I have always loved crackers and cheese. Again, I stock up on crackers when there is a good sale and a great coupon to go with it. Keep your eyes open for good sales in the next few weeks since stores will be advertising Super Bowl snacks. Cheese is a hard thing to get super cheap but I wait for sales and coupons, and I also regularly scan the “reduced for quick sale” part of the dairy department for good deals on cheese.
  • Popcorn. I don’t do the microwave popcorn. Have you read about its nastiness and what it does to your body? Plus, it’s not cheap! I buy regular popcorn seeds and we pop it ourselves. I have a microwave popcorn popper which is great for the kids to use, but our favorite way is to do it on the stove. Yum! I even still have my airpopper from college and the kids get such a bang out of it.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.Easy peasy and super cheap – that’s all I gotta say about those!

    Homemade Bean and Cheese Burritos. Freeze a pile for those hungrykids!

  • Homemade burritos. I’ve raved about these before. They are one of my favorite foods. I used buy the frozen burritos in the store but now I make batches of these for less money and better health! Last summer, I was able to get packages of flour tortillas for 75 cents each. Needless to say, I stocked up and still have a stack of them in my freezer. You can make them according to your tastes. We love bean and cheese but you can add meat if you’d like.
  • Frozen soft pretzels. I make these and they are so yummy. The boys love melting cheese on the top. Again, it’s something I can make ahead and pop in the freezer for them to eat at their leisure.
  • Hard-boiled eggs. Super cheap (especially since we raise chickens) and super easy. Make a couple dozen at a time and then store them in the fridge. Watch them disappear magically!

Well, there’s a basic list of the snacks we have around for the boys to munch on in between meals. It’s not an easy task to keep three boys fed and happy, but with a little effort and lots of frugality, I’ve been able to keep up with their growing appetites and not make a huge burden on our budget while doing so!

Share some ways you keep up with your kids’ appetites. What kinds of snacks to you provide them? I’d love to hear some new ideas!

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Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: In 2012, I Resolve to Be FrugalLearn How to Save with a Couponing Class, and How to Create a Household Budget. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.