I don’t know about you, but snacking kills my food budget faster than just about anything else.
I feel like I serve up filling, healthy meals — which my kids generally eat — and twenty minutes later, they’re asking for something else. “I’m tired of that. I want something else. I’m just so hungry….”
And of course, there’s the occasional treat, too. We’re not the type of family to serve dessert every night (in fact, I’ve seen great improvements in our health by majorly cutting the sugar), but now and then it’s nice to have. These aren’t “necessary” and they can increase the budget as well.
But! It is possible to have budget-friendly snacks and treats, and I’ll show you how.
Five Tips for Budget-Friendly Snacks and Treats
1. Serve Fresh Fruits and Veggies with Healthy Dips
Our kids’ current favorite snacks include carrots, apples, and bananas. Sometimes we’ll see cucumbers or strawberries too. We choose mostly what’s seasonal or what’s on sale. At this time of year, oranges and strawberries are in season. Apples and especially bananas are almost always cheap. We buy 10-lb. bags of organic carrots for around $7 at Costco.
Of course, these aren’t very filling on their own. That’s why we serve them with homemade nut butter (that’s the least frugal option unless you choose peanuts), hummus, guacamole, or even lightly sweetened whipped cream. These dips are fun, and they add healthy fats and protein to the snack. Hummus, especially, is super frugal and really yummy with fresh veggies (I like tomatoes, snap peas, and broccoli).
Try the Nut Butter Dipping Sauce in Super Charged Food for Kids. This book is part of The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, a collection that’s only available this week. Amazing books and bonuses for just $29.97!
2. Homemade Popsicles
These have become super popular with my kids lately, and they are frugal and nourishing, too. We bought this set of silicone popsicle molds (which are great because they can be tossed in the freezer individually, or they can be thrown in a bag together — they do not need to be upright, so they don’t take up much space). Right now we have two sets, a total of 16 molds…but I’m thinking I need to purchase another 2 sets because in our family of 6, 16 just doesn’t last long!
I’ll be sharing a bunch of specific recipes throughout the spring and summer, but these really are so versatile. We mix homemade yogurt with a little honey and whatever fresh or frozen organic berries are cheap (Costco has a 4-lb. bag of organic strawberries for around $10). We mix fresh-squeezed orange juice (I found 4-lb. bags of oranges for $1.50 at Aldi) with a little milk or cream, vanilla extract, and honey, which tastes like an Orange Julius when frozen. We mix lemon and/or lime juice with a little honey and lots of water.
Basically, any smoothie, pudding, yogurt blend, or juice will work for these. If you choose to add milk, cream, yogurt, or even blended avocado, sweet potato, etc. you can boost the nutrition and healthy fats and they will be pretty filling. Even when I feel like we have nothing left, I can often find the ingredients to make a batch of popsicles!
Try Strawberry Yum-Yum from Treat Yourself. It’s included in The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle this week. The collection has over 90 awesome books + bonuses for just $29.97. The recipe uses a lot of leftover egg whites plus frozen strawberries, making it frugal and delicious frozen dessert — one of my husband’s favorites!
3. Offer Leftovers
While the kids don’t always prefer this option, sometimes it is the best one. If we have meals left in the fridge that aren’t earmarked for another meal, the kids are welcome to eat it. An odd favorite is leftover rice — plain (I cook it in chicken stock so it’s not totally “plain” really). Meals are often cheaper than snacks, so why not offer them as snacks?
4. Skip the Sugar…or Use Less
I mentioned above that we’re trying to keep sugar low. Part of that, for us, is skipping cane sugar entirely in favor of less-processed maple syrup and raw honey. But, those are significantly more expensive (organic sugar’s $1/lb which is about 2 or 3 c.; maple syrup is $12 – $15 per quart or $3 per cup; raw honey is about $5 – $6 per pound or $4 per cup). We’ve decided to combat this by simply using a lot less of it. Our muffin batches often contain only about 1/2 c. of “sugar” even though they make 18 – 24 muffins (sometimes more).
Instead, when I want something sweet, I add a lot of cinnamon, vanilla, or coconut oil. These don’t contain any sugar but they increase the sweet taste. They are fairly frugal too. I make French toast out of sourdough bread (which contains no sugar) with eggs, cream, cinnamon, and vanilla (no sugar). We serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and it’s perfect, everyone likes it. With homemade bread, it’s a pretty frugal breakfast or snack.
Many recipes don’t need nearly as much sugar as they say. It’s often possible to reduce by half or two-thirds without changing the taste.
We also favor “milkshakes” for snacks sometimes, but we don’t use sugary ice cream. Instead, we use milk, a little honey or maple syrup, a couple egg yolks, and a lot of ice. It’s more of a milk-slushie, sort of, but it’s a lot cheaper and healthier than a true milkshake. You can toss in a handful of nuts or a big scoop of nut butter, a banana, some cocoa powder, vanilla, or other fun additions for different flavors or textures. Half an avocado would go well too. Using ice means it stretches the expensive ingredients pretty far.
Organic popcorn popped in coconut or avocado oil is a great option for many, too.
Check out the recipe for Pumpkin Spice Grain-Free Waffles in The Breakfast Book. It’s included in this collection (one of over 60 books) for just $29.97. The recipe is super unique, and it’s pretty frugal.
Or, focus on the non-sweet options, like the first suggestion above, or homemade bread with butter, various veggie/grain salads, etc.
5. Use Odds and Ends
One of our favorite snacks is dehydrated meringue cookies. We often use egg yolks for making ice cream, to boost the nutrition of scrambled eggs, or to toss into smoothies. When we have egg whites leftover, instead of throwing them out, we whip them up into fluffiness, add a drizzle of honey and vanilla, and bake them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. They’re fluffy and squishy when finished, so we either shut the oven off and leave them for several hours, or put them into a dehydrator for 4 – 6 hours until they are crispy. The kids love them.
Dry beans are really frugal, and can be an excellent snack. Leftover potato skins can be turned into stuffed skins, or sliced into smaller bits and tossed with a little melted butter, salt, and pepper and baked until crisp. There are a lot of foods that seem like they aren’t good for much that can make excellent snacks!