words by: Merissa A. Alink
Are Your children big snack eaters? Mine sure are! If I would let them, they would be happy to survive entirely on munchies and skip meals altogether. It seems that they prefer to eat more frequently in smaller quantities, and as long as they are eating healthy things, I’m just fine with that. It keeps them going through the day and even helps me offer them a wider variety of foods to eat.
However, as a result of this, I’m always looking for yummy, healthy, and inexpensive snack options for them. We’ve come up with many things that they love over the past few years, and I wanted to share them with you in case your family needs a little snack inspiration!
We pay $1.99 per 3 pounds of bananas at the store, which usually averages about nine bananas or $0.22 each. Bananas are a nice filling snack, and my kids think it’s fun to peel them and pretend to be a monkey. If the bananas turn brown before we use them, I toss them in the freezer to use for Banana Bread Mini Muffins, which are another BIG favorite snack in our house!
Even my kids that don’t like fried eggs for breakfast will eat hard-boiled eggs. The kids love this high-protein snack, and I love it because our eggs are practically free since we have our own chickens! Fresh eggs can be hard to peel, so just add a little bit of baking soda to the water you are boiling the eggs in and rinse them with cold water after boiling. If you need a more filling snack, mix up some egg salad from your hard-boiled eggs and make Egg Salad Sandwiches
If they are in season or if you find a sale, bell peppers can be a great inexpensive snack. We love the crunch and sweet flavor. Cutting them into little sticks makes them easy to grab. If you need a little higher protein snack, you can make a simple hummus out of 1 cup canned garbanzo beans, 4 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Add more water or salt as needed to fit your texture and taste preferences.) Blend all the ingredients in the blender or food processor until smooth and serve as a dip.
Hands down, this is the FAVORITE snack at our house. I put popcorn kernels with a little oil in my dutch oven, and cook it on the stovetop with the lid on until the kernels stop popping. Then I simply toss the popped corn with a bit of olive oil and salt.
In-season Fruits or Veggies
This one is a little harder to pin down to a certain item because prices change with the seasons, so while apples may be an affordable snack in the fall, in the spring you might want to pull out the jars of home-canned applesauce instead. Some of our favorite fruits are cucumbers, apples, pears, grapes, whole peas, and mandarin oranges. If you can manage a great deal on a bulk amount of fruit or veggies, you can always dry them for a snack that lasts longer. Smoothies are great with slightly over-ripe fruits and vegetables too, and you can prep them in advance by sticking the ingredients together in a freezer bag and freezing them until needed. Then just thaw slightly and blend!
A mashed avocado is all you need to make “green dip.” Of course, you can add a little garlic and salsa to make it more of a guacamole, but my kids prefer it plain. One avocado costs around one dollar, and that’s all I need to make a snack. We like to pair it with tortilla chips made from beans instead of regular tortilla chips for the added protein and fiber. Salsa is another great dip (especially in the summer when you have fresh garden tomatoes), as is a refried bean-based dip.
Sometimes it’s hard to convince my kids that raisins are a good snack, but they will enjoy them on occasion. Instead of just plain raisins, sometimes I toss them with a cereal (like a corn pop or flake), dried shredded coconut, maple syrup, and a little coconut oil. Then I roast it all for a few minutes in the oven, just long enough to let the oil and syrup dry to the pieces.
Bread and Jam
Sometimes it’s not necessary to go past the basics! A nice slice of homemade bread topped with some homemade jam is a sweet and simple snack. My family loves this snack, especially if the bread is still warm from the oven.
Another one of our favorites! A little juice, water, and gelatin make a simple snack. In a saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin plus 2 cups fruit juice. Blend well, heat until warm through, then place it in a container and chill in the fridge until set. You can add fruits for different tastes and textures or add a bit more gelatin and make homemade fruit snacks. You can buy unflavored gelatin in bulk, and it provides a healthy source of protein.
Most snacks take some degree of prep work (even if it’s just washing), so to make things easier on yourself, follow these tips:
At the beginning of the week (or before a shopping day), plan out the snacks that will be available to your family for that week or until the next shopping day. Make a “snack plan” just like you would do a menu plan for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; snacks are important to plan out too.
If you plan your snacks before your shopping day, make sure to add any needed items to your grocery list so you don’t forget.
Once you have your snacks planned, think about any prep work you can do on the snacks that will make them easier to grab-and-go. For example, if you need to bake muffins, you will need to add that to your baking day plan or find a time. You can also wash and dice some produce in advance. Most items will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for a week.
If your kids are older, let them know where they can find the available snacks. Make a special shelf in the fridge or pantry just for the snacks. Even my four-year-old can find the snack shelf quickly in the pantry when she’s looking for something to munch on.
I hope that your family enjoys these simple, healthy, and frugal snacks!
Merissa Alink lives with her family in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She regularly writes on her blog, www.LittleHouseLiving.com,
and has a book titled Living Slower that will be released in April 2022.