Julie wrote in with this great question:
I’m looking for advice on how to keep healthy snacks in stock for kids without breaking the bank? It’s so much easier to buy processed foods for them but I hate doing it. They love fruits and veggies but go through them so quickly that I am restocking often, which isn’t always feasible. Any helpful suggestions? Thank you!
Keeping healthy snacks in stock doesn’t have to be expensive, especially when you think outside the box and get creative! I personally save on healthy snacks by frequenting ALDI, shopping the markdowns at Kroger, making snacks from scratch, and keeping things simple.
If you’re looking for some really specific tips and snack ideas, check out this GREAT list that our readers helped put together in a recent Facebook post!
Practical Tips & Tricks
1. Snack planning. This is similar to meal planning, but with snacks! Try to buy the exact amount needed per week and plan your snacks around what’s on sale that week to make your money go further. There is always some sort of produce on sale for $1 or less. Stock up on whatever is cheapest each week. Most things will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
2. Choose a mixture of produce styles. Start with fresh fruit and vegetables and once that’s gone, move on to canned or frozen for the rest of the week. Bananas, cuties, celery, and baby carrots tend to be inexpensive favorites. Frozen fruit can go into a smoothie, a small bowl of oatmeal, or yogurt.
3. The freezer is your friend. Freezing fresh in-season strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables is often cheaper than buying frozen. If your garden has a surplus or there’s a great sale at the grocery store, stock up and freeze them! You can also make double batches of healthy snack bars or cookies and freeze them for later.
4. Set limits. Limit snack portions and plan out designated snack times — maybe only offer an afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. Cut up and prepare kid-friendly snack portions and keep the snacks where kids can reach it. Let them choose the snack(s) they’d like during the designated time. Refrigerated stuff like yogurt or fruit cups can go in fridge bins and dry snacks like baggies of pretzels, crackers, or graham crackers can go in a reachable basket in the pantry.
6. Shop at Kroger. Kroger is a large retail grocery store chain that is well-known for offering great weekly in-store sales and clearance prices. Every store is different but most are pretty generous in how they will mark down soon-to-be expiring dairy products, produce, bakery products, and meat. It seems like most markdowns occur the morning of the new sale week so if the circular goes Wednesday to Tuesday, try shopping Wednesday morning and look for the yellow clearance tags!
7. Shop at Sam’s Club or Costco. If you buy in bulk, you can find some incredible deals at warehouse stores. Once you get it home, freeze whatever you won’t be using in the next week. And be sure to divvy things into portions, like creating snack bags of sunflower seeds and raisins!
8. Shop at Grocery Outlet. If you are lucky enough to have a Grocery Outlet near you, you’ll find brand-name groceries and farm fresh produce at up to 40-70% off conventional retail prices!
9. Shop at a scratch and dent grocery store. You can often get high end protein bars, canned fruit, beef jerky, etc. for pennies compared to the local grocery store.
10. Try the local produce store. Your local produce store can be amazingly cheap with slightly imperfect vegetables and fruits.
12. Add protein. Try adding a protein to the snack so it will be more filling. Pair veggies with hummus or ranch dressing. Serve apples or pears with peanut butter. Add cheese slices next to some pretzels or crackers. Don’t Waste The Crumbs has lots of great savory and sweet hummus recipes if you want to make your own!
Easy Snack Ideas
13. Smoothies. Smoothies are a frugal and easy way to get a daily dose of fruits and veggies in! This Pick-Me-Up Smoothie is delicious. If you make smoothies for breakfast, make extra and pour it into popsicle molds. Kids LOVE these healthy popsicles!
14. Breakfast as a snack. We LOVE breakfast foods around here — especially when it’s made ahead of time and ready in the freezer! Bowls of cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and waffles make great after-school snacks.
15. Yogurt with granola or fruit in it. And did you know how easy and frugal it is to make yogurt in the crockpot?
16. Dried fruit and nuts. Buy or put together trail mixes that have nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in them. If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, you can get the dried fruits and nuts at a much better price.
17. Thomas’ mini whole wheat bagels with cream cheese. These go on sale about once a month for $1.50 at many grocery stores. They last in the fridge for a month or you can stock up while they’re on sale and freeze them for later.
18. Sandwiches. Sandwiches can be a great filling snack. If you have a Jimmy John’s nearby, you can often buy their day old bread for only $0.50 per loaf. Small subs are a great middle of the afternoon pick-me-up. You also can’t go wrong with good ole peanut butter & jelly!
19. Hard-boiled eggs. Kids can eat them as-is or you can use them to make deviled eggs for a filling and cheap snack. Don’t forget how easy these are to make in the Instant Pot!
20. Block cheese. Cut up your own block cheese into cubes or sticks. When you buy the larger blocks, it can be a lot less expensive.
22. Homemade muffins and granola/breakfast bars. Make pumpkin muffins, protein muffins, and granola bars throughout the month. Check out paleo snacks on Pinterest for breakfast bar recipes.
23. Energy bites. This Homemade Freezer-Friendly Energy Bites recipe is a family favorite. These are SO easy to make ahead of time, pop in the freezer, and have ready when you need a snack!
24. Freeze grapes for a yummy treat.
25. Popcorn. Buying popcorn kernels is often cheaper than buying microwaveable boxed popcorn. Make popcorn from kernels with an air popper, on the stovetop, or in a brown bag in the microwave. Drizzle with olive oil or butter and toss with salt. It is fast, wholesome, and cheap.
26. Tortilla chips with guacamole or salsa. This is one of our favorite snacks to grab at ALDI.
27. String cheese.
28. Unsweetened applesauce.
Looking for more ideas?
What other suggestions do you have for Julie? I’d love to hear in the comments below!