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.
5. Shop at ALDI. We love Aldi around here! It has saved us thousands of dollars over the years and they have great prices on produce and kid-friendly snacks.
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.
11. Garden. See if there’s a community garden in your area or plant one in your backyard. Can, freeze, or dehydrate what you grow and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor year-round!
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.
21. Healthy cookies. Homemade breakfast cookies are great for busy mornings or afternoons. You could also try a breakfast cookie made of fruits, like this recipe.
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?
- Be sure to check out this Facebook post for a plethora of additional ideas and tips!
- You can Save Over $100 Per Year Making Your Own Snacks. (Read for additional tips and recipe ideas!)
- Check out these 10 Healthy and Cheap Vegan Snacks for Kids for some more recipes!
- This list of 8 Delicious & Healthy Freezer-Friendly Snack Ideas includes some of our all-time faves!
- These Grain-Free Chocolate Cashew Cookies Made With Black Beans are delicious and packed with protein!
- We’re HUGE fans of muffins in our home. Check out my Top 7 Favorite Freezer-Friendly Muffin Recipes!
- Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Instant Pot are super easy and quick!
- Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets are one of our favorite go-to snacks!
What other suggestions do you have for Julie? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Hi! Random question- if you freeze the fruits and the bagels, say, do you just pull them out and defrost them in the fridge?
Faith Still says
I freeze berries too when they go on sale or when we pick them at a u-pick berry patch. They are so easy to freeze for later and the kids love them. https://www.homeecathome.com/the-home-economist/freezing-raspberries
I also make this easy one bowl banana bread frequently. The kids love it for busy mornings or a snack any time of day. https://www.homeecathome.com/the-home-economist/moist-and-delicious-one-bowl-banana-bread
Crystal Paine says
Thank you for sharing!
My children’s favorite snack is baked chicken wings with honey mustard sauce. I look for mark downs on wings at our local grocery store. To make them I just lay them out on a baking pan, sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt and bake them till they are nice and crispy. How easy is that! To make the honey mustard sauce I just stir a bit of mustard and a bit of honey into bowl of mayonnaise. Sprinkle a little chopped dill weed and salt over the top and stir it up. YUM. It is a lovely change of pace from fruits and vegetables, and works for those times we are out of fresh stuff. If I don’t have wings I fry chicken tenders in a skillet (roll in seasoned flour then dip them in a beaten egg and fry them with your favorite oil.) this is a little more mess but really yummy too.
leftover baked oatmeal and yogurt is another favorite around here. That seems to really fill them up between meals.
In the summer I send the children out to the garden to find their snacks sometimes. It does my heart good to see them munching cucumbers peppers or cherry tomatoes right off the plants (we don’t spray so it works for us) We also have a variety of berries and fruit trees.This gets them into the garden and keeps them busy a while and also saves prep time for snacks. Win Win situation.
Crystal Paine says
What great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
For convenience regarding smoothies and making popsicles I recommend using a bullet. My husband found a whole set at a garage sale for $3 and I love that it’s easy to clean. I can also customize smoothies since my husband is dairy free right now and the rest of us are not. Ditto on the popsicles – my five year old loves them and they’re an easy way to use up extra fruit, juice, etc. I put gelatin powder in the smoothies and popsicles to add protein.
Crystal Paine says
Thanks so much for these great tips!
My kids are grown but one of their favorites was homemade waffles cut into strips so they could dunk them in a little syrup. I had a waffle iron that made squares so each one was cut into three sticks. I reheated in the toaster and then cut them. This was very inexpensive. I second the popcorn. We wore out a Stir Crazy popper by West Bend. We bought popcorn in large quantity at Sam’s. Homemade muffins are very inexpensive as long as they don’t include expensive ingredients. Muffins that are flavored with cinnamon or a bit of fruit are cheaper than chocolate chips. Make them ahead and keep them in the freezer. Leftover biscuits are good snacks with a bit of jam. My daughter hands her toddlers a whole small apple and it takes them a long time to eat them so it really fills the snack need. They also love toast with a bit of peanut butter which really fills them up. You may want to consider learning to make your own yogurt. It is not hard at all and makes a lot for cheap. Homemade popsicles can be made from any kind of juice, juice from canned fruits, etc and over ripe fruit blended together.
We have a Wise Buys surplus grocery store in our area and it is a small chain. The have really low prices and they often have really healthy choices.
Crystal Paine says
Thanks so much for these great ideas!!