I used to think parents were exaggerating when they said their kids "ate them out of house and home." Then my kids started eating everything in sight, except maybe asparagus. I open a bag of pretzels, and it's gone in 20 minutes. Now I have to work my mom magic and find ways to make our food budget stretch for endless appetites. I came up with 6 simple ideas to save money on snacks for kids.
1. Make your own
Although this might seem time-consuming at first, once you find a few recipes your family likes, you can easily make your own snacks. Ideas for homemade snacks include dried fruit, muffins, granola bars and healthy cookies. You can even attempt to make some well-loved snacks like fishy crackers and graham crackers. Have your kids help with these recipes and they'll enjoy the snacks even more.
2. Buy in bulk
Checking the price per ounce or item for snacks will help you get the most for your money. When you buy more at once, it might feel like you are paying more, but you often pay less overall when you buy in bulk. This isn't always the case, however, so be sure to check prices carefully. Stores like Costco and Sam's Club offer bulk items. You can also look at lesser-known grocery stores in your area that specialize in liquidation and outlet-type sales.
3. Buy generic
Many generic brands taste just as good as name brands. Try a few store brands and see which ones your family likes. Crackers, cheese sticks, fruit snacks and granola bars are all items that can be just as good as generics.
4. Use coupons
Manufacturers often offer coupons for snack foods. You can find coupons in newspapers, online, or through apps like Target's Cartwheel. Coupons can help take the sting out of buying snacks. I use coupons to buy snacks I otherwise wouldn't purchase to try new items and for special occasions.
5. Rethink "snack."
A snack doesn't have to be pre-packaged and salty or sweet. Carrot sticks, apple slices, leftovers and homemade bread can all be snacks. My kids love popcorn as an after-school snack. Popcorn is full of fiber, whole grain and very inexpensive. In general, children eat plenty of processed foods. Consider whole foods, fruits and vegetables when you choose snacks.
A never-ending snack session means kids aren't hungry when dinnertime comes. If I open a box or bag and put it on the counter, my kids will eat it all. I like to portion out snacks on plates and give kids a limited amount of time to snack. This method reduces food waste. My mom used to always say "The kitchen is closed," in between mealtimes. That drove me crazy as a kid, but now I realize her wisdom.
Hungry kids need food to grow and keep moving all day. Snack time is important but shouldn't break the bank. Employ some of these quick and easy ideas to make your household food budget stretch to cover snack time for your growing family.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.