Snacking through my day is what I love to do – and my son is the same way. Learn all my tips and tricks for how to save money on snacks.
How to save money on snacks?
I’m a serial snacker – I like to snack all day long – so I’ve had to tackle the cost of my habit over the years.
Especially since I’ve been working for myself, from home, since early 2013.
Psst: I’m eyeing some mini-chocolate-chip-pancake bites right now – just talking about snacking is making me want one!
Now that I’ve got a son who’s basically hungry for snacks all day, too, I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer you my tips on how to save money on snack foods.
You know, in case your snack schedule looks like
- the morning snack
- the after-lunch snack (x4)
- the after work/after school snack
- the after-dinner snack
- the midnight snack (thankfully, I never feel the need to snack at nighttime, but this time slot could be on your menu)
How to Save Money on Snacks
If you and your family go bananas over eating snacks, and you’d like to stop spending so much money in this area, then keep reading.
These are the tips I use for myself and my own family (they represent years of experimenting with how to decrease the cost of snacking).
1. Make Your Own Snacks to Freeze for Later
Let’s face it: processed snacks at the grocery store have tons of unknown ingredients in them.
But it’s soooo convenient to be able to slip into our pantries and rip open a bag of something to eat, right?
That’s where this strategy comes in – giving you healthier snacks to eat while still keeping a bit of the convenience (psst: did I mention this will save you money, too?).
There are tons of recipes out there that you can make and freeze for snacks.
And I’ve only begun to discover them.
Try some of these out:
- Mini-Pancake Bites (I make the chocolate chip ones)
- Mini-German Pancakes (I like to add vanilla Greek yogurt + lemon curd to the top of these)
- Homemade Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Bars
- Homemade Hot Pockets
- Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
My hungry-but-picky 6-year-old absolutely loves the mini-pancake bites. I put chocolate chips in ours (and I end up eating probably 30% of them, myself…). They’ll be useful for his lunchbox come school time, too.
2. Use a Cheap, Filling Base + Fun Toppings
How about putting out a snack tray after school or on Saturday afternoons with a cheap base your kids can build on – rice cakes, crackers, apple discs, animal crackers, pancake bites, popcorn kernels, etc. – and then toppings they can use to create their own snack?
- Peanut butter
- Everything seasoning
- Sliced up fruits
- Yogurt dip
Psst: I was pleasantly surprised several years ago after learning that you can pop your own popcorn kernels by simply putting them in a paper lunch bag, folding the top down, and sticking it in the microwave. The toppings you can do are endless!
3. Substitute a Homemade Drink for Just One Afternoon Snack
I know, I know, I promised you wouldn’t go hungry with these strategies.
But hear me out on this one, because I thought I would never, ever, ever stop snacking my way through the afternoons (except that one time my husband and I did the 21-Day Daniel Fast…).
But I decided to substitute one homemade, delicious drink for one of the times that I was craving an afternoon snack.
And guess what? It worked (turns out, it’s confusing to figure out if you’re actually hungry, or if you’re really thirsty. Go figure.).
Which saves me both money AND calories.
Some of my favorite homemade drinks to make for this:
4. Keep Snacks in Your Purse or Backpack
I can’t tell you how many times just simply keeping a small stash of pantry snacks in my purse and backpack has saved me from having to spend $3-$7 on food.
- After the pool on the car ride home, when my son turns hangry on me.
- In that slice of time between my doctor’s appointment and hauling myself over to my son’s school to pick him up on time.
- On the way to the movies, so I don’t gorge on an $11 box of chocolate chip cookie dough bites while there.
You get the point.
I like to keep a chocolate chip granola bar (though not in the summer, as they will melt – ask me how I know…), peanut butter crackers, and nuts on hand most of the time.
Pro Tip: About once every few weeks, I go through my purse and trade out snacks – my son or I eat what was in there (so that it doesn’t expire on us) and then put fresh snacks in.
5. Use Jordan’s Snack Drawer Solution
Jordan Page has a great snack drawer solution for her 8 kids (I mean, can you imagine 8 kids coming to you throughout the day for snacks? I can hardly take being asked for snacks all the time by just one!).
She has several baskets of healthy/approved snacks that her kids can access whenever they’d like – up to 45 minutes before a meal (that’s the cutoff).
She also had a refrigerated drawer in her kitchen for things like string cheese and fruit slices (you could designate a bin in your fridge just for kid and teen snacking).
Here’s her YouTube video all about her snack system.
Psst: I just love her tip on leaving foods that come in wrappers for away-from-home snacking/lunches, only. That saves money!
6. Make Your Own Vending Machine at Work
Looking for healthy snacks for work (that don’t cost a ton)?
Snacking by vending machine is by far one of the most expensive ways to snack (not to mention, it can be really unhealthy).
All of the vending machine items where I used to work 10 years ago (even the smaller items) were $1.00 or more each.
A great idea someone at my office came up with: make your own group vending machine.
Most people wouldn’t want to keep a lot of snacks at their desk because they might be afraid to eat them (I hear this all the time).
So, they came up with the idea to buy large quantities of snacks at bulk prices from grocery stores or warehouse-type stores, and then have one person in charge of them.
If you want a snack, you simply pay the cost at the time to the person in charge and pick it up from their cubicle.
The variety is still there, the system works well, and you save probably 50% or more from those vending machine costs.
7. Treat Snacks as its Own Category (Not an Afterthought)
This is a planning tip that works surprisingly well to lower your snacking costs.
Because when you take snacks seriously – like I do, since I like to snack all throughout the day – then you start to plan and prepare for them.
Suddenly, they don’t creep up as a nasty surprise that has you and the kids going through the drive-thru at 2:00 p.m. for something to tide you all over.
Snacking as its own food category can lead you to:
- Make some of those frozen snacks ahead of time that we discussed above
- Keep snacks in your purse to satisfy cravings at a much lower cost than the drive-thru
- Set up something like Jordan’s snack system, and keep it well stocked
- Prep a few snacks while you’re in the kitchen in the morning, so that when the afternoon hits, you’ve got something easy to grab (in fact, this one deserves its own number)
8. Prep Afternoon Snacks in the Morning
I’ve found that when I prep a snack or two for myself and my son in the mornings, – when I’m in the kitchen anyway to make my breakfast, my son’s breakfast, to unload and reload the dishwasher, etc. – it makes afternoon snacking convenient and cheaper.
Stuff I prep in the morning:
- Pull out a frozen snack you made from the freezer and stick it on the counter – it’ll usually be defrosted in time for an afternoon snack
- Look through your pantry and decide on 1-2 snacks you could eat later (best to do this before your cravings hit, when you could succumb to much less healthy options…like spoonfuls of Nutella)
- Pull out what needs to be defrosted for dinner (I wish I could say I did this every morning, but sometimes it doesn’t happen until noon-ish, when I take a break from working and head downstairs for lunch)
- Chop up some fruits and veggies and put them into Tupperware containers – I’ve found that if the healthy stuff is easy to grab and eat, then I’m much more likely to turn to it versus grabbing something less healthy from the pantry
9. Cut Off Snacks Before Meal Times
Make a rule and let everyone know expectations that snack access is cut off XX amount of time before meals (maybe 1 hour before meals).
Hint: this can also help with kids eating more of the meal you work hard to make, and less of snacks that cost more.
10. Create a “Needs-to-be-Eaten” Snack Bin
This can work in the fridge OR the pantry.
It’s just a bin where you periodically put half-sleeves and almost-empty boxes of food into that need to be eaten (i.e., snacked on) before anyone opens anything else.
Establish the rule, and follow it yourself, too, to help fill up those snacking occasions.
11. Hide Protein in Your Snacks to Get them to Feel Full
Protein helps with feeling full – super important if you’re dealing with kids that seem to have bottomless stomachs.
You can add cheap, healthy forms of protein (think: beans) into homemade snacks that your kids will think are more like treats.
12. Make Snacks with Cheap + Filling Ingredients (that are still Healthy)
Some ingredients are cheaper than others. And some ingredients that are cheap, also happen to be filling.
What if you focused on getting down 1-3 recipes that use those cheap, filling ingredients and your kids actually loved them?
Here are a few that use oats:
- No-Bake Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
- No-Bake Oatmeal Bars
- No-Bake Energy Oatmeal Balls
13. Establish a Snack Container in the Freezer
Put containers for snacks inside of your freezer – this really changed things up for us when I did this and put all of our homemade monster pops and flavored icees into one container that we each could grab from.
Hint: curious about my Monster Pops? I got the name from the monster popsicle molds I use. I simply steam a carrot, then put that chopped carrot, 1 chopped banana, and a big, big handful of watermelon chunks into our blender (thin out with the carrot juice, if needed), then blend until it makes these creamy, peachy-colored yumminess. My son has been eating these since he was 2.
14. Buy in Bulk, and Divvy Up in Reusable Containers (with Hard Stops)
You can buy snacks in bulk-sizes, like a huge container of chocolate-covered almonds from Costco, or their 5-lb. organic carrots with ranch dip, and then just prep your week ahead of time by divvying them up into smaller containers.
Don’t want to spend your Sunday afternoon working on this? I don’t blame you.
Sometimes I find that I can squeeze in some snack prepping for the week into my Monday morning as I’m refreshed from the weekend and very motivated to get through my morning routine.
Hint: try your absolutely best to NOT allow yourself to snack out of those huge bulk containers. Because I have found that you’ll eat right through twice the amount you normally would, in half the time. Dividing them up is pretty essential if you want to save money.
15. Get a Toaster Oven (Or Use the One You Have)
This is on my list of things to buy and try, because doesn’t making something in a toaster oven seem massively simpler than turning on a regular oven?
I’m not sure why, I mean they accomplish the same thing. But I find that if I think something is easier, I’ll be more likely to do it.
There are all kinds of toaster oven snacks out there to try, from ingredients you’ve already got (or you can plan for, since you’re now thinking of snacks as its own food category)/.
Soooo many possibilities.
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