I am thankful to have three kids who love healthy food and make fairly good choices about what to put into their bodies. I am proud to say they are not picky eaters, and I don’t need to “sneak” vegetables into meals. That said, trying to provide nutritious and creative snacks on a budget can be an obstacle! Three kids consuming two snacks per day quickly add up to 42 snacks per week. I’m sure other moms struggle with the same dilemma, so I explored grocery store snack options that ranged from pennies-per-serving to break-the-bank.
Trip 1 – Sticking to a tight budget, I came across an 8-pack of crackers with cream cheese or peanut butter for only $2. The kids love them and so does my wallet. The hidden cost, though, is the preservatives, saturated fats and sodium that came along with this snack.
Another relatively inexpensive option – but with no nutritional value – was a gigantic tub of pretzels for $5. Lastly, I came across an 8-pack of fruit snacks for $1. Purchasing these inexpensive snacks would last our family a week and cost about $9.
Trip 2 – With healthier snack foods my focus, I purchased 8 servings each of snap peas and yogurt ranch dip for $10; all-natural, low sodium cracker sandwiches at $8; and grapes and cheese for $9. At this rate, I figured I would spend about $55 per week on the healthier snacks for my kids.
There had to be a way to offer my kids healthier snacks while keeping to a budget…
So I decided to experiment on my own. I compiled about 40 recipes that we could try at home, and the kids and I picked four recipes on which to focus – bagel chips, crunchy chickpeas, pretzel melts and veggie brownies (and yes, the kids knew there would be vegetables in them).
The taste test results are in, and according to my 7-, 8-, and 10-year olds, we were successful! Through trial and error, we came up with a few variations on some of the recipes that made everyone happy.
Our bagel chips resulted in a huge win! We tried both garlic parmesan and cinnamon raisin versions. For the latter, I used a whole wheat, low-sugar bagel because I knew we would be adding sugar, and I think my kids noticed, but it didn’t stop them from enjoying them. We wound up with at least 40 servings of chips for a cost of $7.
The crunchy chickpeas won the approval of my son (a huge Corn Nut fan), and I found that they could satisfy any french fry craving. This recipe seemed to need a bit of modification in the cooking instructions and should be eaten the same day while they’re still crunchy, but resulted in 18 servings that cost only $3.
The pretzel melt was a SUPER win, and we loved them dipped in salsa. We used an unsalted pretzel and found these needed less time in the oven than the recipe called for. After burning and losing the first batch, we made 8 servings for about $1.50.
We tested two different batches of veggie brownies: zucchini and carrot. The kids preferred the carrot version, and I felt better using a ‘low-sugar’ or ‘no-sugar added’ recipe. Using my mini donut maker already on-hand, we wound up with 18 servings that cost about $3.
When our experimenting was over, we wound up with enough snacks to last us two weeks for only about $15! While some families may prefer different snack selections, I believe these choices are about compromise and responsibility. (I let my kids have a say in their snacks, because they are the ones who will choose whether or not they’ll eat them once they’re out the door.)
I encourage anyone to try out these healthy options at home and take some time to discover new snacks that are both kid AND wallet friendly.
If you have additional ideas for low-cost, healthy snacks, please share your suggestions!
LiveWell Colorado has added photos/links to the recipes and Cara’s Pinterest “Yum” page on the NEW LiveWell Colorado Pinterest page under our “Small Victories” board. Check it out!