Sunday, November 01, 2009

Penny Pinching: Snacks to Go

If you're a parent, you're busy. Seems you're always on the go for one thing or another, and at some point those kids need to be fed! How often do you find your self going for pre-fab snacks for convenience? It's pretty easy, what with 100-calorie packs being all the rage and those big cups of Nabisco snacks lurking right at the checkout next to the animal crackers. Problem is, they're expensive.

Take those handy little 100 calorie snack packs by Nabisco et. al. You're paying roughly three dollars for six snacks - 50 cents per. It doesn't sound bad unless you have a couple of kids eating them a couple times a day. And those cups of Teddy Grahams? I approve of Teddy Grahams as a snack, but there are three servings in those cups! Again, you're spending about 50 cents a serving.

It's really easy to make your own snack packs, it just takes a little preparation. The first thing you need is a box of snack-sized zipper-close bags (they're about half the size of a sandwich bag). Walmart's house brand is about $1.50 for a box of 50. Then get some snacks. Look for store-brand alternatives to the expensive national brands. Fred Meyer and Safeway have snack crackers and snack grahams in fun shapes that run about $2.00 a box on sale, and there's 9 servings in a box, so do this just once and you've paid for the bags.

You can just toss handfuls into bags, or check the nutrition information on the box for serving sizes. If you're counting calories, do the math and make your own 100 calorie packs. Spend a half hour on the weekend and fill a box or bin with your own pre-packed snacks and you're prepared for lunches, on-the-go snacks, and portion controlled munchies.

I like to avoid anything that needs refrigeration so that if you don't use the snack it doesn't go to waste, but that doesn't mean that you're stuck with crackers. Hit the fruit section for raisins, dried cherries, and yummy yogurt covered fruit. You can get a big bag of store brand raisins much cheaper than the national brand of little raisin boxes, and they won't go stale in a zipper bag like they do in a box.

Other easy and inexpensive snack ideas are dry cereal, popcorn, pretzels, and Chex Mix (make your own, it's tastier and more nutritious). I've even made cookies, frozen them two to a bag, and grabbed those on the way out the door (they thaw very fast).

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