Frugal Snacks & Drinks

From Lisa: Avoid snacks made just for kids. They are usually way more expensive than the same thing just a few aisles over in the store. Compare Gerber juices and toddler snacks to similar "adult" items and you'll see what I mean! Also, I've found that many kids' snacks are devoid of any nutritional value. Kids are much better off eating real fruit than fruit roll ups or that gummy fruit stuff.

Making your own snacks also saves money. Popcorn is a great snack, easy to make and reasonably healthy. Buy it in plastic bags NOT prepackaged for microwave cooking and it costs pennies for a large bowlful.

Cake mixes are not very expensive...buy them on sale and use a coupon and you can get them for next to nothing. Make cupcakes instead of a layer cake for kids.

Check our Recipe Box for Whoopie Pies and No Bake Fudgies, both kid-tested recipes that are easy and economical to make. You could also use the Whoopie Pie creamy filling in cupcakes...cut a "core" out of the middle, spoon in filling, top with cut out piece...for a homemade version of brand name cupcakes.

Water, milk and juice are perfectly acceptable drinks but if your kids insist on sweet stuff Koolaid is much cheaper than soda pop. Buy the kind in little envelopes that allow you to add your own sugar. Not only are they cheaper but you can cut the sugar by 1/3 to 1/2. Also on the subject of drinks, use the thermos bottle that came with your child's lunchbox. Filling it is much more economical than buying drink boxes.

If you like to put chips, pretzels, etc. in your kids' lunches avoid the ones packaged in little bags. Buy large bags of chips and cheap, store brand sandwich bags and package them yourself. You can do them all at once if you don't want to be bothered in the morning and then just grab a bagful for each lunchbox.

A major snack budget buster in the summertime is the ice cream truck. Down your street it comes, merrily ringing it's bell or playing a cheerful tune. Of course the ice cream man is cheerful...he's making big money selling frozen treats at greatly inflated prices! To avoid paying these outrageous amounts we suggest keeping your freezer stocked with frozen treats that you buy at the supermarket or make yourself.

Name brand popsicles, fudgsicles, etc. are the most expensive but still well below what you'd shell out to the Good Humor Man. Use coupons to increase your savings. Store brand is more economical and usually just as good. The cheapest way to go is to make your own. Recipes for several different frozen treats can be found in our Recipe Box. You can also buy ice cream by the half gallon and cones or make your own ice cream sandwiches by baking chocolate cookies and putting them together in pairs with vanilla ice cream in the middle.

Here are some lunch box ideas from Carrie Briggs: For my son's lunchbox, this is what I do. I purchase $1.00 store-brand bags of pretzels, chips, and even the $1.59 box of mini chocolate chip cookies. He does not complain about the taste at all! I then bought a box of store-brand "zip-lock" sandwich plastic baggies. I filled like 10 bags with the chips, 10 bags with the cookies, and 10 bags with the pretzels. Every day, it's so easy to grab a bag and toss it in his lunch. He brings the bag back HOME every day, empty. I just then re-fill it with more of whatever was inside, for another day. I re-use the bags over and over again maybe 8,9 times (after dumping out the crumbs, of course). This is SO inexpensive compared to buying "snack packs" at the supermarket! I also pour store-brand kool-aid type punch in his thermos every day. Buying a big can of drink mix powder is WAY cheaper than juice packs! As long as there is variety, it's fine! I also buy a great big can of store-brand fruit cocktail, and I put a few spoonfulls into a small Rubbermaid container for his lunch. He brings it home , and I wash it for another day.

From K.M.in Minnesota: I have a good idea for anyone that loves going out for pizza! If your kids are constantly asking to go out to Pizza Hut or McDonalds, don't just give in, make them earn it. Start having them bring in recyclables and saving the money you get for it, then put it in a "pizza fund" jar at home. Soon you will have enough money to go out for pizza, make it a celebration and the kids will start to get into the recycling buisness! A great way for you to save money and also a great way to help the environment!

A Brief Editorial Comment:

As far as we're concerned the "Stupidest Product Ever Marketed Award" goes to the prepackaged breakfasts that come with a tiny portion of cereal and a drink box of milk and cost an outrageous amount. HULLO! Since when is it difficult to pour a few Cheerios into a bowl and add milk? We always thought Lunchables were a major rip-off but these are even worse!

Oops! Just when you think you've seen it all another one comes along! Frozen, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are even worse than the above!