Will Cheez-Its Kill Your Budget?

Cheez-It-CrackersIf you saw this week’s featured post, you know that my kids were getting antsy about the lack of snacks on hand.  We had started our budgeting odyssey back in mid-December, so it had been about a month since they had seen a box of Cheez-its in the pantry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that all those crackers and cookies are not great for your health or your budget.  But, I also know that most of us are used to having some of that stuff on hand.  I also recognized my need to keep the family engaged in our budget – we were all in this today and, I don’t know about you, but whining grates on my nerves like fingernails on a blackboard!

I made a deal with the kids.  If we were able to maintain a weekly grocery list of under $100, I would give each of them $10 to buy a few treats to keep in the pantry.  My sister, thought this was a bad idea – and, maybe so, but we were far ahead of the game for the first half of January, having only spent about $180  of our $274 grocery budget.  I figured $10 bucks each would easily give them enough snacks  to last a few good weeks (fingers crossed).

If you figure that Cheez-Its run about $2.98 for a 21 oz. box and tortilla chips about $2.00 an 11 oz. bag, an occassional indulgence probably won’t kill your budget, as long as you keep it in moderation.  Nonetheless, my sister’s words got me to thinking….What ideas could I come up with for budget-friendly snacks, that were fairly convenient, acceptable to my sometimes picky teens, and were not too bad for the diet?

With a bit of research on the Internet, a few conversations with friends, and using my own standbys, I compiled the following list of eight tasty snacks that you won’t feel guilty about after you eat them!

  1. POPCORN.  Who doesn’t love popcorn?  We never buy the microwave kind, though.  It’s expensive and, frankly, I don’t like the aftertaste the oil they use leaves behind.  About four years ago, a good friend of mine who was a fellow popcorn aficioado, bought me an Orville Redenbacher stir popcorn popper.  It runs about $50, which is a bit pricey, but there are other brands out there for under $30.  If you are more healthy than we are, go for the air popper.  A jar of Orville Redenbacher Kernels runs me about $5.00.  Yes, there are less expensive brands out there, but I’ve tried a few and have been disappointed.  This old standby, when you average it out per giant-sized bowl of popped corn, is just pennies.  This is a great standby!
  2. GRANOLA BARS.  Granola bars are relatively inexpensive and are just plain convenient.  You can pop a few in your bag if you are going to be on the road and want to avoid those tempting drive-thrus, or use them for the lunch bags.  I recently found a recipe to make your own – I haven’t tried it yet, but when I do, you can be sure I’ll report back!
  3. PITA CHIPS, VEGGIES, & HUMMUS.  It is super easy to cut some pita into triangles, brush them with some olive oil and crushed garlic, and bake them in the oven – see the recipe here.  Then, slice some carrots and celery sticks.  To make the hummus, dump a can of garbonzo beans, tahini, and a few other ingredients into the food processor.
  4. CHEESE STICKS.  Cheese sticks are readily available at the grocery stores and even the Club Stores like Costco and BJ’s.  At Walmart, the price for a bag of 12 sticks of cheese is $2.98, but you can find them for even less if you buy in bulk.  Healthy and easy, cheese is good to have on hand.  If you can buy these in larger quantities for less money, so much the better.
  5. MINI-CRUSTLESS QUICHES.  Shout out to my friend Julie who turned me on to this one.  These protein-packed. low carb snacks are the bomb!  Basically, you mix eggs and half and half together for the base, and then, toss in whatever veggies, cheese, or meats you have on hand.  Spray a muffin tin with cooking oil and pop in the oven.  You can find all sorts of recipes online with a quick search. I love mine made with a bit of shredded mozzarella and broccoli.
  6. MAKE YOUR OWN POTATO CHIPS. Yes, you can! A 3 lb. bag of potatos will cost you less than $4.00.  Either slice the potatos and fry them as in this recipe, or, for a healthier option, cut them into sticks and bake them.  Either way, they are delicious and super cheap!
  7. APPLE SLICES.  I give my son a bag of sliced apples nearly every day for lunch. Apples are among the least expensive fruit you can buy, as long as you stay away from the pre-cut, pre-packaged ones.  You can buy a 3 lb. bag for about $4.00.  For extra convenience, invest a few bucks in an apple-divider, like this $4.99 one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which will make the job of slicing them a breeze.
  8. TRAIL MIX.  You can easily make healthy trail mix with just four elements: nuts, seeds, dried fruit and fun stuff (like dark chocolate or popcorn).  Or, if you are short on time, you can buy it off the shelf; Costco sells a 4 lb. bag for $15.35 which, at least in theory, should last a family of four a month.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. You can reach me here on my blog, CashCrashBlog, via email at CashCrashBlog@gmail.com, Twitter: @CashCrashBlog  Instagram: CashCrashBlog .  Be sure to follow me at CashCrashBlog.com for weekly ideas, menus, and tips to slash your food bill!pexels-photo-57043.jpeg