Jan 252011

Buying snacks can really eat into your grocery budget, and store-bought snacks such as crackers, cookies, and chips are heavily processed, and usually contain hydrogenated oils (trans fats).

As much as possible, I try to avoid buying snacks, and I encourage my children to make healthy choices. Here are some examples of snacks they enjoy:

Apple slices with cinnamon sugar
Peanut butter or cheese on crackers
Whole-wheat cinnamon toast
String cheese
100% fruit leather
Air-popped popcorn
Granola bars (I try to make them from scratch when I can).
Homemade trail mix. I mix equal parts salted peanuts or sunflower seeds, M&Ms, and raisins or other dried fruit.
Pudding or applesauce. I usually buy instant pudding mix in bulk because it’s cheaper than the little boxes.

Of course, the kids also love baked goods, but I try to limit cookies, cake, and other treats to once a week. We call Friday “Treat Day,” because when Bee was in kindergarten, I always let her have a special treat after school (see her blog post, I Love Friday). Her favorite treat, without question, is chocolate chip cookies, and because she requested them so regularly, I started making double batches of cookie dough. I would bake a dozen cookies, and freeze the remaining dough in cookie size portions on baking sheets.

When the dough balls are frozen solid, I transfer them to labeled freezer bags.

When Friday rolls around, it’s easy to just take a dozen dough balls out of the freezer and pop them into the oven. I just allow a few extra minutes for baking.

This method of preparing snacks in bulk will help reduce your grocery budget, and improve your health. If you always have healthy snack options available, you’re more likely to eat healthy, instead of running to the store for a package of cookies (not that homemade cookies are healthy, but they’re healthier because, if made with Smart Balance, they’re trans-fat free and lower in saturated fat). Also, making snacks in bulk is more efficient, because if you’re already making one batch of cookies, you might as well make two – you already have all the ingredients out, and clean-up is the same.

I do this when making cakes, or snack mixes too. I make two cakes, and freeze one (unfrosted), or I make a double batch of trail mix in a big container with a tight-fitting lid (gallon ice cream containers work great for this, which is why I always keep two or three around).

One day, while walking through the freezer section at the grocery store, I came across a bag of frozen cookie dough balls (it was called “Bag O’Cookies.” Seriously), and I felt triumphant because here was a bag of 3 dozen chocolate chip dough balls for seven dollars. I estimate that I can make 6 dozen cookies at home for around 4 dollars, using quality ingredients purchased at the lowest sale prices.

I love it when I can beat them at their own game (and who is them, you ask? You know! Them!)