How I am Saving Money on Snacks | Cooking at Home with Stretching a Buck

by Marcy on April 25, 2013 · 2 comments

For the last year and a half one of my goals has been to cook at home and eat out less. This has been a struggle for me. Like many of you, my kids are involved in several activities, life is crazy and we often eat on the run. Having young children turned me into a chronic drive thru user abuser, driving through for coffee, snacks, lunches and dinners because it’s easier than dragging the kids and all of their stuff into places. I was probably grabbing food or drinks in a drive thru up to 10 times per week at my peak – on a bad day 2-3 times per DAY!

A busy day might have had me running through Starbucks for coffee (my 3 year old didn’t sleep through the night for 2 years!!), Wendy’s for lunch for the kids, Panera for my lunch, and Chipotle for dinner. And while we try to make “smart” choices (as smart as you can be when eating out), we were still wasting a ton of money and eating too many extra calories.

Toward the end of February I decided to revive my Menu Plan Monday posts here on the blog. At first it was painful for me to put the plan together because I had no motivation to cook. But as the weeks have gone by it is getting easier, and I have been finding some great recipes! Once I started getting into the groove with our dinners, I decided to tackle our on the go snacks and lunches.

The first thing that I did was start packing a ziploc bag full of snacks to keep in the car. My kids are eating more and more as they grow, and I got tired of being out and hearing them whine that they were hungry. The snack bag has saved my butt several times, and now my girls actually enjoy going through it to pick out a snack instead of begging me to go to McDonald’s for a smoothie.

After talking with one of my girlfriends about her Sunday evening prep (for the week), I also started washing, sorting and pre-packaging healthy snack and lunch items on Sunday night. Even though this isn’t some ground breaking, earth shattering technique, I thought I would share my most recent prep session with you in case it encourages any of you who are stuck in the food/fast food/drive thru rut that I was in.

This prep took me about 30 minutes total and it has saved me tons of time already this week. First I cleared off my island and pulled out all of the items that I wanted to assemble. I purchased most of the pre-packged items (Annie’s products, Goldfish) at Costco.

Save Money On Snacks
I took a large gallon sized ziplock bag and filled it with assorted Annie’s Fruit Snacks, Cheddar and Graham Cracker Bunnies, GoGoSqueez Applesauce, Granola Bars, Emerald Almond & Breakfast on the Go Packets, Peanut Butter Crackers and Fruit Bars. When the weather starts to heat up I might have to rethink a few of these items – or keep a cooler in the van. This bag o’ snacks has saved me several trips through the drive thru in the last 2 months!

budget friendly snacks for the car

Something that I have become aware of recently is that I don’t make the time to eat regularly – so when it’s time to eat I’m usually starving and make bad choice. That’s why I thought it might be good to try bagging up fruit and veggies to grab when I am starving. So far my favorite produce to bag up is celery, baby carrots, cucumber and grapes. I have one child who likes green grapes and one who likes purple so I make up baggies of each.  I was concerned that the produce wouldn’t stay fresh for an entire week in these baggies but I have been proven wrong!

save money on snacks

For easy fridge storage I put the bags of fruit and veggies in these blue Tupperware Containers that I have had forever. It makes me happy to see my kids open the fridge and grab these to snack on. :-) Packing lunches has become a lot easier for me too because I’m not having to take the time to wash and portion things out.

fridge storage for prepackaged snacks

In addition to packing lunches my first grader takes a snack to school with her each day. I have started bagging Goldfish, Pretzels and Almonds and I can’t tell you how nice it is to reach in the pantry to grab these in the morning to throw in her backpack. I love the snack sized bags for these. I typically watch for sales or buy generic.

save money on snacks

I store all of the bags in 2 sandwich containers that I found in my storage container drawer. It’s super simple and it keeps my pantry from becoming a disorganized mess.

pantry storage for snacks

I’m happy to report that it is Thursday and we haven’t been out to eat or gone through a drive thru all week – not even for Starbucks! After a lot of trial and error I have FINALLY learned how to make coffee at home, and found a creamer that I like. Now I try to save a trip to Starbucks for the weekend when I can go with my husband.

I know that this will be a constant work in progress, but so far I’m happy with the progress we have made. :-)

What tips do you have for saving time and money when it comes to preparing meals and/or snacks for your family?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lori Austerberry April 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM

We raised 5 kids and our youngest is in high school now. I have always done the car and baggie snacks. We have a snack drawer. I still bag all crackers, peanuts, chips for portion control. I also buy the smaller ziploc containers and wash and sort fruit as soon as I buy it. They are perfect one cup servings. This keeps my husband from eating an entire pineapple when I buy it and like the veggies easy to grab for a lunch or snack. I love your blog, thanks for sharing!

2 Marcy April 27, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Lori – I love the fruit idea! (using containers) I’m thinking about doing that for softer fruit (berries etc…) because we go through a ton of that stuff too. Thanks so much for commenting and for reading! :-)

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