Frugal Kids: Inexpensive Class Snacks

popcorn At my oldest son’s full-day kindergarten, parents are required to provide class snacks once a month. The school asks that the snacks be easy to eat with a minimum of mess. Most parents seem to have resorted to individually packed snacks, but with a class size of 23, providing those types of snacks would really eat into our monthly food bill. Even taking advantage of combining coupons and sales, those little packages of peanut butter crackers, for example, cost close to $.75 a package! Not to mention that those type of snacks are often loaded with stuff you may not want to feed children, such as “trans fats.”

So, I have had to get a bit creative with our snack contribution. I’ve given homemade snacks and bulk snacks. So far, the kids have loved all of the choices, but the homemade snacks always get the best reactions.

Homemade Snacks

Just the other day, while I waited for my son to enter the school building, his teacher stopped me to say how much the kids enjoyed the most recent snack, homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. “They absolutely loved the cookies,” He said. “They wanted me to put in a request to have them again next month.”

The homemade oatmeal raisin cookies are from the “Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” recipe that comes with a tub of quaker oatmeal. Oatmeal is very inexpensive, especially if you buy the large bulk tub and go for the old fashioned or quick oats, instead of instant oatmeal. With one batch of cookies that cost just pennies to make, I was able to make enough snacks for the whole class, with a few left over for the teacher and to enjoy at home. You can find some great cookie recipes at the Families.com Food Blog. I have my eye on the recipe for the Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Balls to try out for next month. Kids love peanut butter, and it is a food that is easy to stockpile for great savings.

Mini muffins are another good choice. Muffins are one of my favorite frugal foods because you can put practically anything in them depending on your stockpile and what is on sale. I’ve made chocolate chip muffins, cranberry-orange muffins (that used up the last little bit of orange juice that no one wanted to drink because it wouldn’t make a full glass), apple cinnamon muffins and more.

Quick breads, such as banana bread, carrot bread and chocolate zucchini bread are inexpensive to make. You can even ask the produce manager at the grocery store for a deal on bananas that have overstayed their welcome. The typical grocery shopper may not want them, but overripe ones are idea for banana bread. For zucchini, check with friends who may be generous enough to share an abundance of zucchini from their garden.

Fresh popped popcorn. You can jazz up the popcorn by sprinkling it with parmesan or white cheddar cheese, or making into a carmel corn. Just remember not to give popcorn to very young children because of the choking hazard.

Bulk Snacks

If you don’t want to make anything from scratch, you can still save by buying the snacks in bulk and then packaging them yourself. A warehouse-type store is idea for buying bulk snacks. This idea can also be adapted if you are just including snacks in your child’s lunch box. Invest in some small inexpensive containers, or save used containers, and dole out the bulk snacks into individual servings. Even if you choose to buy store-brand “baggies” for your bulk snacks, you will still save money over the individually pre-wrapped snacks.

For the class snack, I don’t even need to worry about containers. Since my son’s teacher distributes the snacks to the class himself, he doesn’t mind if we skip the packaging completely, another savings.

Some ideas for bulk snacks that can be bought inexpensively:

  • Pretzels
  • Animal crackers
  • String cheese (one of the most expensive of the inexpensive, look for string cheese that is put into a large bag as is, without the sticks being individually pre-wrapped).
  • Grapes (if serving to small children, cut into quarters)
  • Buttery crackers, such as Ritz

Do you have any other suggestions for frugal class snacks? I’ll try them out and let you know what the kids think.

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About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for Families.com since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT verizon.net or visit her personal blog http://homeinawoods.wordpress.com

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