Cheap and Easy Snacks for Kids
Do you ever feel like your kids are eating you out of house and home?
I tease my kids that they’re hobbits, because they like to follow up breakfast with second breakfast then elevenses, lunch, dinner and finish up with supper. To be honest, though, I also like to snack.
Who doesn’t like snacks?
The only bad things about snacks are the time and mess of preparation and how dang much they cost!
I mean, really. Snacks can add up to more than the cost of meals if you aren’t careful. For example, a typical snack at our house is sliced apples and cubed cheddar cheese. A medium-sized apple is about 1/2 pound. If you pay $1.29 a pound for apples, and $4.99 per pound for cheese, a single apple (65 cents) and 4 oz. of cheese ($1.25) is $1.90.
I don’t know about your kids, but mine don’t follow serving size guidelines. Plus I have eight kids, who all eat multiple snacks per day. If a typical snack is $15.20 ($1.90 times eight kids), and my kids eat three snacks a day, I’m looking at $45.60 per day for snacks.
That adds up to $1413.60 per month.
Or $16,963.20 per year.
No wonder my friends always complain, “Let the never-ending snacking begin!” when school lets out for the summer.
As a homeschooler this is something I deal with all year round.
Those who know me know that my middle name is frugal. There is no way I’m going to spend $45 a day on snacks! Honestly, my food “goal” is about $30 a day for my entire family for ALL of our meals, including snacks. Yeah, that’s not a typo.
Today I thought I’d share with you my strategies and secrets for keeping our grocery bill so low, but specifically in regards to cheap and easy snacks for kids. I’ve shared my overall strategies for keeping our grocery bills previously:
Not only are these snacks practically free, but these easy snacks for kids are stinking rotten easy! There is no prep and zero mess involved!
It’s really simple. My kids eat straight out of the yard.
Easy Snacks for Kids
I like to work in my yard early in the morning, while it’s still cool. My kids wake up and immediately come find me, then continue to play outside. They climb the apricot tree and serve themselves up breakfast, straight from the tree. Later, they graze on raspberries.
When everyone wants a snack while working on math later on in the morning, I send a child outside to grab a couple of bunches of grapes. My kids don’t even ask for snacks during the afternoon, because I’ve already given them permission to graze through the cherry and grape tomatoes, and they just fill their little bellies with those sweet morsels.
Talk about heaven!
And I’m not talking about the tomatoes. Those tomatoes are heavenly, don’t get me wrong. But I’m talking about the fact that my kids forget to ask me for snacks.
Not being asked for snacks is heaven!
You can organize your yard into a food forest that will produce throughout your entire growing season, no matter where you live. What you can harvest and when will differ, depending on your growing season, zone and climate.
Where I live in Utah, zone 5/6, asparagus pokes it’s head through the soil even before we’ve had our last frost. My kids are strange and they like to break the spears off and eat them raw as snacks.
In fact, I have to “ground” them from the asparagus bed to even have enough for a few meals for the family.
Next up is apricots, which ripen during May. Blackberries and raspberries load the shrubs in May and June, and then again in the fall. Cherries ripen during June. Grapes are next, with sweet, ripe fruit in July and August, and that’s also when our garden starts producing.
My kids just flit from tree to tree, enjoying the delicious bounty of our yard.
I always plant several cherry or grape tomatoes, from which my kiddos love to graze. They also like to eat lettuce and spinach from the garden by the handful. Some of our early plums and our other berries ripen about this time as well.
Green beans and cucumbers start producing heavily in August, and my kids eat those raw, straight from the garden. Carrots aren’t too far behind. Around the middle of August the pears, peaches and a few of the early varieties of apples are ready.
And so are the melons. Oh, the sweet, crunch melons! I don’t let my kiddos have free reign in the melon patch, because that would be a disaster. But we sure enjoy those melons together as a family!
You can extend the season by planting strategically, and by purchasing different varieties of the same trees. We have early peaches that ripen in early August and late peaches that ripen in October, with mixed varieties in between. Same with apples.
That way not a week goes by that there isn’t some fresh, delicious produce ready for consumption. Because my kiddos eat it all straight from the trees or shrubs, I don’t have to wash or chop or store or bake snacks or clean anything up. My kiddos just throw any waste right into the compost bin or feed it to our animals.
From May through about October, I honestly don’t have to buy any snacks. Talk about saving both money and time!
The longer your growing season, the more money you can save. Depending on where you live, you might have to grow different produce than I do (I envy those of you who can grow avocados and citrus fruits!). But I firmly believe this idea can be applied to any living situation.
I also believe there are serious health benefits to eating this way.
There is one caveat — you can’t spray herbicides or pesticides if you want to be able to eat directly from the trees, and you probably shouldn’t if you live in a large city, because of the pollution. But our produce is perfectly safe.
I should just quickly mention another benefit of eating things you grow yourself. They taste incredible! Peaches from the grocery store taste like cardboard compared to a fresh peach, ripened on the tree by the sun. They are so juicy you can’t keep the juice from running down your chin with each bite.
Another benefit is that we can’t possibly eat all that we grow, so we’re able to preserve boatloads of produce for the six months of the year during which we have none. Home preserved produce is also far superior to canned produce from the store, in terms of both nutrition and taste.
We also eat the majority of our meals during the growing season from the garden, although I generally prepare the produce with some good oils and protein. But the produce we grow really offsets our grocery budget!
You might be thinking, “But I don’t have a garden or fruit trees.”
Unless you live in an apartment with no access to even a balcony, you can grow something. It may not be enough to provide all of your kids easy snacks, but it’s a start.
If you have a yard at all, you can grow fruit trees. They are every bit as lovely as non-fruiting trees, and they provide shade as well. You can purchase dwarf varieties that only grow to about 15′ tall and produce fruit as early as the second year after they’re planted.
We’ve purchased a lot of our fruit trees from Costco. In the early spring they always bring in hundreds of bare-root fruit trees, always varieties that do really well in our area. They sell them for only $10 per tree. At that price, you can purchase several.
Vegetables don’t take much room, either, and they’re also lovely. You can grow them right in your flower beds among your perennials if that’s all the room you have. I’ve also seen cabbages, herbs and onions grown in flower pots, because they really are interesting and beautiful.
Chives look like a tall grass, and have a purple flower similar to onions when they go to seed. They make a great focal point in a flower pot, but they’re also useful. Rosemary and oregano have cool foliage. Why not plan things that are not just beautiful, but also edible and delicious?
Cheap and Easy Snacks for Kids Straight From the Tree
If you’re wondering how much work all of this is, I will admit that it is some work, but the majority of the work goes into the food preservation and not the growing. You do have to plant and make sure everything has sufficient water and weed your garden occasionally to give plants the best chance of success.
Our garden (which is huge) takes us about an hour a week during the first half of the summer and once it’s established, the only time it takes is harvesting produce. Our trees really take hardly any time at all. And fruit trees can outlive humans, depending on the type, the rootstock and the care it receives.
I just wanted to leave you with this graphic from berries.com, sort of showing you what is in season and when. I hope it can help you create a plan if you like this idea and want to get started on a food forest of your own.
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