This post is dedicated to Nadine in Lyon, France, who opened my eyes to healthy, simple snacks when her 9-year-old walked into her living room after school one day, asking for a snack while we visited. She told him he could have a piece of cheese, a yogurt, or an apple.

Pre-made snack foods are expensive, which is why I don’t buy them.

At my house, we have one afternoon snack. Our dinners tend to be late (between 6:30 and 7 p.m.) and our lunches tend to be around 11:30 a.m. I don’t serve any other snacks.

(If you’re used to giving more snacks, I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything for an eye-opening perspective on less snacks and getting children to eat at regular meal times).

Snacks at my house tend to be simple. I do a lot of cooking each day and the afternoons are a busy time for me. Simple snacks are also the least expensive.

What simple, inexpensive snacks can you serve in the afternoon?

Fresh fruit. In season apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, etc. make the easiest snacks. Purchased on sale in-season, they’ll give your family some nutrition, and the fiber will help to fill them up. If you want to save even more, grow your own fruit. My garden gives me apricots, apples, plums, peaches, grapes, blackberries, figs, pears, Asian pears, pomegranates, lemons, and tangerines.

If I don’t have anything fresh on hand, I will put together a simple fruit salad made with home-canned fruits that I canned when prices were at their lowest and taste was at its highest.

Carrots and ranch dip, made with homemade Greek yogurt. The yogurt provides calcium (sour cream does not) and homemade yogurt is less expensive than sour cream, even purchased on sale. Carrots are one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase. I usually buy a 10 pound bag of carrots at Winco for .39 a pound. In the summer I may include cucumbers from my garden, and in the spring I’ll have snow peas as well.

Homemade bread with homemade jam. This simple snack is almost forgotten in modern times. A loaf of French bread costs me .25 to make. Homemade jams and butters are simple when I’ve made and canned them earlier.

I get asked about my popsicle molds quite often. The popsicle molds I used are no longer being produced. Mine are starting to break and I have been thinking about replacing them with this one sometime in the future.

Homemade popsicles. Popsicles can be as simple and easy as freezing the syrup from your home-canned fruits, to making smoothies and freezing them as popsicles, freezing home-made grape juice, or to making a cooked chocolate pudding from scratch and freezing it for chocolate pudding popsicles.

Popcorn. I buy a fifty pound bag of popcorn from Sam’s Club, which usually lasts us a year. We pop popcorn on the stove with two tablespoons of oil, and then we salt it. It’s a simple, quick, and inexpensive snack.

Muffins. When my children were smaller I could make a batch of 18 muffins and have leftovers for snack time. Now they eat all 18 for breakfast. I can make a double batch at breakfast time if I want leftovers for snack time, or I can make a batch during naptime.

Homemade pita bread and white bean dip. The dip is simple and filling. To keep the price low, I buy white beans, kosher salt and olive oil in bulk. I grow lemons and parsley in my garden.

Smoothies. A simple smoothie is a refreshing afternoon treat.

Homemade crackers and cheese. I’ll make a batch of wheat crackers, or saltines and we’ll have them with thinly sliced cheese, or with tomatoes or cucumbers from the garden. On occasion I’ll make graham crackers. Crackers are only a few cups of flour per batch, so they’re just pennies to make.

There are occasions when I’ll make something else for a treat for snack time. If I do this I usually do it during nap time/quiet time. I’ll make a double batch of cookie dough and make enough cookies for everyone to have a few. Cookies are a more expensive and time consuming snack, so I don’t make them as often.

What are your favorite inexpensive snacks to serve to your family?

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  1. Thank you for your ideas. We do pretzels, popcorn and saltines with peanut butter mostly. I’ve been wanting to try homemade yogurt and granola, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. 🙂

  2. I like to buy hard salami from a deli (only at one particular store out of town) when it goes on sale, separate it into a few lumps and freeze several packages but leave one out. It makes a great snack with thin sliced cheese and either pear or apple slices.

  3. When our children were growing up, we had dried fruit available for snacks. I dehydrated cherries from our trees as well as sliced apples, & made plum fruit leather & apple fruit leather. If we did not eat all the fruit I bottled (apricots, plums, etc) by the time to refill the bottles the next year, I would dehydrate the “old” bottled fruit (technically dried glazed fruit at that point). It was delicious, & nutritious.

  4. We eat when we are hungry, not by the clock, so we often have one big meal a day and then 3 to 5 snacks when we feel the need to eat. Different members of the family have restrictions, including dairy, gluten, tree nuts and eggs. For snacks, I often make a platter with some of the following: fruit (apples and bananas mostly, as they are consistently inexpensive), nuts, hard-boiled eggs, cheese and veggies (carrots and cucumbers, plus whatever is seasonally available in our garden) and let the kid graze on it. They love it. Other snacks include small portions of black beans, yogurt, pasta, leftovers, bread with butter/sunbutter/peanut butter, apples or carrot sticks. One of my girls likes to have a glass of milk as a snack; we don’t drink/use much milk, so a half-gallon will last over a week for our family of seven.

  5. When my children were young I went by the old adage “you can’t miss what you never had”, so I never had junk food in the house.My children snacked on fresh fruit (whatever was on sale), homemade bread with jam or cheese, popcorn, crackers with peanut butter or thinly sliced cheese, homemade popsicles, or any kind of nuts or seeds. My daughter in particular was crazy about sunflower seeds, and could eat them by the handful, shelled or not.

  6. This reminds me of my growing up, my mom always gave us a glass of milk and either a chunk of cheese, or a spoon of peanut butter, pretty much that was it, and you know we ate dinner:DMy kids get string cheese, fruit, or crackers, sometimes carrots

    1. The links for saltines and wheat crackers don’t appear to have migrated over. Thanks for this series! It’s been helpful to revisit!

  7. We don’t “snack” much throughout the day. We are meal eaters. BUT my 18 year old boy eats all the time. Rarely, do we have leftovers for the next day because he will eat it late at night.I am amazed that you can keep so many homemade foods around. I can’t bake, clean, homeschool, organize, exercise, etc without sacrificing somewhere. Usually baking and organizing the home are placed on the back burner. I cook 2 meals a day and lunch is usually a snack-y type meal –sandwiches with veggies or cheese crackers and fruit. This is another reason why I’m looking for a great bread machine. I want to make homemade bread but can’t seem to fit it in our schedule.

  8. I love all the snack ideas. I am a couponer so they get inexpensive packaged snacks and fruit or cheese. Right now, I have peanut butter crackers, fruit snacks, and yogurt that I bought for next to nothing. I rarely pay more than $0.50 per packaged snack. When I am off from work on school breaks, I make more homemade snacks… yogurt, muffins, banana bread. I treat my kids to chocolate animal crackers every once in a while.

  9. Well, we are pretty lucky that my husband works for a snack food company. Some things have to be paid for but what he brings home are freebies. Testing new products, items that were overproduced, etc. Our stock is pretty high right now. Granted they aren’t the best for you, they are free for us and a treat. We eat healthy otherwise!

  10. Baking is an everyday thing, but I usually don’t exercise. The children’s chores are most of the cleaning (they sweep and mop, clean their bathrooms, and wash dishes–but I have the huge stack of baking things and pots and pans), vacuum, and pick up toys and rooms. The organizing has to come here and there. First for me is making sure everyone has something to eat. Good luck with your bread machine search!

  11. This was how I grew up. When we went grocery shopping we would bypass the “junk food aisle” as my mom called it. We ate well but we never had junk food. When I was in college, my youngest sibling lucked out and my parents would make Friday night snack night. Then they would have junk food. Guess my parents financial situation had improved 🙂

  12. Do your kids play sports? Are they teenagers? Are they growing? I find that when my kids are growing or on nights they have sports practice it doesn’t matter how much or what I feed them for dinner – they can eat more individually than my husband and I combined and then be hungry 20 minutes later. Boys tend to do this more than girls but either gender, especially if they are both growing and play sports (or hard farm work, etc.) eat a TON.My husband three brothers were all in swimming at the same time. Two and half hours per day of swimming practice each day meant that a 5qt kettle of beef and bean chili, 4 family size bags of fritos and two bunches of bananas would be gone without anyone else eating anything. And they’d still be hungry! I’ve also known teenagers who barely eat anything and are fine, but active, healthy kids sometimes need to eat a TON!Lea

  13. About a year ago, I stopped buying crackers for snacks. I thought the kids would die, but they hardly complained, even though some really loved them. Now we do yogurt (usually homemade), cheese, nuts, smoothies, chips and salsa, fruit, and popcorn. Sometimes bread and jam and butter. Or carrots and hummus. My two picky eaters are eating better at meals now – before they would fill up on crackers at snack time. Even though I limited the amount, apparently it had more an effect than I knew. They don’t like all of that snack food, but that’s okay – they will have more room for the veggies at dinner! It’s probably a coincidence, but our whole family has been sick less often since then. . . . Hope it lasts.

  14. That’s probably where I have went wrong and my self diagnosed OCD comes into play. I ‘ve always done the cleaning. Don’t get me wrong the kids have chores like trash , clearing table, ,and picking up their room. They just don’t clean like I would. I want to make the graham cracker recipe. Can’t wait to taste them

  15. with my son I have to make sure it’s hunger and not boredom or habit…and I cured that with bananas and yogurt…lol..neither of which he liked very much…so if he said that was fine then I knew he was HUNGRY..or if he begged for extra broccoli..Yes my kids at 10 and 12 ask for snacks…I need them to eat the balanced meals I make. apples, cheese yogurt bananas and peanuts are our snacks of choice (well MY choice.) I never grew up snacking…unless I ran out to the garden and ate something from mom grew up in a house with 16 kids to a widow and they knew if they wanted a snack it was to the ocean with a small fire on the beach…lol or wild foraging. My kids never snacked until they went to school…arg..drives me nuts. Oh and we make our son wait for 45 mins after dinner…or else 5 mins later hes starving. Also their plates if unfinished stay on the table and they almost always come and finish them.

  16. We enjoy making popcorn. It easy and inexpensive. We also eat seasonal fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, with homemade peanut butter or almond butter. We also eat apple or pear sauce. I like homemade bread with homemade jelly. Celery sticks and cucumber with hummus. Just about everything we eat including snacks is homemade. We do eat two snacks a days, one in the day and the other after practice in the evening. My kids do sports for 1.5 hrs every day in evening. They eat their snacks on the way home. They are usually hungry from working out so there is no problem finishing dinner.

  17. I am totally with you on this one – esp. French Kids Eat Everything. I was already on board with much of what she wrote about, but it convinced me to hold the line even harder on few/no snacks. During the school year, my kids have very little time to eat their school lunches, so I do give them a snack after school, and they still eat a very good dinner, so I know they were really hungry.My default snack is fruit or vegetables or whatever odd bits of leftovers I have hanging around. I keep it super-simple because I want the focus to be on meals.I wrote a post one time called “the answer to everything is popcorn” and I still maintain that popcorn is a fantastic, cheap snack that practically everyone loves.

  18. My son is in first grade, and we are asked to send in snacks for the class to share. I watch for pretzels at $1 per bag or crackers on sale and send those. The teacher gives each kid a small handful in the afternoon. My daughter’s preschool provides a snack in the afternoon as well, usually crackers and fruit. I stopped giving an after school snack because of this. My daughter will bring home her unfinished snack and eat it at home, and my son says he doesn’t like to eat the snack at school. (so why do I send it?!) Anyway, we have lots of free apples right now, so they eat an apple. They are still eating dinner (they weren’t as well when I gave other snacks) and I can consider it part of their meal.

  19. We make lots of the snacks you have listed here, so I won’t name those, but one thing not listed was raisins in bulk at a good price. I’ll usually pull out some cute little bowls and throw some raisins and peanuts in a bowl with a few chocolate chips for a special snack for my kids. They love this snack!Also, when I make muffins, I try to make banana muffins or other muffins that can easily be made without eggs or oil and can be made out of wheat or a mix of white flour and wheat. It adds some fiber, and cutting down the cost of using the eggs and oil helps us. We don’t eat or buy a lot of eggs, so I try to hold on to them for those occasions when I really need them.I love your list! Your crackers look delicious. I need to make some!

  20. When the children were in school snacks were as soon as we got home ,which was also homework time. That was done in the kitchen at table, while I did dinner. Olders could help youngers if needed. Dinner was at 6:30, normally. Dessert is later with the evening devotions. As they one after one became involved in sports (all did cross country) schedules would change some. If anyone is looking for a sport for their child I suggest cross country. Boys and girls share the season, practices are minimal as a lot of running is on own, and it is a lifetime sport. They often now run in races together…like the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning or other charity type runs. Also no expensive equipment, no head injuries like contact sports. Also it is in late summer early fall (here) so no long drives to meets in cold and dark. Also no running around to multiple sport meets and practices. Examples of snacks…*Bavarian style pretzels with mustard or peanut butter. These are large and hard pretzels. Takes a lot of chewing to get through one and one is big enough for a serving.*leftovers, if they weren’t already planned for something else*hot chocolate or hot cider if cold out*popcorn*vegetables with or with out a dip*fruit fresh or dried*peanuts in shell*applesauce and/or yogurt*leftover baked goods if there are any. With 6 people packing lunches daily those had usually all been used, even though I bake daily, sometimes more than one item.*bread and topping…usually peanut butter

  21. It is definitely easier to stick with cheaper, healthier snacks if that is the way they were raised. I like the way my mother did things, so I pretty much just repeat history. If it worked for her, it works for me. Also no conflicting rules then too as my mother always helped with sitting the children after she retired and I was at work.

  22. We prefer to stay minimal on dairy, meat, sugar, and white flour……
    I want our snacks to be inexpensive and nutritionally dense and high in fiber for better health…….
    snacks with little or no white flour (we use only unbleached flour if using white). We do use some dairy but not a lot, so cheese isn’t often a snack in our home. Usually cheese is on a homemade pizza or in homemade creamy mac n’ cheese or such. Meat is also used sparingly, as a flavoring mostly, such as in chili or a stew, or a stir fry. These choices keep our food bill down and our health up. We love cheese but it is not healthy to have too much. We do have yogurt here and there, but not everyday as it’s dairy. We even have ice cream once in a while, or root beer floats, but keep sugar to a minimum.

    Our doctor bills are next to nothing, very rare that we go to doctor.

    cooked wheat, peanut butter, honey mixed and eaten on a spoon
    fresh fruits in season are a staple snack, we also like garden tomatoes with sea salt for snacks
    popcorn with tad of melted butter/olive oil and sea salt (we buy non-gmo popcorn)
    chips and salsa occasionally
    if super hungry between meals: baked potato with butter, sea salt, pepper
    bananas or apples when priced low
    an occasional favorite is celery filled with cream cheese (bought only on a sale)
    oatmeal or whole wheat muffins or stoneground cornmeal muffins (I do use part unbleached flour in these recipes)
    whole wheat bread and low sugar freezer strawberry jam that we make every year (using instant clear jel***)
    if we had whole wheat blender pancakes or all oatmeal pancakes for breakfast and have leftovers, I bag them and put in fridge for kids to grab one to eat cold, no syrup etc.

    ***Amazon prime….Hoosier Hill…..8 lb. bag……this lasts us 3 to 4 years…..using the clear jel is so easy, no cooking, and enables us to use minimal sugar, so we get more fruit than sweet….we mainly do garden strawberries, but have also done garden raspberry, and peaches

  23. Hi! I absolutely love your blog– I’ve only just begun reading it but everything I’ve read so far is amazing! And the layout and photos are really pretty. I was wondering if you have a schedule for cooking? I make most things from scratch and I’d love to do more to make frugal and healthy food for my family. I’m terrible with scheduling, though. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants and today I ended up making lots of food throughout the day when I meant to rest– because I thought I had a plan but it wasn’t really thorough enough AND we are having to be careful because we’re at the end of a pay period…

    1. What we make is often determined by what is ripe in the garden. You can see my seasonal menus under the “cook” tab. I will make things based on what is ripe in the garden and what I have on hand. As far as a time for cooking, I have a daily schedule that I strive to follow each day that you can find linked from my “about” page. I cook for a lot of people so it does take a fair amount of my time each day.

      If you can’t do any shopping right now, make sure to check out my “Strictly Pantry” menu for ideas!

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