12 Delicious, Healthy, and Inexpensive Snack Options
Eating a balanced, whole foods diet can, at times, seem expensive and inconvenient. However, it's worthwhile to eat well for better energy levels, mental clarity, and general health — and this involves actual meals plus smart snacking. It's true that many of the packaged snacks on the shelves in your local health food store cost more than their conventional counterparts. (See also: Healthy Road Trip Snacks)
Here are some ideas that are a little, well, out of the box.
1. Fruits and Veggies
It doesn't get easier or less expensive than simple fruits and vegetables. To save on spending, try to pick up produce at your local farmers market or buy seasonal fruit and vegetables at the store. Some varieties, as you know, even come with their own natural packaging, like bananas, oranges, avocados, and apples. For the rest, just wash, chop, and portion ahead of time for a quick, grab-n-go snacking experience. (See also: Fruits and Vegetables By the Month)
2. Homemade Energy Bars/Chunks
Store-bought snack bars can really add up week after week. Making them at home is far more simple than you'd think. All you need to do is fill your grocery bag with some key ingredients and get the master recipe down. Once you're more comfortable, the customizing part is up to you.
Hummus is packed with protein and a healthy snack that can be combined with vegetables for some extra crunch. Of course, you can always pick up a tub in your grocer's refrigerated section, but I challenge you to save your pennies by making your own. To make this basic spread, all you need is a can of chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, water and some salt and pepper to taste. (See also: Tasty, Frugal Chickpea Recipes)
4. Peanut Butter
The healthy fats and protein in peanut butter make it a popular choice for dunking fruits and vegetables, spreading between two slices of bread, and topping crackers. If you've checked out the nut butter aisle lately, you might have some sticker shock. Consider making your own satisfying spread. It's as simple as pulsing together dry roasted peanuts and salt. Not convinced?
Another way to get a heaping helping of fruit in for the day is via applesauce. Store varieties come packaged for individual use, but that convenience factor comes with a price (and negative environmental impact). Good news! You can make fresh applesauce on your stovetop in 15 minutes flat — and you don't even need to skin the apples.
6. DIY Trail Mix
Delicious dried fruit and nut combinations, aka trail mix, are some of the most satisfying, yet wildly expensive snack options on the market. To lessen the blow, head to the bulk foods section and stock up on raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, pretzels, chocolate chips, cashews, peanuts, coconut flakes, almonds, and whatever else sounds delicious and mix up a batch of your own. Your stomach — and wallet — will thank you. (See also: Bulk Buying Basics)
It's tempting to grab a smoothie at the local hut. Often, though, those tall cups come with more than ice, juice, and fruit. Added sugar can be sneaky. With a little foresight, you can save big on this popular snack. Provided you have freezer space, it's simple to buy some frozen fruit in bulk. Search online, there are a number (OK, millions) of healthy smoothie recipes (from simple to complex) you can try out.
If a crunch is all you're after, a small bowl of cereal made with whole grains might do the trick. Watch for sugar content even if the label promises wholesome ingredients and be sure to shop for deals and use coupons whenever possible. And if you're into DIY, you actually can experiment with making your own cereal — but the savings doesn't always justify the effort.
Another idea often overlooked is lining your office shelf or kitchen cabinets with oatmeal mix. You can buy store-brand varieties relatively inexpensively that are either plain or full of all sorts of extras. For the most cash back in your pocket — you guessed it! — you can make your own. Here's a fantastic tutorial on DIY oatmeal packets, for breakfast or snacks. (See also: 11 Ways to Eat Oats)
This dairy (or non-dairy) product comes in quite a few varieties from Greek to Balkan-style to coconut-cultured. Navigating your way through all the different types can be daunting, but once you find your favorite, you'll be filling your belly with healthy probiotics, among other things. To save, consider buying a larger tub — which 9.9 times out of 10 boasts a lower unit price than individual cups — and scoop into snack containers. You can purchase whatever flavor you like, but be sure to mix in whatever fruit or sweetener that strikes your fancy.
Crackers make a smart partner for many of these snack items (hummus, peanut butter, and even yogurt), as well as on their own. Shop around for sales, coupons, or bulk buys for your best bet money-wise. You can also make anything you desire at home from copycat Wheat Thins to Whole Wheat Goldfish crackers.
12. Hard-Boiled Eggs
At the beginning of each week, I like to hard-boil a carton of eggs to store in the fridge. We use these eggs mashed up in sandwiches, atop green leafy salads, and even on their own. It's no secret that eggs are one of those awesome budget buys, but if you check around, you might even find a neighbor of friendly farmer selling local, cage-free choices for less. As for preparation, Martha Stewart's method is my favorite. (See also: How to Make Perfectly Cooked Eggs)
What healthy, inexpensive foods do you snack on? Anything we missed? Share your ideas below!