12 Delicious, Healthy, and Inexpensive Snack Options

by Ashley Marcin on 30 January 2014 15 comments

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.

3. Hummus

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?

5. Applesauce

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)

7. Smoothies

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.

8. Cereal

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.

9. Oatmeal

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)

10. Yogurt

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.

11. Crackers

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!

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Guest's picture

These are great tips, I personally love pretzels and carrots as a snack. Another thing I also like are nutrition bars. I've tried baking these myself, (think Clif Bars) but they just haven't quite come out right.

Anyone have a great bar recipe?

Ashley Marcin's picture

Of course I'm a bit biased, but I have my own blog -- and these are my favorite at-home energy bars: http://www.neverhomemaker.com/2013/03/chocolate-peanut-butter-energy-bar...

Guest's picture
kyle5434

I have an old-school Stir Crazy popcorn maker, and my favorite way to make it is simply to use white popcorn and olive oil, with a little salt added after popping. Good stuff.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

Is candy corn a vegetable?

Guest's picture
Guest

Is corn a vegetable?

Guest's picture
Kristina

Hummus is huge at our house. My kids, who are otherwise pretty picky, will dip anything into something that looks a lot like wallpaper paste. Go figure.

And anything dipped in peanut butter is OK with them (and me, too). They can take a dollop of natural peanut butter on a plate and make it the body of a little stick person or animal, using pretzels and crudites. Then they get to eat it, one body part at a time. How Halloweeeny is that?

As a nut grower, I'd also like to recommend almonds and walnuts. Way good for you, and tasty too.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the snack list -- great way to get nutrients w/out constantly having to cook regular meals.

I have become a smoothie fan. I keep stocked with frozen (peeled and in chunks) bananas, frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, mango, etc.), low-fat vanilla yogurt (Stonyfield), and orange juice. Then whenever I need a hefty snack or before/after a workout, I blend bananas, OJ, yogurt, and fruit. The ingredients are great for keeping me energized and not hungry. Some folks who want extra protein add in whey powder.  

Guest's picture
Kelly

We love stovetop popcorn!
Cheaper even than your big bag. :)

Carrots and apples are both faves here too.

Not that it is healthy but you could make chocolate dipped mini pretzels. That would be a fun favor for a party, or good for a gift (like a teacher gift for Christmas).

We love peanut butter "lollipops" too. My dad "invented" them. It's peanut butter on a spoon.

Another crazy thing my kids like is ice, or juice frozen (for summertime).

Guest's picture
Olivia

After school kid snacks. Take two apple slices with peanut butter between them and add raison "teeth". These look like lips. Banana separated into thirds (along the "seam") and reassembled with peanut butter. (Sticks better than with a cut banana.) The traditional ants on a stick (celery, PB, and raisons).

We do smoothies for breakfast, especially as the boys like to sleep until the very last minute and rush to make the bus. Current favorite is banana, mango, peach yoghurt, and milk.

Guest's picture
Just me

I drink a cup of chicken broth between meals. I prepare it myself with organic ingredients. I make it with bones, so I either save them or get them at the wholefoods. It's a snack that's full of protein, low in fat, flavorful, cheap to make... You can make a pot and use it during the week or freeze it. I pour some in a mug and heat it. And it's satisfying enough in case you have to skip a meal!

I add celery seeds, garlic, onions, oregano...mmmm.

Guest's picture
don

easiest smoothie: apricot nectar and lowfat yogurt (Trader Joe's)
hummus is so easy to make and it stores well - goes on everything!
favorite "snacky" salad: cut up celery with a bit of leftover chicken, turkey, beef, pork, maybe a little cheese. add salsa if eating with corn chips.

Guest's picture

Homemade granola. Along the same lines as trail mix in the flexibility. Oatmeal is cheap and healthy

Guest's picture
Beatrice

I've been eating (lower-sugar) instant oatmeal for an afternoon snack at work. It's cheap, filling, and comfortingly warm.

Guest's picture
objecpers

I try to snack and generally eat healthy overall. When I am choosing healthy snacks to eat, I try to have foods with as well rounded health appeal as possible, and also as much plasticity as possible just like in this article. I try not to limit myself to calorie restriction as the primary method of choosing what to buy, as that ignores many other aspects of what makes food healthy. I think some of the ideas you presented such as adding peanutbutter to smoothies and chocolate to the trail mix and unnecessary calories, and sugar to snacks that are quite delicious and healthy without them. Whenever I make smoothies I just add ice, plain yogurt, 100% fruit juice, and frozen mixed fruit. For the fruit items, there is quite a variety to choose from. The fruits are plenty sweet by themselves and do not need help to make them taste good.

Guest's picture
Amy Saves

i like carrots and hummus.