If, like me, you are trying to stick to a grocery budget then you know that buying snacks adds up quickly. I don't mean fruits and veggies--although they add up fast, too--I consider fruits and veggies a staple for our snacks and try to grow as much as I can and keep my kids on the daily recommended servings. I am talking the cost of sweet and salty treats.
If you walk down the cracker/cookie aisle at the grocery store you are entering an empty calorie zone. Although some of the products might boast "whole grains" or "low sodium" or "organic" ingredients, it is all processed and packaged far away and trucked to us and beyond all the other reasons to avoid it it also costs. too. much.
So what can we do to satisfy little cravings or my own total weakness for carbs and a hint of salt? Here are some treats that I make at home for my kids and for Husband's lunches (some of these are healthier than others--it's a post about junk food, after all!)
- popcorn: popcorn is our #1 family favorite treat. J, the 5 year old, chomps it down and hoards the bowl. I buy the jug of popcorn for $5-ish and our occasional treat works out to just cents per serving. A no brainer. And if you limit the salt and butter I don't consider it altogether unhealthy especially compared to chips etc.
- kale chips: my kids love them. I love them. Husband even loves them. I cut out any larger ribs and rip the leaves into bit sized pieces, coat the inside of a bowl with olive oil then flip the kale around in the bowl until lightly oiled. Spread on parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with parmesan and just a hint of sea salt and bake at 375 for approx 10 minutes, checking often. We like the chips to have a good crunch. I try to grow more kale every year for this reason alone (I also steam it and chop it to freeze for throwing into casseroles all winter). Next year I need to dedicate a much bigger space for some succession planting.
- I made beet chips the other day for our snack. I sliced them very thin, tossed with olive oil then baked on my cooling racks. I think they would get crispier if I bake them next time on cookie sheets. The kids ate them for awhile and said they were "ok". I actually liked them but want to get them "crunchier" without burning them. It is definitely something I will try to improve upon because I can grow the beets and they are so good for us!
- homemade baking: I know that sweets are not the best thing to give my kids, but baking with my mom is a very happy childhood memory and I want my kids to have that experience. Wherever possible I reduce salt and sugar, use apple sauce instead of oil, substitute whole grains and talk with my kids about eating sweets in moderation. We rarely ever buy baking, particularly packaged cookies and the like. This also helps keep the cost of Husband's lunches under control--when you work a 12 hour day it is necessary to eat a lot of calories! I would rather he eat my baking than fill his diet with store bought sweets full of preservatives.