Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Make Your Own "Junk" Food

This is my fifth "Thrifty Thursday" post. I want to stay motivated as I work on our family budget--part of that motivation is sharing what I am doing. It can be discouraging to read frugal blogs and see how people feed their families on so little money--I feel like I am trying hard and yet I don't see those results. I am sensitive to the fact that many people are frugal out of necessity and don't have the option to "not succeed" in their attempts. The last thing I want to be is patronizing. Nonetheless, I feel like we are bleeding money around here and there are some expensive things we need to save for. I know there are people who want to reduce their spending but do not know where to I am writing these posts for them and myself :) I hope you are inspired and if you can add any ideas of your own I hope you will comment below :)

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. 
A great way to save on groceries is to eliminate snacks altogether. I no longer buy juice and my kids really didn't complain. What is never there does not get asked for! The same goes for snacks...if I or my kids know there is junk food in the house we gravitate towards it. If it's not there we are saving money while also eating better. When fruit or veggies just doesn't satisfy a craving, we have some frugal homemade options to fall back on :) Do you have any favourite homemade snacks you would like to recommend?


  1. Definitely going to vote for popcorn! Don't forget that popcorn is a whole grain. Make it yourself and limit the add-ins (use spices to mix it up!) and it is extremely healthy. Popcorn Nite features on my weekly menu plan.

    I don't see anything wrong with baking sweets. A homemade sweet is so different from a factory-made sweet. It has no preservatives, no chemicals. And you can control the amount of sugar/fats and just play with the recipe. Plus let's be honest - no one is going to stuff their kids/families with homemade cookie after pie after cake. (Who has all that time?!) But it is soooo easy to open a box or a package and sit in front of the tv/computer and before you know it, you are opening another box/package. I am baking again and it brings back a ton of good memories plus it makes the home smell delightful.

    Keep making the beet chips! I have had commercially made ones and if they are really crispy they should be delish! Never thought to make these but hmmmm.

    Great list Jill!

    1. Thanks Pru! I'm determined to get them right. A couple more things I forgot on my list are sunflower seeds (got lots and will leave most for the birds, but worth a try!) and pumpkin seeds which we love roasted. LOVE!! But my pumpkin patch has tiny pumpkins so far so I'm not sure how we are going to do on that one :) good thing there's always next year! Thanks for reading :)

  2. also voting for popcorn -- it's a staple around here and is the perfect alternative to chips and whatnot.

    i also don't think there's much point in denying access to sweet treats -- especially when they're home-baked ones...because they're made without artificial colours and add-ins and made WITH plenty of love and attention. :)

    i remember a birthday party that my kids attended when they were small -- there was a pinata stuffed with candy at the end and when the candy finally spilled onto the ground there was a rather alarming feeding-frenzy of sugar-deprived children, stuffing candy into their pockets and hiding it in the shrubbery so their parents wouldn't take it from them. my kids - who have been encouraged to self-regulate their food choices stood by, quite bewildered at the sight! so i think it's possible to balance the sweet/junk in a way that it doesn't become the 'forbidden fruit' -- making it at home where you can see what's going into it is the perfect solution.

    okay, that was a bit of a tirade, so i'll stop now!! suffice it to say, 'baking day' is a beautiful ritual to have with kids.....


    1. Such a good point, Mel! teaching my kids moderation is really important to me.

      I remember baking with my mom and I want my kids to have those to get them to do the dishes!