by Jen Krausz
Frugal Low Fat, Low Calorie Snacks
Don't Let Munchies Gobble Your Budget
Inexpensive, Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids
Go find last week's grocery store receipt. Look it over. How much did you spend on sweets and snacks? It's amazing to me how much we spend on foods that we crave, but that are not even good for us. If you are like my family (myself included), we will sometimes ignore all of the carefully chosen, healthy food choices in the house to go on a hunt for some feel-good junk food. After all, many if not most of the advertisements, coupons and sale items are for cookies, chips, candy, and other sweet treats. Here are some ideas for reducing the amount your family spends on sweets and snacks in the future.
Clean out your snack cupboard
Many households have snack cabinets stuffed to bursting with packages of junk food, half-filled but forgotten. Rather than try to find something in there, we often just go buy more. Clean out your junk food spot and set out a few things each day for the family to finish up. Meanwhile, resist the urge to splurge on more sweets until the cupboard starts to seem bare.
Make it from scratch
Not only can you make your own sweets for a lot less than store bought, but you can make them healthier by baking with applesauce, cutting back oils and fats, and using fruits and whole grains as fillers. A basic internet search for "healthy desserts" should yield tons of easy, quick recipes. Some of my favorites are banana nut bread, rice krispies treats, and reduced fat chocolate chip cookies. The other good thing about making your own sweets is that you can get your kids involved and have some family time together rather than just doling out the goodies after dinner and watching the kids disappear into their rooms.
Make it from a mix
Mixes are easier for kids to make, and faster when you don't have time to make it from scratch. Everything from cupcakes to cheesecake to jello or pudding can be mixed and ready to enjoy in minutes. Don't forget to clip your coupons-sometimes mixes on sale and with a coupon can even be cheaper than making it from scratch.
Limit kids' access
Do you find that your kids have polished off a whole box (or more) of treats in just a day or two? Don't even do the division to find out how many snack cakes or servings of chips each of them must have polished off. Too depressing! With the numbers of overweight kids skyrocketing amongst the myriad TV advertisements for fatty junk food and calorie-laden drinks, it only makes sense to take measures to limit the amount of sweets your kids can have in a given day. My general rule is one serving of sweets after lunch and dinner, with one salty snack every day or two. What I do to enforce this with my older child is to put all junk food in a box and hide it in a location outside the kitchen. Then each night after she's in bed, I raid the box, taking out enough for the family for the next day. That way she can help herself, but not overdo it. I also save money since I don't have to replenish the supply earlier than planned.
Take advantage of new product sales and coupons
Manufacturers are always coming up with new types of sweets and snacks. Often, stores will discount these items and manufacturers will offer coupons for free or greatly reduced products. Stock up on these items (in your hidden box) and use them for times when you just can't bake. Kids will love getting to try the trendy new foods, and your wallet will not feel the pinch. Many items will even be free after sale and coupon.
Let the kids choose-once in a while
A good way to limit the constant requests for treats is to have the kids take turns choosing one package of sweets during each grocery store trip. That way, they only come to expect one package of prepackaged sweets AND they get to pick it out. If your budget is severely restricted, you might even show your kids the coupons you have for sweets and let them pick from among them, rather than choosing a full price item. Or, let them peruse the sale flyer before you go to the store and choose a sweet that is already on sale.Using these techniques, you may not only limit your expenditure on empty-calorie junk food, but you may help your family eat healthier in the process.
Take the Next Step
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