Snack time…

I’m a bit of a voyeur.  If someone’s shopping cart is in plain view, I have every right to look.  Where I sometimes cross the line is by secretly judging my fellow shoppers for the junk they feed their family.  I also get a prideful feeling from knowing that I spend way less money than most people I see at the store.  Is this a punishable offense? 

Just the other day, I peered into a cart to see an over-abundance of packaged snack foods for the toddler in the cart being pushed by mommy.  I shouldn’t have looked because now this will become more of a rant than an informative posting.  I’ll try to stick to my usual format.  But I was really irked that she fed her baby that junk.

Beyond my personal conviction that children don’t need sugar, the other, and probably much stronger reason that I don’t buy packaged snacks is because I’m CHEAP.  Let me tell you, I’m REALLY CHEAP.  When I see packaged peanut butter crackers, I know that I can make my own peanut butter cracker sandwiches at home for less.  When I see string cheese sticks, I long for their ease, but I WILL NOT pay for them (unless they’re really cheap on sale… like $2.50-$3.00/lb). 

I do sometimes splurge on car-friendly snacks.  I have been known to buy small packages of things… little yellow sea creatures to be exact.  But that was only because they were on sale after Halloween.  Did you give those out at your house?  Anyway, if I buy individual servings of things it’s rare and it’s on sale and with a coupon.  I really do miss the days of buying raisins in little boxes.  My kids love getting them out and it helps their fine motor skills.  But I don’t do that anymore either because I’m cheap. 

“But CnC, what do I feed my children if not things that come in single serve packages?”  Fear not dear reader, I am here to help.


Snacks are not meals so I don’t feel guilty when there is just a carb.  But I usually go for carb and fruit or carb and dairy or fruit and dairy.  They’ve hit the big time when they get all three and we sometimes call that a light lunch. 

Carb snacks at our house are usually things like popcorn, pretzels, dry cereal, crackers, or toast.

  • Popcorn – It is not advised for all ages, and it is certainly not nutritionally sound enough to live on, but it’s yummy.  You can even use your new favorite room – your kitchen – and your stove to make it the old fashioned way.  I just follow the package directions.  Kids enjoy watching so pull up a chair so they can see from a distance.  Serve it in muffin tins or cups or whatever to make it more interesting.  I sometimes top the popcorn with shredded cheese and melt it in the microwave for a few seconds.  It’s a snack that I enjoy too.
  • Pretzels – I buy whatever pretzels are on sale.  Lately, I’ve been buying the $1.68/bag pretzels at Winco.  They’re not too fancy, but the kids seem to like them.   They can dip their pretzels in peanut butter or homemade hummus.  Or I serve pretzels with cheese.
  • Dry Cereal – There are cereals with less sugar than others.  I buy the ones with 3g or less/serving.  I serve dry cereal in yogurt or dry with a side of fruit.  By the way, I never pay more than about $1.50 for a box of Cheerios (see my article about Coupons).
  • Crackers – I buy crackers when they’re on sale.  This week’s $1.88/box coupon of Ritz at Albertson’s was GREAT for my snack stash.  I bought the max and it should last us until they go on sale again.   I don’t usually buy generic crackers because I, personally, can tell the difference.  If I’m going to have any crackers (and I always do), it’s the real deal.  If it’s just for them, they get generic.  I put peanut butter, cheese, tuna salad, homemade hummus, cream cheese, etc… on crackers.  They love it (and so do I).
  • Toast – I buy bread off of the day-old rack most of the time.  Other times, I stock up when it’s on sale and keep it in my freezer.  Either way, it’s better toasted.  I put peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, or I make cheese toast the way my mom did.

Dairy snacks at our house is usually cheese, yogurt, or (I know I’m going out on a limb here) milk.  And we’re going to try cottage cheese soon.

  • Cheese – I buy it at Costco.  Shredded cheddar is ~$2.19/lb (the cheapest around) or in 2lb blocks for ~$2.50/lb.  I really like Tillamook and will sometimes pay extra to have it around.  The kids either get a handful of shredded or I slice it off the block and give it to them… even if the slices are ugly.  Have a little fun and help them learn their shapes by cutting their cheese into those shapes… it’ll make you not resent having cheese sticks around.  Plus, scraps are always Mommy’s.
  • Yogurt – I really do make my own yogurt (ask Madeleine).  For the kids, I mix it with fruit or muesli (that I bought in the bulk section at Winco).  I also make smoothies.  This morning, it was a pineapple banana smoothie.  I had a few chunks of pineapple leftover from pizza night and it tasted good with the really ripe banana.  Get creative, you won’t go wrong.
  • Cream cheese – I really like cream cheese and I buy it in the 3lb block at Costco (~$0.77 for 8oz).  If you don’t like cream cheese that much, don’t buy it that way.  It’s really good as an occasional sandwich spread and with scrambled eggs and sausage.  But I’m contemplating making homemade cream cheese too.  I hate throwing out expired milk so why not give it a go. 

 Fruit is important at our house.  The kids love it and they will ALWAYS eat it

  • Fresh Fruit – My kids eat what’s in season or on sale.

Watermelon – less then $0.30/lb

Canteloupe/Honeydew – less than $0.50/lb

Bananas – less than $0.60/lb (Costco has them for $0.48/lb all of the time)

Strawberries – less than $1.25/lb (you can pick your own for about $0.70/lb in my area)

Fuji Apples – less than $1.00/lb

Pears – less than $1.00/lb

Oranges – less than $0.50/lb

Satsuma/Mandarin Oranges – around $1/lb (so wonderful… I love Satsuma season)

I usually only buy frozen Blueberries and Raspberries because fresh ones are too expensive for me.  Of course, if you have access to fresh fruits at farmers’ markets and u-pick farms, you’re way better off.  You can freeze in-season berries on a cookie sheet and then put them in small bags for long term storage.  I also make freezer jam… we’ll talk about that later.



  • Dried Fruit – I like dried fruit because it’s nutritious and always enjoyed by my toddlers… but most importantly it’s car-friendly.  I try to make sure that the dried fruit isn’t artificially sweetened, but that’s my own bias.  We eat a lot of raisins, but my kids like prunes too… in moderation.


On the Go.  When we’re out and about, all bets are off.  I figure if we eat a good breakfast and a balanced dinner, we can just sort of eat what’s available at lunch.  I try to leave snacks in the car at all times… in case I’m out the door in a hurry.  You’ll find gallon sized freezer bags full of raisins, dry cereal, and pretzels.  For snacks in the car, we have Gerber’s Snack Bowls.  They do not prevent messes, but they limit the mess to a smaller radius. 

I also try to keep a bottle of water in the car to refill their water-only sippy cups which also reside in the car.  I change those out at least once a week… just in case.

While we’re on the subject, I also have a box of multiple diapers and a package of wipes.  This is my “sanity box”… because you sometimes just need to get out in a hurry.  Sometimes, it takes everything in me just to get matching shoes on everyone.  This box helps me get out the door quickly.  I always have backups!


More often than not, I feel like I spend my life in the kitchen.  We eat our vegetables at meal times and snacks are pretty easy (because I make my yogurt in big batches).  If I’m feeling particularly generous, the kids get special treats.  At our house Peanut Butter Balls and Roasted Chickpeas are greatly appreciated.



  1. Kim said,

    May 8, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for adding the prices you usually look for…it’s helpful to be able to compare and make sure I’m not overpaying. I’m intrigued about the yogurt…maybe some day. Do you ever make it in smaller batches? We’ve recently switched over to using homemade bread because of how much we eat. We’re saving money, time and I know for sure what we’re eating.

  2. Madeleine said,

    May 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I can testify that CnC does make her own yogurt. And I hope you give the homemade cream cheese a try. It’s delish.

  3. Kelly said,

    May 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Just thought you might want to know about how to make your own cottage cheese. I have not tried the recipe yet, but plan to this weekend. Thanks for the ideas, when Camille (ever!) gets teeth, I will keep them in mind.

  4. Kim said,

    May 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    PS I’m totally with you on the shopping cart thing! On the days I’m really tired I wish I could have the processed stuff in my cart….most of the time I just feel bad that they’re going home with all that junk. I’m amazed how much you can tell about a person from their groceries.

  5. Laura Meyers said,

    May 9, 2009 at 12:06 am

    hey! where do you pick strawberries? I wanna try jam!

  6. Jennifer Levy said,

    May 9, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Clara – I’m LOVING your blog! I was wondering if you knew about the cost difference between homemade yogurt and good quality store-bought yogurt. Also, I just wanted to let you know that I TOTALLY snoop and judge other people’s baskets at the store. I always evaluate myself at the checkout line, too. Have you ever read the book “Miserly Moms?” It’s really helpful. I’m even thinking about investing in the new, 2009, updated version. Okay, I’ll be talking to you soon! (Oh, yes, I have so many coupons for Gerber feeding supplies, so I’ll definitely be hunting down some of those toddler bowls you mentioned!)
    – your sister-in-law’s best friend, Jennifer

    • Seleta said,

      May 13, 2009 at 1:25 pm

      the toddler bowls are terrific. Clara’s kids were my first exposure and they’re terrific. Really helps avoid serious spills.

  7. Chelsie said,

    February 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Medium Cheddar cheese is cheapest at Cash n Carry at $2/lb…if you have one near you. There’s one in Bellevue right off the 520.

    AND: homemade yogurt…I make my own, too, but it seems I must use starter from store bought yogurt, or else it doesn’t set up. What’s the deal with that? If this is truly the case, then I have to buy yogurt every other time. rrrr! Any solutions? Maybe I have not let my homemade stuff set up strongly enough to work as starter….

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