It’s summertime and that means that the kids are out of school. And they’re hungry. If you live in a neighborhood where the kids play together all day long, you’ve probably found yourself facing a horde of hungry kids. Even when practicing ways to save money on food, feeding a lot of kids can get expensive, though, and three months of it can do a number on your budget. However, there are ways to reduce the expense yet still provide for the hungry horde. Here are some ideas for some cheap snacks and drinks, as well a couple of additional strategies for dealing with lots of hungry kids.
If you buy a big bag of chips, it’s likely cheaper than pre-packaged individual serving bags. At least until the kids get hold of it and devour the whole thing in one afternoon. Instead, buy your big bag of snacks and then break the big bag down into baggies. When the kids show up, hand each kid their own baggie and keep the rest locked away for the next time.
Air Popped Popcorn
This is cheap and easy. It’s filling, too.
Generic or store brand snacks are almost always cheaper than the name brands. If you’re worried about looking “cheap,” dump the generic snacks into a big bowl or put them in baggies. Chances are no one will know the difference.
Simple Homemade Snacks
Homemade goodies are cheaper than store-bought items. You don’t have to bake from scratch. Save time and buy a big box of brownie mix or cookie mix. It will take only a few minutes to mix the ingredients and throw the pan in the oven, yet it’s a lot cheaper than buying from the bakery or buying name brand cookies.
Popsicles / Ice Tubes
I remember these fondly from my own childhood. Popsicles and those tubes of liquid syrup that you freeze to make an icy pop are inexpensive and often come in large packages. Ice pops in particular come in packages of up to a hundred for just a few dollars. One box might last most of the summer.
Shop Beyond the Grocery Store
Try your local dollar store or Target’s Dollar Spot. Both frequently have snack crackers or animal crackers for low prices. Just make sure that the package size is a good value when compared to your grocery store’s price.
This is quick and cheap and can be ready in as little as five minutes. If you make it ahead of time, you can chill it in the fridge for a hot day treat.
Bulk Bin Items
You can buy trail mix, granola, dried fruit, seeds, and snack mixes from the bulk bins that are often cheaper than their boxed counterparts. Just be aware that there can be some sanitation risks with these depending how they are set up.
Peanut Butter Snacks
Peanut butter and generic saltines. Filling and cheap.
One of the cheapest “healthy” options.
These tend to be the cheapest snacks on the shelf and are usually available in huge bags.
Homemade Snack Mixes
It doesn’t take much effort to combine some cereal and other snack items into a big bowl and set it out for the kids.
If you must have name brands or individually packaged snacks like Fruit Roll Ups, name brand popsicles, individually packaged snacks, or name brand chips or crackers, buy in bulk from a warehouse club. Prices there are usually better than a regular store, but check to be sure because a good sale can close the gap.
Look for Sales and Coupons
During the summer these are usually plentiful and become more so as back-to-school sales ramp up. Late in the summer, back to school sales are a great source for individually packaged snacks as stores aim toward the lunchbox crowd.
If your home is “the house” where everyone seems to be all the time, you might consider asking other parents to chip in a set amount for snacks or to bring over some snack options that they’ve bought. You’re feeding their kids, after all, so it’s only fair that they share the burden.
Bottled water, canned soda, bottled juices, juice boxes, and pouches are expensive. Stick with drink mixes and water from the tap.
The cheapest option. Don’t buy bottled water. Invest in a sports cooler with a dispenser, get some paper cups and set it all outside.
Tea can be made from a powdered mix or you can brew it yourself. Either way is cheaper than bottled teas.
Name brand soda is pricey, particularly if you buy canned. Stick with generic soda. Many offer a 3-liter option. If you have to buy canned, buy store brands.
Kool-Aid, Lemonade and Gatorade
You can buy all of these as powdered mixes that you can easily make in a big cooler. Much cheaper than juice boxes or individual bottles.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to feed the neighborhood kids over the summer. You just have to make smart choices and plan ahead a little bit. And remember: If the kids don’t like what you’re serving, they can always go home.
(Photo courtesy of Herkie)