If your kids are anything like mine, the first thing you hear when they come in the door after school is: “Mo-om! I’m starving! What can I have for a snack?” With hours to go before dinner, we all need to find cheap after-school snacks that can fill the kids up without breaking the bank. Here are ten ideas for easy and affordable snack options that should help answer that age-old snack question.
- Proteins pep them up – Stock up on cheap proteins like string cheese, peanuts, and hard-boiled eggs. Snacks that are all carbs don’t have the staying power to hold kids over until dinner, and you don’t want them to be clamoring for a second snack an hour later. Bonus tip: It’s super easy to hard boil a bunch of eggs in an Instant Pot and have them handy for quick snacks, salad toppings, and lunches all week. Then make something like this Macaroni Egg Salad and keep it on-hand!
- Make them fun – Make after-school snack options attractive by making them cute! You don’t have to recreate the Mona Lisa in a Bento box, but younger kids especially love adorable finger food. Keep it simple by making a PB&J on soft wheat bread or a ham & cheese roll-up on on a tortilla, then cut it into strips and roll it up like sushi. Arrange clementine sections around a strawberry to look like flower petals, write a little note on cut out thought bubbles for Goldfish crackers, thread cut fruit or cherry tomatoes & mozzarella on pretzel sticks to make edible skewers, and pick up a cheap set of mini Bento cutters so that you can cut veggies into cute little shapes.
- Add a dip – Make healthier options fun by adding a dip. Kids who love to dip and dunk might enjoy moving beyond ketchup when you add a side of hummus, salsa or ranch to their after-school veggies. Baby carrots & celery are always easy and affordable kid-friendly options.
- Turn to the leftovers – Repurpose leftovers into after-school snacks! This is especially useful if you don’t have enough leftovers to make another full meal – instead, serve the kids a mini meal of last night’s dinner leftovers. You can also dice up a little leftover chicken, ham, or turkey and use it in a quick batch of quesadillas, or throw leftover chili and cheese onto some tortilla chips to make microwave nachos.
- The Dollar Store is your friend – Pick up cheap after-school snack options at the dollar store. My Dollar Tree, for example, carries English muffins, pepperoni, and pasta sauce. Add a little cheese, and you have yourself several days worth of English muffin pizzas in the toaster oven. Dollar stores are also a great place to find raisins, pretzels, and more quick and easy snacks.
- Popcorn can be creative – Make your own popcorn and let the kids pick the seasonings. Popcorn is filling and full of fiber, and every house should have a popcorn maker! Air-popped popcorn is healthier, affordable, and very easy to customize to your own family’s tastes and dietary needs. Try changing things up by tossing yours with a little Parmesan cheese, olive oil, sea salt, and herbs, or spice it up with some melted butter & Sriracha. Plus, a large jar of kernels will last a very long time.
- Fruits & veggies with a twist – Try making up a batch of homemade apple chips, banana chips, kale chips, or zucchini chips right before the kids get home from school. You can make simple & delicious apple chips in a couple of hours in a 200 degree oven with just thinly sliced apples & cinnamon, or mix things up with veggie chips for more adventurous eaters. Experiment with different fruits and veggies depending on what’s in season and on sale at your local produce market – or ease them into the idea by baking your own potato chips with thinly sliced potatoes, olive oil, and a little sea salt.
- ALDI is an option – Shop at ALDI for after school snacks. ALDI has changed over their product lines and removed added MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors & colors. Their SimplyNature line is also HFCS free — while still more affordable than its name-brand counterparts. Plus, you can stretch your budget even further with these ALDI meal plans.
- Breakfast for snacks – Try peanut butter on mini waffles or pancakes for another easy yet filling after-school snack option. Stock up on mini waffles or pancakes when they’re on sale and have them handy in your freezer so they’re easy to toast up, spread with peanut butter, and top with your own fun additions of choice.
- Whip up a smoothie – Smoothies are great options for everyone! When yogurt is on sale or you have some fruit you need to use up, blend together a sweet & filling after-school smoothie. Kids will feel like they’re having a shake, and you’ll be happy with the healthier option. Even better, throw a little kale or spinach in the mix, as in this Easy Berry Green Smoothie – they’ll never know it’s in there!
I hope that these ten cheap after-school snack ideas help inspire you to create your own filling yet affordable after-school snacks. Supplement these by shopping the loss leaders at your local grocery store each week and make them even more affordable by adding coupons to the mix. Do you have other favorite after-school snacks? I’d love to hear your ideas!