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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Prepackaged snacks on a budget

It's super important that I eat healthy and that I don't skip meals. That last one is hard for me, as I'm often out over a meal time, and frequently that is unplanned.

Many of the packaged snack bars contain too much sugar for me, personally, in the form of honey, cane sugar, and dried fruit. And even a banana or bag of raisins (what had long been my favorite items to grab going out the door) is no longer the best option for me to snack on, in place of a meal or main snack.

So I need something moderately balanced in energy, fats, proteins and carbs. But not a pricey health food store bar or snack mix. But it has to be as convenient as a packaged energy mix or bar.

You already know that I buy nuts, seeds and dried fruit from bulk bins at Fred Meyer and WinCo. The change that I've made is to pre-package some of those snacks into custom mix blends, just for me to grab when I need a portable, instant snack.

I've been filling snack-size ziploc bags, from Dollar Tree, with measured amounts of roasted almonds, roasted edamame, raisins, dried cranberries, and as an extra, a few jumbo chocolate chips. I set up several open bags on the counter, and measure ingredients into each bag, assembly line fashion. When I'm done, I have enough snack mix bags for the week, for myself.

I calculated the calorie count to be about 200, which is what I need when a meal is delayed. And my costs are about 65 cents per bag.

These packaged-by-me, energy mix bags meet all of my needs. They're nutritionally balanced. They're affordable. And they are quick to grab.

So, I chose dried edamame and almonds for protein, raisins and dried cranberries for some natural sugars and fiber, and the chocolate chips, just for my chocolate fix. What would you choose if you made energy mix for yourself? Do you have any favorite easy and healthy grab-and-go snacks?


  1. I might add a couple of m and m s to get a good contrast between salty and sweet. Yours look good. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Oh yes, M & M s are always good!

  2. This took me back to childhood. :) My mom used to make snack mixes for us to eat on road trips. Dry roasted peanuts, raisins, a few small marshmallows, and some chocolate chips was one of her favorite combinations. I think she threw in some shredded coconut one time but that wasn't well received by my sister and I. These days, that a little more sugar than I'd want for an everyday snack.

    I think your mix is very similar to what I would want. I'd have almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips for sure! I'm not sure what edamame tastes like...I'll have to google that one. To my mix, I might add some walnuts, and sometimes I might switch out the raisins or dried cranberries for some dried cherries because I like those as well.

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Hi Angie,
      Edamame is the green soy bean. If you've ever had soy nuts, this is a lot like them. They're high in protein. Drier in texture than nuts.

      Oh, dried cherries sound good, too. In Girl Scouts, I remember the scout leader making GORP for us -- Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Our family didn't do trail mix, so this was new to me.

      have a great day, yourself, Angie!

  3. We regularly make trail mix around here for snacks. We use what we have on hand, but it usually includes M+M's (melts in your mouth and not in your hand), peanuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, and store brand Cheerios. I mix them all in a big bowl (I just eyeball the amounts), then package them in snack bags which we use again for the same thing.

    My husband has a habit of buying M+M's when he goes to Aldi's because they are a good price. So I try to make them into trail mix before we eat the whole bag at once. You might say that our snack bags are way of doling out our M+M's so they last longer.

    1. Thanks, Live and Learn, for the laugh-out-loud moment to start my day. Loved the "doling out our M&Ms" comment!

      Lili, home-made gorp/trail mix has always been a go-to snack for our family. Nuts, raisins, coconut,and M&Ms. Sometimes it's not the right balance of nutrients for all of us at a certain time, though, so we also make our own snack bars, jerky, and cheese crackers, and also like cheese on apple slices, and hard-boiled eggs.

      As for being out at mealtimes, I empathize. We've just gotten into the habit of trying never to leave the house without a snack and a water bottle.

      Have a great week, everyone! Sara

    2. Hi live and learn,
      Oh, yeah, you have mentioned Ward picking up bags of M & Ms before. Maybe he's just making sure you have a supply, should there be a world-wide shortage of M & Ms sometime, you know, emergency rations. I don't think I could keep myself from eating the M & Ms all up quickly, if I had a bag of them in the house. I'm not good with discipline when it comes to any kind of candy.

      I like your addition of Cheerios, too, some whole grain, fiber and carbs, plus the calories aren't as condensed as something like nuts and raisins. Good idea!

    3. Hi Sara,
      I should really start bringing a water bottle with me, too. I just don't think of that when I'm heading out the door. While it's not that hot, here, most of the year, keeping hydrated would be a big help for me. Thats a great idea.

      My usual thought process, when I'm heading out the door is, "i'll only be gone a short while. I can eat when I come home." And then at some point my blood sugar drops, and my head is foggy and I can't make decisions, I find myself exhausted from paying attention (like when in a meeting) and the whole outing takes far longer than it ever should have. This is a very concrete area that I can make improvements. So, a big thank you for helping me to talk this through!

      have a great day and week, Sara!

    4. I would have thought about adding in pretzels, but the Cheerios are probably healthier.

      I also have hypoglycemia and, for years, I have tried to consistently have a protein/carb snack available. I know you prefer to avoid the expense of pre-packaged bars, but at work I find them to be invaluable (I work on multiple floors of a large hospital so my snacks have to fit in a pocket or my storage clipboard). For anyone in a similar situation, and if you live close to Aldi, the Millville protein chewy bars have been a good option for me. I think they are similar to a Kind bar but more affordable. 190 calories, 5g fiber, 3g sugar, and 10g protein. Aldi also carries their own version of a Clif energy bar called Elevation--these are filling enough to stand in for a small meal for me--240 calories, 5 g fiber, 20g sugar (high, I know!), and 11g protein. We don't eat these nearly as often, but they were handy when we were hiking in Gatlinburg, TN, last summer. I think they are best for hiking/biking/snowshoeing kinds of activity, and they would also work well if you wanted emergency food supplies to keep handy.

      I have slacked off on carrying my water bottle with me. I was better about everyone having water bottles when I had small children to tend to. It cut down on the whining. Always a plus. :)

    5. Kris, we've also found we can pick up packaged healthy bars cheap on-line sometimes. I like homemade because I can control the ingredients as well as the price; but we have a few go-to packaged things we pick up for long car trips or other times when it isn't convenient to keep things a little cool in a lunchbox, or you need to shove it in your pocket. If we save those things for only those uses, we don't find it too expensive for how important it is to have them. (But we also are blessed with a little looser budget than some people on this blog, too.)

      Lili, I think that the "I won't be gone long, I'll eat when I get back" thing is common with a lot of us. I'm probably fortunate that most of my errands are far enough from home, I really can't logically believe that. I went several years without snacks on my forays, and often regretted it by feeling lousy struggling home, or needing to pick up something while I was out. The last 10 or 12 years, we've been much more conscious of blood sugar in our family, and try to always have SOMETHING to eat with us, even if it's just a baggie with a few cheddar crackers.

      As for the water, hydration is so important for so many health issues (year-round), we bought everyone reusable water bottles for Christmas one year, and try to remember to always fill them when we are going out. Since we have our big dog in the car, too maybe it's easier to remember water for everyone.

      But one son and I got stuck at the wrong side of a bridge washout, less than 8 miles from home one time, years ago; and that experience was a good reminder to always keep a little something. We always take extra water and food and clothing even when we take a local 4-mile hike, too... just because you never know when you might be out longer than you expect.

      I empathize with the trouble of not always staying hydrated, though. My doc always scolds me in the six chilly months, because I'm just that much less likely to remember all the water I ought to drink when it's cool, even though water is my main daily beverage. Like most people, I think we just have to make our healthy habits really "habits", until they come as second nature. :) Sara

    6. I also prefer to make my own bars, but prepackaged is easier for work. Like you, I have a little more wiggle room in my budget than some readers of this blog and depending on my circumstances, sometimes it makes sense for me to spend money for these kinds of items instead of spending time making them. It's great that there are so many people commenting, isn't it? I learn what works for others in a variety of situations.

      I have a paranoia about needing food and not being able to get to it in a timely manner (hikes, road trips) so I probably over-prepare. :)

    7. Hi Kris,
      I agree about the lack of portability of homemade snack bars. I've made granola bars and fruit and nut bars, and while very good, they get quite smashed in a pocket or backpack Snack mixes tend to do better in that regard. The Millville bar from Aldi's sounds like a good one. There are definitely times when it just makes sense to buy something pre-made.

      Over-preparedness is better than under. You can come hike or go on a a road trip with me any day! :)

    8. Sara, I was thinking about the difference in your travels for errands vs mine. I live so close to business/office developments that it's easy to think I won't be gone long, since I'm not going far. I don't feel hunger the way I imagine other people do. I don't feel hungry until I'm spacey and tired. So, I'm working on this. And now, I'll go pour myself a tall glass of water! (Another thing I just don't remember to do often enough!)

    9. Lili, I agree with your invitation to Kris. She sounds like my kind of gal! :)

      Kris, I also feel much more secure when I know I have a little something that will work for me on-hand. On a couple of car trips that have gone long, I've been reminded how many (like every!) things readily available on the road have something in them I'm better off not eating.

      For both of you, however, about snack bars -- we do okay with our two standard ones in just a plastic baggie (and if it gets tooo smashed, you can turn the bag inside-out and not miss much.

      But I will say, I had GREAT results when I packaged some granola-nut bars individually for one of our sons in my vacuum sealer. He was able to carry them around in a pocket or briefcase (busy, mobile job), they didn't break up, and they stayed fresh quite a while. I got the idea when I made too much granola one time, and decided it would last better in the fridge/freezer if I vacuum-sealed it. Turned a gallon of granola INTO a huge granola bar/blob! LOL Almost impossible to eat without an ice pick (but delicious.) But when I pressed and cut granola/nut bars out and vacuum-sealed them individually, it really WAS good. (And if you're careful about sizes and such, you can reuse the bags quite a bit.)

      And yes, Kris, it IS lots of fun when lots of people weigh in. :) Sara

    10. Sara, the lack of healthy options, when on the road, is a big problem for me. I'd rather go a little hungry (and get that space-out feeling) than eat something that could cause me digestive probs. Not that I want to go hungry, but when I'm out running errands, I can't bring myself to eat a fast food burger and fries, most of the time. (A good burger and good fries is different, I'm thinking of the cheap kind that my body rejects.) Good info on using a vacuum sealer for individual bars. It would probably hold the shape of the bar, nice and tight. Thanks!

    11. I DO have blood sugar issues ... but I also like food. A lot. Ha.

      As always, great suggestions, everyone!

  4. Lili,
    We do this also. We can not put chocolate in yet with our weather. Hopefully by the end of the month. We try
    to take something with us as we head out. Kristi just found some organic meal bars at Grocery Outlet for 25 cents a bar the normal price is over a dollar. So those have been popular lately. Also boiled eggs, carrots and hummus and celery and nut butter are also popular. Kristi took some before pics of the chairs and will take more pics as she goes. We will send them to you when she is done.

    1. Hi Patti,
      Oh yes, the chocolate chips would be a big mess, wouldn't they, in the heat! What a find on the meal replacement bars! I do need to check out Grocery Outlet, again soon. I'm over that way at least once per week (near the bus/transit center). I used to shop there, regularly.

      Oh good, I'm looking forward to seeing pictures!

  5. I have also learned the hard way to pack a little snack. I get rather crabby if I'm hungry. My go-to is a quarter cup of almonds or cashews & a Lite Baby Bell cheese. I buy all of these at Costco (the Baby Bell cheese only when they go on sale, otherwise, I just pack a string cheese).

    When my daughter came back from Uganda this summer, she brought back a bunch of the Quest bars I had sent with her to eat as an alternative to what is often times unsafe food out in the bush. Anyway, I had gotten them for a very good deal and I was glad to have them for myself. Kind of funny eating something that had made its way to Africa & back.

    Quest bars are outlandishly expensive, but low carb & high in protein. I need to keep my blood sugars in check as I'm at higher risk to develop Type II diabetes since I had gestational diabetes with my last 3 pregnancies. I just bought another box of Quest bars from Amazon for extreme emergencies. They are basically a meal replacement if need be. I'll probably take one when I go with my mom for knee surgery tomorrow. Even at the price I paid (about $1.75 per bar), it'll still be cheaper than buying anything at the hospital. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I, too, get a bit crabby when hungry. My daughters and I have also found that we become super indecisive, unable to make a simple choice on what to eat kind of indecisive. The 3 of us are pathetic when over hungry.
      I've never heard of Quest bars. Taking one of those with you is one of those situations when spending a little bit of money saves a lot more, by not buying something in the cafeteria. BTW, I hope your mom's surgery goes well. I'll say a prayer for her. May her recovery be quick and have her back to her favorite activities, soon.

      Those are some well-traveled bars!

    2. Thanks for praying. It seems to be one thing after another with mom. She fell on Sunday & broke her patella. She was actually scheduled for a different surgery on Fri., but that has been postponed again (last time because she had bronchitis). As my Grandpa always said, "This getting old isn't for sissies."

    3. My dad used to say the same thing as your Grandpa, Melissa. Now my sister says it. Wishing your mom a very speedy recovery. I hope they can get to her other needed surgery soon, too. Take care.

  6. What a timely post. I am really, REALLY struggling with snacks these days. I seem to have conflicting "issues" that are making it really difficult to find things that will work for me.

    Issue number one is blood sugar. Unless I'm out on my bike or something, I really need my snacks to be fairly high in protein and low in carbs - otherwise it just sends me soaring and crashing if you know what I mean.

    Issue number two is allergies. I'm allergic to virtually all nuts and seeds. The only ones I can eat are peanuts (oh, the irony... how can I not be allergic to peanuts?) cashews, pistachios, and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds.) But here's the rub. I HATE peanuts, I'm not very fond of cashews, pistachios cost a fortune, and pepitas are almost impossible to find. I used to buy pepitas in the bulk section, but I've just had one too many allergic reaction from other nuts and seeds that get mixed in - so I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that bulk foods are not gonna work for me.

    Now usually, I'm at home when I need a snack - I just need something to tide me over while I'm working or something, so I do have some flexibility in choosing things that need refrigeration - but I need things that are easily grab-able, that I can just eat in front of the computer while I'm working or something. At the moment I've been having mostly hard boiled eggs and cheese sticks, but I'm getting really tired of them.

    Any ideas/recipes for high protein finger foods that might fit the bill?

    1. Hi Cat,
      meat would be a good protein food. How about oven-roasted turkey breast, cold, and cubed. It's about as "finger-food" as boiled eggs (I still need to wipe my hands when eating a boiled egg). White meat turkey is pretty dry, so not too messy, and it could go in a baggie/container for outings. You can add flavors with seasonings, like garlic powder, onion powder, salt, ground chipotle pepper. You have some allergies to some seasonings, so I don't know which ones don't work for you. But you could put together a few containers in the fridge with cold, diced, seasoned turkey breast. My other suggestion would be hors d'oeuvres-y foods, like frozen pot stickers.

      Have you checked ethnic markets for pepitas? I've seen them in bags at a local Latino market.

      Good luck with this!

    2. Thanks Lili! That's a great idea, and one I never would have thought of. I'll have to check around on the pepitas, I really miss them!

  7. I also like to make my own snack mixes and, lately, I've been trying to make 5 days worth of portable breakfasts to grab and go. I'm just not hungry yet at 5-6 in the morning but I like to eat late morning at work. I've been making Overnight Oats in small glass pint jars and throwing them in with my lunch. On Sunday night, I just set the clean jars out on the counter, fill each with about 1/2 cup of oats, add flavors and top up with milk (I use soy). I also a tsp of chia seeds to help soak up the liquid but that's totally optional. This week I'm eating oats mixed with home made cinnamon applesauce and it is SO good. Anyhow, just another idea for an easy, portable and filling snack. It is a bit messier than your snack packs though :0)

    1. Hi Mrs. Armstrong,
      Those sound like delicious portable breakfasts that you make. what all do you add to the dry oats (it's dry that you put in the jars, right? And is it regular or quick oats?)? My two daughters make portable breakfasts each ay, and I'm thinking of suggesting this to them. Both like oatmeal. One likes a drier, not quite cooked oatmeal, and I was thinking this might be right up her alley. The next morning, do you heat this, or eat it cold?
      Thanks for the info!
      Have a great day, Mrs. Armstrong!

    2. Lately, I've just been eyeballing the amounts but here's basically what I do: About 1/2 cup of regular oats, a bit of sweetener (I use agave or maple syrup), flavorings such as applesauce and cinnamon, cocoa powder and coconut flakes, pumpkin purée and pie spice, peanut butter and choclate chips,etc.and I like to add a teaspoon or two of chia seeds to make it creamier but that is totally optional. Fill the jar with milk of any kind, put the lid on and shake. Leave in the fridge overnight to get creamy. You can eat as is or heat in the microwave. If you heat it, you might want to add a bit more milk. I like soy milk but any milk will do really. Ooh, I bet you could add spices and raisins for an oatmeal cookie flavor!

    3. Thanks, Mrs. Armstrong! The applesauce version sounds tasty to me, and apropos for fall.

  8. Hi Lili, Just had to chime in here. I have been making trail mix for the past year at my daughter's request. I usually buy my ingredients at Aldi but occasionally find a good deal on something elsewhere. Here is my typical recipe: One can of mixed nuts from Aldi, a couple tablespoons of dried cranberries (Aldi), a couple of tablespoons of yogurt covered raisins (again.... Aldi), a couple of handfuls of plain Cheerios (came up with this after my husband bought the wrong kind of Cheerios for our family tastes), occasionally a sprinkling of Goldfish crackers or mini Cheez Its found on a good sale. We are not fans of raisins in this household so I do not bother with them. On a side note, read an article in some Boy Scout online publication where they rated Trail Mix ingredients and raisins came in dead last for them as well ;-) I felt justified. Haha

    I have made the overnight refrigerator oats and I eat them cold so I use it as a summer breakfast. Pinterest has lots of links to Overnight Oats if you do Pinterest.

    1. Hi KCMama,
      oh the crackers sound like a delicious addition! Funny about the raisins. We like them, here, but when I've taken them to babysitting or for the snacks with VBS, the kids don't like them!

      I'll check pinterest for ideas with overnight oats. Thank you!
      Have a great day, KCMama!


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