Category Archives: snack

Fudgy pantry brownies

image1No chocolate? No problem! I discovered these super-simple yet undeniably delicious brownies when I was pregnant, and they continue to be a trusty go-to for desserts, parties, and the like not only because they’re CHEAP (no baking chocolate—or even chocolate chips—required) and based entirely on pantry ingredients, but because they’re objectively some of my favorite brownies. Chewy and fudgy, not cakey and dry, with so much chocolate flavor you’ll swear you taste an expensive chocolate bar in there somewhere. (It’s just cocoa powder!)

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Fancy apple chips: $1

fe02b018-b9f3-4853-b122-6176a97796bbYou may have seen packages of these at your local upscale grocery store for anywhere from $3-$6, but did you know that with just 10 minutes of labor and a food dehydrator, you can make two bags’ worth for a buck? They’re sweet, they’re crunchy, they’ve got no added sugar or preservatives, and you can make them year round. They also keep well for vacuum sealing, and are a great holiday-season hostess gift when packed in a cellophane bag with a nice ribbon. Read on for the secret that makes them so inexpensive.

 

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Crunchy granola bars: 30 cents each

I debated whether to call this a splurge or not, since granola bars are technically a snack and not a meal. However, we’ve certainly used them as both before in the past, depending on how the week’s budget is shaping up, and I can say they do make a decent grab-and-go lunch when paired with some fruit, so I’m leaving them as is. When B. and I first moved in together he was quite fond of buying Nature Valley granola bars for lunch, but despite some serious comparison shopping, the cheapest we could find them—on sale, at Costco, anywhere—was 50 cents each. Obviously that could not do, so I set out to start making crunchy granola bars from scratch. Even though the Nature Valley ones come two to a package, they’re thinner and smaller than these bars, and markedly less filling. I’ve never felt sated for hours by the Nature Valley bars, but I have by these, which are loaded with fruit, nuts, wheat germ for protein, and mostly honey as a sweetener. Make up a batch and keep them in your fridge for emergencies (that way they stay crisp).

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Carrot cake muffins: 5 cents each

A few months ago, we purchased a Breville juicer with all the money we saved from not drinking this year (we did slip up a couple times in February, but we’re over the hump now). Not only is it a tangible reward for our efforts, but it’s another great way to clean out the crisper, since pretty much anything can be juiced, from lettuce and cabbage to carrots, ginger, and fruit, to make an inexpensive liquid snack. Of course, with carrots being so inexpensive (especially at Costco), that’s what we find ourselves juicing most often. This is my first time owning a juicer, and I have to admit I was surprised by now much fiber was left behind. Two cups of carrot juice can yield almost two cups of desiccated orange fluff. I started accumulating the fluff in the freezer, knowing I’d come up with a use for it eventually, and this week I finally did: these muffins. B. has declared them to be the best muffins he’s ever had, and I have to agree they’re shockingly good. I don’t know if it’s the fine texture of the carrot fluff or the amount of sugar that veers them dangerously close to unfrosted-cupcake territory, but if you have a juicer, they’re a must-try. (If you don’t have a juicer, you can probably substitute grated carrot.)

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10-cent snack: gingered carrot pickles

Unsurprisingly, a budget of $35 a week does not leave a lot of room for snacks. If lunches and breakfasts have to be under 50 cents, then snacks—if we have them at all—have to be under 10 cents. This pretty much limits us to things like tomatoes, apples, and peas from the yard; air-popped popcorn; toast with homemade jam; free food at work…you get the idea. We already buy carrots in bulk to make carrot-and-daikon slaw for these, which one or both of us eat almost every day, but snacking on plain, raw carrots tends to get real boring, real fast. These are wonderfully sweet, zingy, and different, and when when properly canned will last almost a year. (We just keep an open jar in the fridge.)

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Splurge: sweet-potato chips: 54 cents/serving

I originally made these as a Thanksgiving side dish (albeit on a larger scale) for my sweet-potato-hating extended family. I simply couldn’t fathom a Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes, and this turned out to be an excellent compromise. There wasn’t a crumb left in the basket, and no one believed me that I hadn’t added anything to them but salt. One of my brothers-in-law hates sweet potatoes so much he can’t even stand the notoriously irresistible sweet-potato fries at Burgerville, and he loved these. They’d also be good with a sandwich, as a party appetizer, or just an anytime snack.

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