Skip to Content

10 frugal and filling snack ideas for hungry kids

Reader Monica recently left a comment asking for frugal and filling snack ideas for her kids so that she can keep them full between meals (without them resorting to cold cereal, which doesn’t keep them satisfied for long).

So Monica, this is for you!

10 frugal & filling snack ideas for kids and teensFat, protein, and fiber are super helpful for keeping away hunger pangs, so if you look for snack foods with those qualities, you’re going to have much better luck with keeping your kids full than you would if you served them, say, pretzels.

At first glance, it seems cheaper to go the pretzel route, but spending a little more on foods with fat, protein, and fiber should be cheaper in the long run because it takes less of these foods to satisfy hunger overall.

1. Granola bars

Granola bars do have sugar in them, but the good ones also have plenty of whole grains and fat, which offer some staying power.   Plus, they’re easy to grab and go.

chewy coconut granola bars


You can buy granola bars, of course, but it’s also not very hard to make a pan of them yourself.

In fact, you could make two pans of bars and freeze half.

Here’s an orange coconut granola bar recipe, and here’s another you can make with raisins or chocolate chips.

2. Granola

Hungry teens and kids can go through several bowls of Chex or corn flakes and be hungry again in an hour.

A bowl of granola is going to stick with them a lot longer, though!

If you’d like to try making your own (SO much cheaper than store bought), give this recipe a try.   It makes really clumpy granola, which is awesome, AND you do not have to stir it while it bakes.

(I haaaate stirring granola while it bakes!)

3. Trail mix

Trail mix is just as easy to snack on as crackers or pretzels, but because it has nuts, it’s full of fat, protein, and fiber.

Your kids might not be super keen on some of the weird trail mixes available, but the sort with nuts, raisins, and M&Ms is perennially popular.

And trail mix is super easy to make yourself…just dump the ingredients together and you’re good to go.

4. Hard-boiled eggs

These are not exactly a traditional snack food, but if your kids like hard-boiled eggs, cook up a dozen of them so that they’re ready to go.

5. String Cheese or cheese cubes

A block of cheese isn’t a very teen-friendly snack (most kids won’t bother with slicing!), but string cheese is a little more appealing, and if you buy it at a warehouse store or at Aldi, it’s pretty affordable.

frugal and filling snack string cheese

It does have more packaging than regular cheese, though, so if that bothers you, you could slice cheese into sticks yourself.

Or you can cut cheese into cubes.

If you go the DIY route, make sure to store the cheese in a clear container in your fridge so that your kids will remember it’s there.

6. Produce with a dip

While produce is a super healthy thing to eat, on its own, it won’t keep your kids full for very long.

Pairing it with a dip can help a whole lot.   Ranch dressing is easy to eat with veggies, and hummus is also a good option.

If your kids are more into fruit, consider making a fruit dip. The fruit dip is going to have some sugar, yes, but it also has a respectable amount of fat and protein.

fruit salad

(Try this fruit dip recipe from my friend Kate. It’s a lot less sugary than the fruit dip that calls for marshmallow creme!)

Bananas and nut butter also make a filling combo. I just cut bananas into chunks and put a dab of peanut butter onto each chunk.

Nut butter + apples is also great, as is cheese with apples.

7. Muffins

Continuing with the easy-to-grab-when-you’re-hungry theme: bake some muffins.

If you’re trying to lose weight, muffins aren’t a really great option because they tend to be fairly calorie-dense.

But if you’re feeding an active, hungry teenager, it’s not like you’ve got to spend a lot of time worrying about caloric density!

Prepared muffins from the grocery store are pretty processed and they tend to be very high in sugar. Luckily, muffins are crazy easy to make at home, and if you make a large batch, you can freeze a bunch of them for future snacking.

Try these pumpkin/sweet potato chocolate chip muffins or these banana chocolate chip muffins.

8. Cheese Tortillas/Quesadillas

I know hungry teens won’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, but this really takes a minimum of effort.

Get a small flour tortilla, sprinkle some shredded cheddar on top, and microwave for 30 seconds, or until the cheese is melted.   Roll it up enchilada-style, and enjoy.

Or if your kids are a little more motivated (or you feel like cooking a snack for them) heat a pan on the stovetop.   Sprinkle half of a tortilla with cheese, fold in half, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until the cheese is melted.

9. A bowl of oatmeal

If your kids are fans of cold cereal for a snack, see if they’ll consider switching to oatmeal at least part of the time.

Compared to most cold cereals, oatmeal is better for sticking to the ribs, and it’s usually cheaper too.

To make oatmeal kid/teen friendly without resorting to the purchased packets (those are no cheaper than cold cereal), make a big batch of homemade instant oatmeal packets.

You can switch up the flavoring to provide some variety, and if you want to add some fat, top the oatmeal with cream or butter.

(I personally love oatmeal with some peaches and a bit of heavy cream.)

10. Ham and egg muffin cups

These have all the portability of muffins, but they’re savory instead of sweet. And you can make them ahead of time for reheating when hunger strikes.

photo courtesy of Foodie with Family

Here’s an option that has eggs, ham, and bread.

Here’s another option that doesn’t require bread.

And there’s a paleo version as well. (though they call for prosciutto, which is pretty crazy expensive. Sub ham to cut costs.


Aaaand, that’s ten! I hope this list helps you fill up your kiddos without blowing your grocery budget.

Readers, I’m sure there are more filling and frugal snack ideas that I’ve neglected to mention.   Add your suggestions in the comments for fellow parents of hungry people!

P.S. I’d be remiss if I neglected to point out that homemade bread and rolls make a pretty great snack. And they are really frugal. But I totally understand that most people won’t want to bother with making yeast bread, which is why it didn’t earn a spot on the list.

P.P.S. I started writing this post when Monica’s question came in as a comment, and when I went back to look at the comments later on, I saw that a lot of you made similar suggestions to the ones I included in this post.   Great minds think alike, O fellow frugal people!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bonna Irving

Tuesday 28th of February 2017

I had an after school daycare for years and the children always burst through the door hungry! One of their favorite snacks was cheese buns. I'd just put cheese on top of cut in half buns then broil for a couple minutes. Sometimes potato chips were on the table as well! This and a glass of milk was always a favorite:)


Monday 27th of February 2017

I wish they would sell string cheese without the wrappers! One of my boys is averse to most cheese EXCEPT string cheese or SUPER expensive "fancy" cheeses. I refuse to buy string cheese due to the plastic waste, but there are no other cheeses that even come close in texture. If anyone knows of string cheese NOT in individual wrappers, let me know!


Monday 27th of February 2017

I feel the same way about buying frozen fish. Whyyyyy does every company package each fillet individually? It's such a waste, and also a huge pain when I want to thaw fish for my whole family.


Monday 27th of February 2017

My daughter is allergic to gluten and dairy. I make a lot of her snacks with gf oatmeal. One of our favorites that I try to keep in the house is "oat chewies." I mix two cups of rolled oats with mashed bananas, peanut butter, and a little maple syrup and then drop in little mounds on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. They are filling and nutritious. I've also made them with mashed sweet potato instead of banana.


Monday 27th of February 2017

Ooh, going without gluten AND dairy is rough. You must be a very creative cook by now!


Monday 27th of February 2017

It depends on the season. Now its peanut butter with everything for my daughter, apples, bananas, toast, celery, sometimes just a giant spoonful. Come the summer its fruit, veggies, smoothies. I can't tell you how many times I have found my kids eating my peas and sting beans right out of the garden. At least they come in and wash the cucumbers. My son could eat 24/7 but he is 17 so snacks are pretty much meals for him.


Monday 27th of February 2017

This is such a helpful post, Kristen! I especially like the cheese tortillas and quesadillas picture and am about to put flour tortillas on my grocery list. And judging from my husband's reaction just now as he was looking at the picture of the ham and egg muffin cups over my shoulder, I'm going to be making those soon too!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.