Frugal Parenting, Frugal Snacking: What to Feed Hungry, Growing Teens

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes!
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes! What a great concept! There are lots of recipes out there that I hope to try soon as a way to fill up my teens’ raging appetites. (Photo credit: tawest64)

Going to the grocery store one time a week is a thing of the past, according to this article from the Daily Mail in the U.K., which states that moms make nineteen trips a month to the grocery store. I’m sure that’s about the same for moms in the U.S., especially those with teens in the house. Here are some ideas to make those nearly daily trips to the supermarket make a dent in your teen’s appetite. 

I have a nearly 13-year-old and a nearly 14-year-old in the house. Both with huge appetites and eating constantly. Their hunger patterns dramatically increased as soon as they hit between 12- and 13-years-of-age. But they are lean–and active, which makes them even more hungry. I have trended away from higher-glycemic snacks (think pretzels, Goldfish, bananas, watermelon) and now offer more low-glycemic choices such as cheese, yogurt, nuts, dark chocolate (see my recipe for homemade chocolate bars), eggs, fruits and veggies for snacking. (Believe me, I’m no angel, I still make cakes and cookies and stocked up on Mallomars!). It’s hugely unfortunate, but they are not bean fans, which means I cannot fill them up with humus, chili, soups, stews or bean salads–things I rely on to stop my hunger pangs. Maybe they will turn to beans when they are older…

My naturally lean son–a runner, soccer player, etc.–can eat an entire bag of cheese sticks in a day. My naturally slim daughter–a rock-climber–can easily down a pound or more of grapes, peppers or nuts in one sitting. Fast food and packaged processed food is out of the question (those cute little frozen pizza rolls are certainly cheap and temporarily filling, but not an option). Bread is a tough one to serve unless you make your own (see Aimee’s recipe link below–buying a bread maker is also very much on my radar). So, with the price of food and their metabolisms spiraling upward, what’s a parent to do?

Here are some ideas I’ve collected from research (check out Money Saving Mom’s post on this topic from a couple of years ago, and make sure to read ALL the comments from her post for great ideas and recipes for meals and snacks), friends, word-of-mouth advice–but please send in your own ideas!! We could all benefit!

cheese and crackers
Cheese and crackers–a huge staple snack in our house. (Photo credit: mathiasbaert)
  • For kids who like eggs, keep a fresh bowl of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. (This is my son’s idea! He loves hard-boiled eggs.)
  • Keep on making those homemade granola bars! For our recipe, click here.
  • My kids love smoothies, but it’s not exactly the grab-and-go kind of snack. I have to actually make them! But, it satisfies them for a while.
  • My daughter slept over Aimee’s house one night and for breakfast, the kids had homemade bread and jam. My daughter was full for HOURS afterward, which has convinced me to buy a bread maker in the near future. Aimee’s bread was thick, healthy, and she loved it. (Jump to recipe below.) What a great idea for snacking! My kids are not a huge fan of store-bought breads, anyhow, unless they smear Nutella on it. Which brings me to….
  • Nutella is expensive, even the store-brands are pricey, and it really, um…chocolate! I used to keep this on hand at all times but luckily, my kids are actually tired of it, so my next trick: Teach them to put cream cheese or natural peanut butter on cut-up vegetables like celery (tough to get them to buy into, but my daughter seems to like this idea if everything is easy to grab). Which leads me to….

    en: Eggs
    My son loves hardboiled eggs and it fills him up fast and lasts for hours.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Trying nut butters. I have to spring this on them because  my kids are still stuck on peanut butter, and trying to get them to like the natural peanut butters is a challenge, but they are slowly, but surely transitioning…so there’s hope to expanding their butter tastes.
  • Peanut butter on graham crackers or regular saltines–it’s my husband’s favorite snack, and it completely fills him up and has for years as a nighttime snack. The kids are taking his lead and love to copy this snack.
  • Guacamole is another trick I have read about. My kids don’t like the gushy consistency of the dip, but I’m hoping to find a way around that by trying new recipes.
  • Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—and freeze them! Wow, never knew you could do that. Read that in a comment in a post from a couple of years ago…I know you can freeze grapes for great snacks, but pb&j?
  • When potato chips are on sale, buy in bulk and freeze them. Yes, freeze them! Read more in the comments section of this post from The Frugal Girls’ blog.
  • Pop your own popcorn (ditch the unhealthy and pricey microwave version!). Buy in bulk at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, get out your stock pot, drizzle with oil, pop away, then salt. It does fill them up! My daughter makes; it and she actually does not burn down the house!

    Slowly but surely, my kids are starting to realize that almonds kill their hunger. Maybe they’ll start to like beans soon….? (Photo credit: Shelby PDX)
  • Homemade peanut butter cookies!
  • Homemade oatmeal cookies!
  • Big bowls of cereal (this is tough to get my kids to do cause it’s not easily mobile).
  • Cut up cheese melted over tortilla chips or sliced and put on crackers. A big hit for my daughter who makes her own nachos.
  • Homemade muffins and more muffins are extremely attractive to my own kids. They don’t care too much what brand they are, but as long as they look like muffins and smell like muffins, they’ll eat a dozen in one sitting, which leads me to….something I want to try…
  • …Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes/muffins–see this easy recipe from Woman’s Day (I haven’t tried them yet, but they look filling and easy).

When we find more teen-approved snacks, we’ll post them!

~Marilyn, TFF