How to Stretch Meals and Snacks: 5 Super Simple Ideas

A peek inside this post: Are you feeling bombarded by the increase in grocery and gas prices this past year? Many of us are feeling the effects and are trying to figure out how to stretch meals and snacks for our families. Keep reading for 5 simple tips to help your budget be more successful as you make meals and snacks go further for your household.

Three dollars. That’s how much our son’s favorite gluten free chicken nuggets went up in price the past few months. They went from $5.50 to about $8.50. 

That’s just one item that has increased in price. Everything has gone up and I am sure you can tell me exactly how that has impacted you and your family. 

Lots of People Are Wondering How To Make Meals Go Further

According to The United States Department of Agriculture website, the Consumer Price Index for food increased by 11.4 percent between August 2021 and August 2022.

Gas prices have increased greatly as well, which makes everyone’s budget even tighter. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says gas prices for regular gasoline have increased by 49 percent between January through June 2022. Diesel prices increased by 55 percent.

As a result of these price increases, maybe you have had to cut out some family favorites at the grocery store.

Maybe you have picked up a few extra hours of work to help balance the grocery budget.

Maybe you are searching online for tips on how to make meals go further but feel overwhelmed about trying to put them in place.

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How To Stretch Meals and Snacks

I love the idea of saving money for our family, but I also know that I want it to be a simple process.

The mental load of day to day life is enough to work through– throwing in additional trips to grocery stores for a sale or clipping coupons isn’t always something we have the capacity to do.

I get it.

What I love about the tips listed below is they are SO simple. They are easy to implement, but they can make a difference in your wallet.

How you can stretch meals and snacks:

1| Supplement high price snacks with more affordable snacks to make them go further.

One of our family favorite snacks is trail mix. We love having nuts and dried fruit mixes on hand for snacks but they can be pretty pricey. (For those of you who love nuts, you know they were not left out in recent price increases.)

Trail mix with rice check to stretch snacks further

One of our favorite ways to make our trail mix last longer is to add Rice Chex to it. 

Before giving our kids access to this snack, we mix it up in a separate tupperware. It makes the trail mix last so much longer and the Rice Chex is very economical.

Here is our favorite trail mix and rice check from Aldi. Please note, this nut mix does have chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. If you are looking for a low sugar mix, you may want to choose a different kind!

Stretch snacks by adding Rice Squares to your trail mix

Other ideas could be mixing cheerios with dried fruit or pretzels with popcorn.

2| Use meat as a compliment to your meals rather than a main course.

In years past, we served meals that gave everyone their own portion of meat as the main course and then offered veggies and fruits as a side. Recently, we have learned to use meat in much smaller portions.

Stretch meals with this salad with light meat added

One of our favorite meals is to use just a couple of chicken breasts to put on big salads. Rather than purchasing 5 or 6 chicken breasts for a meal, we can purchase just a couple and load the salads up with lots of other vegetable toppings. 

Another idea is to add a can of black beans to your meat to make it go further. Most taco nights I add black beans to a pound of ground beef and season it the same way I would taco meat. The boys weren’t too crazy about the beans, but once they ate the tacos, they didn’t even notice the beans were there. It gives you more protein for a great price!

3| Hide your extra snacks.

This seems so simple and it’s probably one of the biggest ways we stretch our grocery budget.

I usually shop for a full week, and at times I have shopped for a couple weeks worth of groceries (with small trips for produce in between). If I were to put out all my groceries at one time, our 3 boys would eat it all in a matter of days. 

Instead, we hide our groceries and put them out in waves.

Snacks in a box for later

This particularly pertains to packaged items such as granola bars, pretzels, cookies, cheesesticks, poptarts, things like that. I won’t mention any names, but one of our kids can eat an entire package of cookies in one setting if we don’t limit him. 

I love the look of a fully stocked pantry/refrigerator after I go to the grocery store, but I also know that those groceries are going to last much longer if I set them out every few days and keep items hidden on the top shelf of the fridge and the bottom shelf of the pantry. 

4| Prep snacks for easy eating.

Kids are going to eat what’s easy to grab. One way we encourage them to eat snacks that are more affordable is to have them prepped and easy to get to.

After a long day of school/practice/band or whatever it is, they aren’t going to want to take the time to wash and cut up fruit and veggies.

We recently learned how well mason jar storage works. Fresh cut fruits and veggies last so much longer in mason jars in the refrigerator.

When the kids are packing lunch, they are more likely to grab those strawberries you got on sale if they are cut and stored in a jar, rather than having them get moldy after 2 days in the fridge. We do this with carrots, cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries, etc.

Strawberries in mason jar for longer storage

5| Put a basket on the counter with snacks that have been opened up for awhile or are close to expiring and have your family eat those foods first before moving on to other things.

This is great for pretzels that might go stale, the 3 boxes of crackers you have opened, or a random bag of chips you got on sale that you probably won’t buy ever again.

Go through your pantry and grab those open items that are taking up space and not getting any attention. You could even make it a game if you want. “If we get this basket emptied before the end of the week, we can make some brownies!”  

What Other Ideas Do You Have For How To Stretch Meals?

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you feel like you can easily apply them to save money for your family.

Sometimes simple changes are the ones that stick the most. They seem “doable” when you are drained from your daily commitments and are easy to pick back up if you take a break for a while.

Now it’s your turn! What ideas do you have for how to stretch meals?

I love to brainstorm with other families to hear what works for them. In a time when the conversations constantly seem to be focused on increased prices, it’s good to see how others are using the current situation to get creative and support their family. 

Read Also:

How to be frugal with Groceries

Budget for Homemakers

Easy Weeknight Crockpot Dinners

DIY Foaming Hand Soap for Cheap

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How to Stretch Meals and Snacks

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