12 Snack Mistakes That Are Costing You Money
It's not just buying things you don't like and throwing them away.
If you're a big snacker, you are likely one to browse the aisles at the grocery store for the latest snack finds regularly. Or if you use snacking as a way to be creative with ingredients and try new foods, you're probably putting together fun recipes at home every few days when supplies run low.
Indeed, one of the best ways to really utilize your snacks is by meal prepping; you're making the most of your purchases at the store and avoiding any wasted leftovers or blown bucks. You can also customize your snacks to whatever feels right to your cravings in the moment.
However, when so many tasty snacks look oh-so-tempting, it can be easy to lose sight of your wallet and spending habits. It's also difficult to concentrate on the likelihood that you're really going to eat those snacks in time before they spoil. We get it. Our snack appetites have been too big for our snack habits many times.
Unfortunately, those shopping habits and enthusiastic appetites have a downside besides wasted food. They can cost you money. Here, we share a few common mistakes you might be making when you're shopping or making snacks, as well as how to fix them so you can be more pennywise with your snack money.
1. You buy single-serve snacks instead of bulk
You might assume bulk buying is always the cheaper option. Sometimes that is the case, and sometimes it isn't. If, for example, you like to snacks on nuts or add them to trail mixes, you're totally losing money by avoiding the bulk section.
"Single packages of nuts cost far more per serving than purchasing them in bulk," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "Make your own portion-controlled servings by dividing them into snack-sized zipper bags and keep extras in the freezer to extend the shelf life," she says.
2. You buy veggies but don't prep them right away
If you buy vegetables with the intention of eating them for a snack, don't put them away whole and unprepared. This will backfire because when it's snack time, you reach for the quickest snack you can find — and the veggies end up going bad in the refrigerator because you don't have time or energy to wash and peel them, wasting the money you spent on them.
"When you get home from the store, immediately cut up the vegetables, put them in an air-tight container, and place them on the top shelf of your fridge," says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT. They'll be the first thing you see and can grab when you want a snack, which is healthier for you and better for your wallet.
3. You get a bag that has lots of mini snack bag servings
Don't fall for this mistake — or this waste of extra packaging. "You end up paying a premium for the manufacturer to pre-pack your snacks, and you typically get significantly less of the snack food than if you buy a bigger bag without individual bags in it," says Lakatos. Instead, buy the bigger snack food bag and pre-portion it yourself. Use reusable silicone bags to avoid waste, too.
4. You go shopping while you're hungry
If grocery shopping has only one commandment, let it be this: Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
"This causes you to buy items you may never eat, since everything looks good when your stomach is grumbling," Lakatos says. If you're hungry, eat a snack before heading to the store. Even just a handful of nuts or a quick snack bar will quiet your hunger and quell your impulse buying.
5. You buy snacks you can't resist finishing ASAP
You know your taste buds and proclivities. If you buy snacks that will tempt you to eat every crumb in one sitting, stop doing it. "You end up not only having to buy additional snacks because you know you'll go through them quickly but also expanding your waistline," Lakatos says.
6. You only buy brand-name snacks
You don't need to ditch all of them, but if you're going for only brand-name snacks, you are paying a pretty penny for the known label. The fix? "Look for store-brand or no-name snacks that often are just as tasty and nutritious as the name brand," Lakatos says.
And here's a secret: Many brand-name companies actually make the store-brand options for everything from cereal to snack bars. There may be minor differences, but they're rarely significant enough to change the food too much.
7. You're noshing standing up or in the kitchen
If you snack as you stand in front of the pantry, deciding what you want to eat, you'll eat a lot of extra snacks you didn't intend to which can get pricey, Lakatos explains. Look through your kitchen and decide what you want to snack on, pre-portion it, and eat that portion seated at the table.
8. You're buying out of season
"Buying a snack, like a small package of out-of-season berries in the winter, will cost you as much as $3 to $4 more than in the summer," Lakatos says. Buy in season produce or use frozen fruits and veggies to save money. They are just as (if not more) nutritious when frozen.
9. You shop without a game plan
If you don't walk into the store with a list or clear understanding of what you need, you may end up buying a large array of snacks (and other foods, too) you might never eat. "Make a list of a few snacks you know you'll want so you don't waste money on the foods you won't eat," Lakatos says.
Or, consider using a grocery delivery or pick-up service. Shopping from an app or website can help you avoid temptation and streamline your purchases.
10. You shop just one store
If you shop for all of your snacks at the grocery store, where snack items have high mark-up prices, you are wasting money hand over fist. "Shop at wholesale retailers like Costco, BJs, or Sam's Club where everything from fresh produce to hummus and pretzels can be found at a discount," Lakatos says.
11. You always buy pre-cut fruit and veggies
Unless it's a tricky fruit, like pineapple or mango, there's no reason to buy pre-cut, says Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, a Pennsylvania-based nutrition communications consultant and recipe developer. "If you can spare a few minutes to wash, seed/peel and cut fresh, whole fruit you'll be doing yourself — and your wallet — a favor," she says. "Conveniently packaged, ready-to-eat fruit can cost up to three times as much as the whole fruit itself."
12. You buy pre-packaged trail mix
These can get pricy, for a small serving. "Making your own trail mix takes almost zero effort, saves money, and allows you to customize the ingredients to your own flavor and nutrition preferences," says Stark.
Try this super-simple formula to make a satisfying, nutritious and energizing trail mix for less:
"Whole-grain cereal (Wheat Chex, Cheerios or Quaker Oatmeal Squares), no-sugar-added dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots or prunes), lightly salted or raw nuts (almonds, shelled pistachios or pecans), lightly salted or raw seeds (sunflower seeds or pepitas), optional dark chocolate chips, candies, etc," Stark says. Place in a sealable bag or container and eat within a week for maximum freshness.