Money challenge: can I save money by making my own snacks?

In a bid to get the family food bill down I decided to make all of our own snacks over the holidays. But did it actually save us money?

As a family of four, plus a lodger and two cats, our weekly shopping bill has been creeping over £100 of late.

We shop at Lidl to keep costs down and get extras we cannot find there at Sainsbury's across the road.

Over the Easter holidays, I was nervous that our food expenses would spike as there would be two ravenous young boys at home who are normally fed at school and nursery.

I had already started making my own cakes, muffins and cookies recently but the incentive has been to provide the kids with sugar-free treats (I substitute coconut oil for sugar) rather than a financial one.

So the school break was a great way to test out and calculate the cost of creating homemade snacks and expand my repertoire to adult snacks as well.

Here's how I got on.

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Flapjack granola cereal bars

Flapjack bars (Image: loveMONEY - Lily Canter)

What's the difference between a flapjack, granola bar and a cereal bar?

I haven't a clue, but I came up with an oat-based recipe that I can fling any ingredients into and it always tastes great.

Nuts, seeds and dry fruit all work as long as there is enough syrup to bind everything together.

All of the ingredients were from Lidl and the basic breakdown of costs were: 1kg porridge oats 89p, 500g sultanas 95p, 200g dried apricots 99p, 500g margarine £1.09, 907g golden syrup £1.79 (I discovered that this is actually cheaper at Asda, costing £1.15, but we don't have an Asda in my town).

All of these ingredients will make 50 flapjack granola cereal bars which weight about 34g each.

I added in the cost of using a fan assisted oven for 20 minutes to bake them (there are recipes out there that don't require baking but they tend to use expensive maple syrup).

The electricity cost was 10p for 20 minutes of baking so it is more cost effective to cook a large batch in one go.

In total it cost £5.81 to make 50 substantial flapjacks, making them less than 12p each.

I compared this to the usual snacks I buy for the kids and my husband and found there were big savings to be made.

The 30g oat bars I usually buy for my kids are £14.95 for 45 bars, costing 33p each.

I won't be buying these anymore, as every batch I make saves me around £10.

Depending on how quickly we work through them (or how quick we get sick of them!), this could save us anywhere up to £100 a year.

Saving: £10 per batch

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Popcorn versus crisps

We get through a lot of crisps each week spending £1.98 on 12 bags of multigrain bites and another 99p on multipack crisps containing six bags.

In hindsight, we could buy a 24 pack for £1.99 (rather than 18 bags for £2.97) but we prefer the marginally healthier crisps.

As an alternative, I decided to trial making popcorn from kernels as this also meant I could control the fat, sugar and salt content.

For this, I had to shop in Sainburys and pick up 500g of kernels which made 20 bags of popcorn weighing 25g each.

These cost 7p a bag each including the electricity usage in a microwave or on an induction hob, and any additional flavourings like salt, pepper, sugar or chilli.

So that’s a total bill of £1.40 for 20 flavoured servings of popcorn.

This was super quick to make, taking less than 20 minutes and I found that the popcorn stayed fresh for at least five days in a sealed plastic tub or sandwich bag.

There is a huge mark up on individual bags of ready-made popcorn: a quick search on supermarket sites and I found six 10-15g bags costing between £1.50 and £2.

Again there are savings to be made here whether you usually buy own-brand.

Assuming we consume 20 bags of crisps or popcorn a week, we could save around £5 by making our own.

Do this once a month and that’s a £60 annual saving.

Since this experiment, my husband has admitted he is not keen on popcorn everyday so my next task is to experiment with making our own crisps.

£5 per batch

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Dips

Homemade dips (Image: loveMONEY - Lily Canter)The amount supermarkets charge for dips is quite frankly ridiculous as they are so quick, easy and cheap to make yourself.

At Lidl a can of chickpeas or butterbeans cost 33p for 400g (240g drained weight).

Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice for a few pennies, a drop of olive oil for less than 5p and season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices for under 1p and even with the energy cost of using a blender or food processor you have an amazing 240g dip for 40p.

You can also use the leftover chickpea water to make aquafaba, a vegan version of meringue.

Compare this to the Lidl fresh houmous at 65p for 200g or the Sainsburys 200g classic houmous at a whopping £1.30, and you would be daft not to make your own.

Similarly, there are great savings to be made from making your own guacamole.

I buy four avocadoes for £1 at the market and mix one 25p avocado with a 2p garlic clove and 8p of lime juice to make a tasty treat for 35p.

By comparison since I can't always get guacamole at my local Lidl, I have to resort to other supermarkets which charge between £1 and £1.50 a pot.

I usually buy a couple of cheap dips a week so, over the course of a year, I could save upwards of £45 by making my own.

Saving: £1-£2 per batch

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Fruit and nut balls

My homemade fruit & nut balls (Image: loveMONEY - Lily Canter)

These started as energy balls for my triathlon training and over the holidays I made a load of them in preparation for an ultra running event.

My kids and husband spotted them and immediately wanted to try them so now they have become part of the family stable snacks.

They are great for young children because they are high in energy and really sweet, but contain no sugar.

I combine dates, peanut butter and nuts, sometimes adding a drop of honey, sunflower oil or a banana to stick everything together.

I also make batches with cocoa powder for a dark chocolate taste.

The best deal on pitted dates is currently at Holland and Barratt where you can buy-one-get-one-half-price on the 250g bags, a total of £1.93 for 500g.

Don't be fooled into default buying the larger bags as, bizarrely, this can cost more.

Tesco also currently has an offer of Whitworths dates which are two 300g bags for £2.50.

Nuts at Lidl range from £1.72 for cashews, £1.98 for walnuts, £1.99 for almonds and £2.99 for pecans, all in 200g bags.

With all the ingredients blitzed together in a food processor and, accounting for the electricity, it costs 26p per 40g ball.

This will fill someone up more than a cereal bar and the equivalent protein bar or ball in Holland Barratt costs a ghastly £1.

I am now churning out 16 a week to support my training, my husband's break-time snack and the kid's evening cravings.

I would never have bought £16 worth of protein bars to feed the family each week, but I'm quite happy to spend £4.16 on this diverse homemade snack.

Saving: £4 per batch

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Final verdict

You can save hundreds of pounds a year by making your own snacks, even when taking energy costs into consideration.

The trick is to find out what is the most time efficient to make and versatile enough to feed the whole family.

I will definitely continue making our own snacks and my plan is to make better use of our abundant herb garden to make savoury biscuits and to see if it is possible to make oven baked crisps that stay crunchy.

Hopefully, this will help to cut down on the amount of salty crisps and nuts we buy and get our food bill under £80 a week.

Do you regularly make any snacks at home rather than buying ready-made? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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