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Frugal game-day snacks

Having friends over to watch sports? There's no need to break the bank feeding them.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2012 11:24AM
Logo: Potato chips (Image Source/Getty Images)I don't watch sports. But I recommend having friends over to watch the Big Game (college or pro) on your big TV because it's a fun, cheap afternoon or evening of entertainment.

People always seem hungry at these events, even if game time is right after lunch or dinner. Maybe that's because of all the food-related commercials shown during the games.

Or maybe we just associate food with sports. Even I have to admit that hot dogs taste better at a baseball game than just about anywhere else.

But stadium food is pricey. Home viewers, on the other hand, can get away with snacks whose savor disguises how cheap they were to prepare.

For example, a friend recently shared homemade tortilla chips, made from corn tortillas bought for about 40 cents a dozen at Costco. Super easy: Slice them into strips and fry small batches in a couple of inches of oil until crispy, then sprinkle with salt.

Homemade salsa is simple, too. You could go the fresh-tomato route or just buy a can of diced tomatoes and peppers. (Ro-Tel is a perennial favorite, but even store-brand tomatoes now come in chipotle or jalapeno versions.) Add a little lime juice and some fresh cilantro if you have it (or dried, if you don't). If you really want to show off, toss in some corn and black beans.

Tell me your game-day guests wouldn't be delighted with freshly made salsa and hot-from-the-fryer tortilla chips. They won't care if you used fresh tomatoes or canned.

Fry, fry again
Maybe your friends are a con queso crowd. If so, melt a pound of Velveeta and add a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (the kind with peppers and onions).

And if they're a bean-dip bunch? Forget those layered creations. Saute some onion and a diced jalapeno or two until soft. Mash in a couple of cups of pinto beans (canned are quicker, but dry beans in the slow cooker the night before are soooo cheap), then add grated jack cheese to taste and stir until it melts.

All of the above are delicious with your homemade chips. And speaking of chips: Homemade potato chips are as simple as frying thinly sliced potatoes in oil until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, a "barbecue" mix (paprika, cayenne, pepper, salt and maybe a little sugar) or some ranch dressing mix.
Or make up your own seasonings. If you do, save some for your homemade pita chips. Cut pita bread (bought at the bakery outlet?) into wedges and brush both sides very lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and/or the seasonings of your choice. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 12 minutes; check them often, so they don't overcook.

Dip right in
You could go crazy making dips for your crunchy creations:
  • Hummus. Look online for the simplest recipe you can find. Unless you hang with food snobs, they're not going to care how elaborate your ingredient list is.
  • Guacamole. Looks impressive next to your homemade salsa. (Set a little dish of sour cream nearby.)
  • Onion soup mix and sour cream. You know you want some.

Or don't bother -- the chips and pita are so savory your guests might just eat them by the handful.

Chex snack mix is another "handful" snack and a natural for casual get-togethers. The Chex original recipe is a classic, but check out for flavor variations like Asian, chocolate, East Indian, caramel, peanut butter and curry. (Oh, and use store-brand cereal. No one will know.)

The most frugal nosh of all, though, is flavored popcorn. The Popcorn Board offers recipes like Blazing Buffalo Ranch, Hot Mustard, Chili-Lime, Nacho Cheese and Lime Pickle. All are cheap to make and would be delicious with a cold beer.

Speaking of which: If you provide snacks, maybe your friends will bring the beverages. Frugal touchdown!

 Have any frugal game-day snacks to share?

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.