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Tote snacks, save money

A granola bar from home saved my appearance on National Public Radio. It also saved me a bunch of money.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 16, 2012 11:47AM
Image: Salty peanuts (© Anna Yu/Photodisc/Getty Images)Earlier this year, I was invited to be on "Talk of the Nation," which meant speaking directly into the mike at the National Public Radio affiliate in Seattle's University District. It also meant taking the bus, since I went car-free a few years ago.

Worried about being late, I arrived way too early -- and despite having had a healthy breakfast, I suddenly felt faint with what I decided was hunger. (It was probably stage fright.)

Technically I had time to run out for a snack. But I was about to espouse intentional spending, so how could I justify a trip to a nearby coffee shop? Would listeners somehow sense that I'd failed to walk my frugal talk?

Instead, I dug into my backpack for a granola bar that had cost me one penny. Yes, a solitary copper, thanks to a coupon/sale/instant rebate deal. That plus a cup of on-site tea saw me through an additional two hours at the studio.

Keeping my frugal edge was symbolic that day, but carrying snacks is a long-established habit. If an appointment runs very late or a flight gets delayed, I always have something to eat.

It adds up

Midafternoon slump hit you every day? A handful of nuts or dried fruit will perk up your blood sugar and you'll no longer hear the vending machines calling your name.

If you're in a rush-hour traffic jam with your snarling, hungry offspring you'll be really glad you had some nibbly bits in your purse or briefcase. (Post continues after video.)
How much can you save? Depends on where you are. One airport store wanted upward of $5 for a small bag of almonds and $3-plus for a soft drink. Appalling.

But even those vending-machine jaunts add up. Assuming even a dollar a day, we're talking more than $250 a year.

The empty calories add up, too. Look me in the eye and tell me you're buying raisins from the machine. (Liar.)

Not that most granola bars are particularly healthy, but I don't eat them very often. In fact, I buy them specifically for emergency snacks. I'd also recommend nuts, trail mix/gorp (you can make your own, but go easy on the M&Ms), power bars, dried fruit or jerky (especially turkey jerky, because it's just fun to say).

Frugal bonus points for:

This may seem like a small expense. But as noted above, that daily candy bar or soft drink translates to at least half of the $500 emergency fund MSN Money columnist Liz Weston suggests as a baseline.

Packing snacks is entirely optional, of course. So is paying $8 for a snack at the airport newsstand.

Incidentally: If you'd care to hear that NPR program, it's called "What happened to the rainy-day fund?" I start talking about 10 minutes in.


More on MSN Money:

Aug 17, 2012 1:05AM

Donna, I couldn't agree more.  I work for a retail company that also sells food.  A couple of months ago, I  charged all soft drinks/lunches purchased at work/snacks/etc on one cc.  Those were purposely the only itmes charged on that card. 


It was a real eye-opener at the end of the month.  $153 at the end of the month--those $1.74 diet cokes and $3 coffees add up.


I have since starting packing my own in a small inslated tote.

Aug 17, 2012 12:44AM
It never hurts to be prepared with a healthy snack as Donna suggests.  I don't understand what the first poster objected to in this article, but it certainly seemed mean spirited.  Supporting intentional spending means that she supports people planning what they spend instead of just letting the money flow out of their pockets.  Whatever could be wrong with walking the walk along with talking the talk?
Aug 20, 2012 12:20AM

Great post.  I'm a big believer in planning ahead when it comes to lunches, snacks and my workday.  I pack my lunch almost every day and have enough snacks (mostly healthy) to feed most of my coworkers if we had an emergency.  I've also started a coupon swap and we trade Coke Rewards Points and Lean Cuisine boxes for Delicious Rewards.  Every little bit counts.



Aug 16, 2012 1:35PM
This woman said she needed a snack as she waited to "espouse intentional spending".  She should do her own proofreading, and know the meaning of the words that she uses.  "Espouse" is synonymous with "support".  A second observation is that she could well afford to save even more money by not regularly stuffing her face with empty calories.  Too many Americans doing this are contributing to the obesity problem that she and others suffer from.
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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.