Baking with Kids without Going Nuts: 7 Simple Tweaks to Cookie Mixes

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By Ed

Making cookies from a store bought mixture is not the cheapest idea.  So what's the deal here?  Well, at the heart of Frugal is getting good value for your money.  The value we are after, in this case, is spending time with our kids making a recipe together.

There are great learning opportunities with baking:
  • full of math practice, 
  • following directions  (what kid doesn't need practice with this?)
  • all sorts of literacy activities
  • And who doesn't like cookies? (You do?  Seriously? Wow).

So here is why this is Frugal.  Making cookies from scratch is obviously the cheapest, but it tends to be on the challenging side - particularly when kids are little.    Buying store bought cookies is easiest but lacks the "let's make cookies as a family" charm.

Tweaking a premade mix?  This is the Goldilocks of homemade cookies - just right. 

So here are a few tweaks that the kids and I have worked up over the years.  Not true recipes, but amendments to some of the mixes out there that make them feel more homemade, help the kids learn a little bit about experimenting and taste great.  

Check them out...

Simply put, cookie mixes make cooking with kids actually enjoyable.

We've been baking with our kids since they were toddlers; this idea seems sane only because we used cookie mixes to contain the craziness.  Simple measures, fewer steps and small batches mean that you can toss off a batch in half an hour and have cleanup done before they come out of the oven.  

And you get cookies.

**Add/adjust to the existing recipe: 
typically half a bag of cookie mix + egg/fat/water

1) Triple Chocolate Brownie:

  • 1/3 cup cocoa, 
  • 1/4 cup white choc. chips,  
  • 2-3 Tbsp water

2) Peanut Butter: 

  • Replace margarine/butter with 1/3 cup PB (smooth or chunky)
  • Add 2 Tbsp margarine

3) Oatmeal Choc Chip:  

  • Add 1/3 cup Quick Oats and 
  • 1/4 cup water

4) Girl Guide Minty Knock-offs:

  • 1/3 cup cocoa, 2-3 Tbsp water, 
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract  
    • for an extra Christmasy kick, crush up a candy can and sprinkle it on top

5) "Subway" cookie knockoffs: 

  • 1/2 cup of M&Ms (plain or peanut). 
    •  Get Christmas M&Ms for cookies with a more festive appearance.

6) Reese Cup Cookies:

  • Replace margarine/butter with  1/4 cup PB (smooth or chunky) 
  • Add 3 Tbsp margarine.  
  • Add 1/4 cup cocoa and water as needed.

7) Everything Cookie (shown):

  • cocoa, 
  • mint, 
  • oatmeal as above (or PB, M&Ms/Smarties or whatever else you want to toss in).  
    • The kids created this on their own - could you have guessed that?

Another added bonus of amending premade cookie mix - you get more cookies per batch.  They typically all still fit on one cookie sheet, but you may need to squeeze a bit.  Or just eat more raw dough in the mixing process...(ew?).

All amendments still follow the base recipe, unless otherwise noted (e.g. PB cookies)

Do you tweak store-made mixes?  We're always looking for more ideas, so please post in the comments with yours.


  1. I've never tried store-made mixes. I have bought store-made dough, where all you have to do is cut it and put it on the cookie sheet. That doesn't even seem like baking, but this would.

    For what it's worth, I was in high school before I knew that cakes could be made from scratch. I thought a box was the only way to make one! :-)

    1. Cakes can be made from scratch? We still box it 9 times out of 10 (I'm guessing there). I think that like all things in parenting baking has a tradeoff factor where "getting it done" and "not losing your mind with kid-help" trump "doing it perfectly". I'm sure we'll transition to more scratch-like things eventually, but this suits us just fine for now.

      Glad the idea sounds workable and thanks for reading.

    2. Speak for yourself, Husband! I often bake with the kids and we pretty much always do it from scratch. (Mind you, when they were in the toddler/preschooler stages "from scratch" was a rare and stressful occasion. Back then it was all mixes all the time, baby...)

      Don't you love watching couples fight in public? :) Robin


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