1. Make snack packs: Left to their own devices, my children will go through 4 cans of Pringles. DS2 and DS4 proved this last week. I have bought sandwich bags and filled them with the "snacky" foods and they are allowed to get ONE... at snack times. Any more than that requires approval from one of the parents. We filly baggies with: pretzels, chips, mini muffins, cookies, kale chips, half sandwiches, crackers, etc. We also have a fruit bowl. I also will buy cereal in large quantities when it is one sale and fill small plastic containers with the appropriate amount. Plastic containers are also filled with: homemade pudding, jello, applesauce, sliced fruit, veggie/cheese "tray." Portion control is EVERYTHING with our kids.
2. Car snacks matter: How often do you get in the car and hear I'm hungry/thirsty. So often I would pull through and get one of those nasty dollar burgers or stop at a gas station and pay dang near double the price with my first. Four kids later, I carry a thermal backpack with water and some snack that wont melt. I hate when the kids eat in the car because of the mess, but sometimes it is just easier than hearing the fussing.
3. Bring snacks to events (as allowed): We will pack a tote full of snacks when we go to the lake, festival or the drive in movies. They offer concession but do not mind you bringing your own food... so that is exactly what we do.
4. Freezer cooking: I will buy groceries every two weeks and cook according to our meal plan. Then I will put them in the freezer and if there is a good sale, I will make a double batch (which is awesome to keep on hand for if we are invited to a potluck or need to bring a meal to a friend). Freezer cooking has eliminated our "need" to go out to eat. I will lay the meals for the next day out when I am doing my night time routine. Then pop them in the crockpot the next morning (when I can, I love the crockpot. Its energy efficient and honestly I can put it in and forget about it) or in the oven.
5. Again take up on free food offers: We have had Bible school all week and our church has offered a free dinner to all the kids and parents each night this week. It has been a wonderful budget saver and time saver. We are Methodist and we love to eat-- haha. So we often have meals at church. We have the opportunity to eat on Wednesday nights for $35 but we just can't rationalize that recurring expense in our budget.
6. Split meals with friends: We often go to my best friends' house for game night. We let the kids play and we have adult conversation and it's great. We will split the cost of the meal and usually buying larger quantities saves all of us on the cost per meal.
So that is how we feed them...budget everything. And as you can probably tell from our chunky guys they are fed well.
DS1 and DS2 not shown for privacy reasons.