Food is a hot topic right now. There’s shortages, price changes, dining plan updates etc etc.
And when we talk about Disney World, besides the tickets, the food is one of the biggest expenses! There’s fun meals, character meals, special treats and the benefit of not being stuck in the kitchen. Did I mention it comes at the Disney Prices?
It can be a lot to take in, but with a little research and some planning, budgeting your food at Disney World is doable!
For more budget planning, find this list of free things at disney world, and free things to do at disney springs with your kids!
Have food allergies and headed to the parks? Things are alittle different for you!
This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you, check out my affiliate disclosure for more information and all the legal mumbo jumbo.
If you’re any thing like me, you’re a planner, or at least a researcher who wants to know what you are getting into! So let’s dive into how to plan ahead and save the most at Disney.
Plan when you are going to Visit
Part of planning ahead is planning your meals so you can plan your fast passes- if you plan to do breakfast at the resort, then fast passes, you can plan to come back to the room for dinner.
That means that you only need to pack (or buy) lunch at the parks and all the snacks and drinks you might need.
You also need to consider when you are going.
It’s almost impossible to go to Epcot during one of the Festivals and not want to get some of the cool treats at each of the themed stands.
They normally have some really unique foods. Portions are smaller, like snack size, and run around 10 dollars (some are closer to 7 and some as high as 15).
Budgeting your food
First, know your budget and then apply that to the appropriate days.
Lets say you have 800 to spend on all things food (snacks, character meals, dining, etc). So you need to sit down and figure out where and how to apply that.
I talk about this in my 5 Rules for Saving Money At Disney World, Where people have these blog posts about Under budgeting their food.
200 doesn’t cut it for a week.
Like coffee is around 5 dollars and I know I want a coffee everyday I’m there.
Then the character meals are around 50 per adult and 30 per kid, and we have two scheduled. (update for 2020- dinner is more like 60 for adults and 40 for kids- breakfast is closer to 45 for adults)
I know we will want ice cream and that 8 dollars a person.
So you decide what you want to do and set up some money categories for those areas.
If you say- 20 dollars for ice cream, then you can get ice cream for four people ONE time. You can get a good idea how much things cost by looking at reservations and menus on the My Disney Experience (app or desktop).
Don’t Get all your food from Disney
You have like, more than 10 options for food that isn’t at Disney.
The most obvious one is you bring your food with you but that might not always work, depending on how you travel.
My two favorite options are going to the grocery store before Disney and using Amazon to have things delivered to my room.
I’m a big fan of Publix (and I like to get my kids balloons there!) because we have some allergies and food preferences.
It’s also why I like Amazon. I dont have to worry about the item being out of stock, I simply order it two days before my trip!
Get it Delivered locally
There’s even more delivery options.
Pizza is a no brainer, and can be very inexpensive depending on what you order. You can also have other restaurants delivered through multiple delivery services. I’m serious, there almost too many to list here! Theres Amazon’s Same Day delivery, Instacart, Garden Grocer etc etc.
A quick google will show you all your options or you can ask your resort. The Locals cater to Disney, and lots of restaurants would be happy to have your business!
Don’t have a car and you don’t want premade food? Many of the delivery services will pick up your groceries! Theres Amazon’s Same Day delivery, Instacart, Garden Grocer etc etc.
Then you don’t have to shop and its cheaper than using Uber to take you to the grocery store. Instacart and Garden Grocer are the two I’ve used with success.
Disney Dining Plan
Are you considering the Disney Dining Plan?
In a nutshell, this plan is purchased with your room, and it basically gives you ‘credit’ for your food. Kind of like if you had stayed on a cruise ship, and all the food is “free”
Another way to think of the dining plan is that you prepaid for the food, or that you are getting food on vacation without having to pull out your wallet.
Here’s the thing about the dining plan though, it’s not always worth it! Here’s a list of conditions that would make the dining plan worth the money you pay for it (but still not a savings, you would just break even
- Drink a lot of soda (for the resort refillable mug)
- Plan to use up both snack credits each day (most people forget and then end up taking a bunch of stuff home with them on the last day)
- Do a character meal buffet for DINNER (not breakfast or lunch) This means you need to be really prepared for getting those ADR for your time frame. If you have a travel agent they may be able to help.
- Eat your quick service meal for lunch or dinner at the park not the resort
If you have more kids in your party than adults (like 3 kids and 2 adults) it’s could be worth it with the character meals compared to the price of the kids dining credits.
But if your kids don’t eat a lot (kids can purchase an adult sized meal at quick service), you may be left with “leftover” dining credits.
This could work if you have an off day planned. If you have hungry teenagers that eat everything in sight, it can be worth it if you follow the recommendations above.
A note about “Free dining”
If you compare the pricing of the hotels and resorts during Free dining month to some of the other off seasons, you will see that prices are significantly higher to offset the cost of giving you ‘free dining’.
If you do genuinely find a room that fits your family and is comparable in cost to another value season- then go!
However, in three years of watching the numbers for free dining, I have never found it to be cheaper or even comparable in resort price to the other value seasons.
Rachel, over at Miles to the Magic, broke down the numbers for 2019 with the free dining. She was able to get the rooms and tickets they wanted, with 2000 dollars leftover before they would have benefited from free dining. That’s Significant! Check out her graphs here for a full breakdown and all the rooms/ticket packages she listed.
And don’t forget- the dining plan does NOT include a tip.
Eating at Disney
You can still stay on a budget at Disney and have a cheap vacation while eating at the parks. You just need to know HOW to do it.
Use the Mobile Ordering App
Mobile ordering has changed how I purchase food.
Previously I would get a menu and sit down to plan out my family’s meals- or occasionally my husband would go and order for us which never turned out quite like we needed it to!
Now I just order from wherever I’m at on property (like in line!!!!!) and I can figure out the food needs and budget from there. SO easy!
What to order for your family’s meals
Another great tip for ordering at Disney is about portion size.
Adult portions are pretty big! Adults can also order off the kids menu. Then again, you can order one adult meal to feed two kids!
Talk about options! Generally, for my family of four, we order either 2 adult meals at a quick service, and then one adult meal and two kids meals at sit down restaurants.
Check out this picture below. This is what we ordered from Electric Umbrella in Epcot. 2 adult meals and one kids meal (and water cups) for 25 dollars.
Have a picnic
Along with sharing your larger portion sizes is mixing them with some snacks or leftovers that you brought.
I love to bring in sandwiches and then order fries or soup to go with them. Likewise, I bring in a lot of fruit and trail mix, which goes great with a salad or main entree from a quick service restaurant.
I use this collapsible cooler which has literally saved me thousands! Seriously- it’s great to carry around and then collapse when your done with your meal. I’m all about convenience when it comes to vacation.
Eat at the Resorts
The resorts have all of the Disney Magic in their restaurants- they just aren’t quite as popular or expensive!
Some restaurants might not have a significantly lower bill (closer to 5 dollars per person compared to in park) but other resorts have very comparable pricing to non-disney restaurants- especially for lunch.
We love going to the buffet, Trails End, at fort wilderness and Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite non- buffet cheap eats.
Resort restaurants are a great option for experiencing Disney Service, and can be a fun way to spend an ‘off day’ if you don’t have tickets for your entire vacation!
Pin this for your next vacation !
My Guide- Simplified
Want the condensed version?
- Disney Dining Plan isn’t worth it, pay out of pocket for the few character meals you want to do. It’s truly a marketing ploy from disney (trade money for credits) and pushed by those that get a commission from it.
- Get some of your food delivered. Use Amazon, get pizza, use a grocery delivery service.
- Don’t eat all your meals at inside the parks- it’s simply more expensive there. Bring in Snacks and Meals, plan to eat at the resort or from your own groceries.
- Pack your own candies and desserts, as well as Soda. Spiking your own drinks would also be advised.
- Coffee is cheaper at the resorts and even cheaper if you make it yourself!
- Know what your budget is for food ahead of time and stay aware of it when you are at the park. Budget some wiggle room. Use the Mobile Ordering so that you can see the prices without being rushed. Put your money on a gift card so you don’t go crazy- and don’t forget about tips.
You can still enjoy your Disney Vacation while going cheap on the food- after all you did spend a lot of money for a hotel and tickets! (not to mention souvenirs!) I’ve been going to Disney for years and trying to make the most out of our trip.
Most times we just do one character meal and bring food for the rest of the day, with lots of snacks brought from our room.
Need more money saving tips?
Check out my 2019 updated tips for saving money at Disney!
Hopefully, this post taught you how to eat at Disney without blowing your budget! If you have any questions or want to give me a suggestion- drop a comment below!