The Tightwad’s Guide to How to Eat at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

(This page is part of the series The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World)

EATING ON THE CHEAP AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

This site recommends here that families following one of its itineraries purchase the Disney Dining Plan, and has other suggestions here for those who can’t, or won’t.

This page addresses a different group: those trying to spend the least possible on food at Walt Disney World.

It’s part of the The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World, a series about the most inexpensive way  to visit Walt Disney World.

BASICS OF DISNEY WORLD DINING

The basic dining plan can be quite expensive unless you were going to buy the same number of sit down meals anyway.  The quick service dining plan is much less expensive, and, particularly if your kids are younger than 10 when they visit, can be hard to beat.

But even so, neither of these plans will cover everything you eat, and some may wish to spend even less than the cheaper dining plan costs.

The only way to do that is to gather and assemble meals and snacks in your room, taking some of them into the parks with you to eat there.  This works very well for breakfasts, sandwiches—which can be either lunch or dinner—and snacks.

Doing so will cost you time, both gathering your foodstuffs, and preparing them.

The rest of this page has some suggestions on how to gather your supplies.

HOW TO GET CHEAP FOOD AT WALT DISNEY WORLD WITHOUT SPENDING HOURS DOING SO

Families driving to Walt Disney World can pack a cooler, and/or stop at a grocery on the way to their resort.

Those flying used to be able to pack a suitcase with non-perishables and supplies—paper plates, mustard, napkins, etc—but these days of bag fees will make this difficult for some families.

(Note that if you are taking an empty suitcase anyway to fill with souvenirs, you can use this to pack food and supplies down.)

The upshot is that these families will need to do some shopping in Orlando.

You have basically five options:

  • Ordering over the web and having your food delivered to your resort
  • Buying stuff at your resort
  • Buying stuff at a nearby resort with a bigger selection
  • Going to the most convenient Hess
  • Going to one of the nearby grocery stores

Note that you will need a refrigerator.

All Disney resorts except the campsites at Fort Wilderness come with at least a mini-fridge.

See photo for the rough size of the mini-fridge.

Not all mini-fridges are as nice as this (this one is from a studio at Bay Lake Tower), but all are about this size.  Note that the objects inside are for scaling purposes only.

ORDERING YOUR STUFF FOR DELIVERY OVER THE WEB

You can order your stuff before your trip (or during, which you may have to do for alcohol) and have it delivered to you.

I have not used such services (I always have a rental car), but offer them based on positive comments on disboards.com:

BUYING STUFF FROM THE GIFT SHOP IN YOUR RESORT

Disney groceries—depending on what you buy—are not as expensive as you might think.

As a test, I bought last week the same four things—an 11oz bag of chips, a half gallon of milk, a pound of donuts, and a certain number of 16oz Budweisers —at each of the Wilderness Lodge’s Wilderness Lodge Mercantile, at the Downtown Disney Hess, and at the Winn-Dixie on Apopka-Vineland road.

Excluding the beer, the cost was basically the same—within 2.5% from highest (Disney) to lowest (Winn-Dixie).

Adding the beer made a huge difference—per beer, Disney was 3.5+ to 3.75 times more expensive.

I have also heard that smoking material is unavailable in some resorts, and very expensive in those resort stores that sell it.

FINDING A RESORT WITH A BETTER STOCK THAN YOURS

Some resorts have very limited selections of groceries.  Ask at guest services where the nearest Disney Vacation Club resort is, or how to get to Fort Wilderness.  Because both at DVC resorts and Fort Wilderness people have stoves and such, the selection at their stores is much better than at other resorts.

Remember that you can get to Fort Wilderness by boat from the Magic Kingdom.

This material continues here.

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16 comments

1 Wyatt { 12.23.10 at 2:08 pm }

This site appears to get a large amount of visitors. How do you get traffic to it? It offers a nice individual spin on things. I guess having something real or substantial to talk about is the most important factor.

2 Dave { 12.23.10 at 5:02 pm }

Wyatt–most of my traffic comes from search engines analyzing things like titles and such of my pages, although I do have thousands of repeat visitors!

3 Joni { 07.07.11 at 3:43 pm }

Free samples of Chocolate at Giradellies (Market place)
1/2 Price appy’s at House Of Blues 3-5 pm
Big Ham & Cheese Crossiants at France Bakery World showcase EPCOT for about 5.00 great for lunch or dinner.
Split meals (Most are big enought to do so)

4 Dave { 07.07.11 at 4:49 pm }

Thanks Joni!!

5 Becky { 10.03.11 at 1:15 pm }

We always shop at the local Super Walmart, it’s cheaper and you can get Disney shirts and other stuff for less $$$. Of course you can only do this if you have a car or take a taxi, which may blow your savings anyway.

6 Dave { 10.04.11 at 5:06 am }

Hi Becky! You mean the one on Turkey Lake Road, or a different one?

7 Don { 10.05.11 at 3:16 pm }

I absolutely love this site even though I have been visiting Disney since I was a child I have found this an exceptional resource and it has been very helpful in planing my trip but I was a bit upset by your joke in this post. I don’t know why you disparage sprouts and tofu, I don’t think wanting to feed your family healthy fresh food should be made fun of, you always seem so nice and respectful of different choices in every other section of this site. I ‘m not saying you MUST price check fresh produce as of course this is your site and your prerogative but why mock healthy shoppers?

8 Dave { 10.05.11 at 4:29 pm }

Don, thanks for the kind words about the site, and even more important, thanks for pointing out my thoughtlessness. I’ve taken out that sentence, and I really appreciate your reminding me to be kind and respectful! All the best Dave

9 Gail { 09.12.12 at 10:43 pm }

Our favorite value meal is the 1/2 chicken and ribs platter at Cosmic Rays (includes mashed potaoes and a veggie). Only uses 1 quick service credit on the dining plan, but easily big enough for 2 adults to share. Also check menus on line ahead of time. Some places don’t have specific kids meals, so you can get an adult size meal for a kids dining plan credit. Let the kids split an adult meal later in the week and conserve dining plan credits. At the pizza place at HS I got a personal size pizza, side salad and milk for a kids credit – plenty for me and my young daughter to share for lunch.

10 Dave { 09.13.12 at 6:57 am }

Great points, Gail, thanks!

11 Shirley { 02.02.14 at 5:10 am }

Hi Dave!
Thanks for all the great information on the site. Definitely a great resource for our upcoming trip . How much would the cab fare be from the Art of Animation to the closest grocery store? Am wondering if that is a better option than buying from an online grocer? Do you know if bell services would keep our extra food that cannot be kept in the mini fridge during our stay?

12 Dave { 02.02.14 at 8:52 am }

Shirley, sorry but I don’t know what the cab fare would be, but would guess round trip plus waiting time will be less than $50. Bell Services won’t keep your food, but you can buy a Styrofoam cooler at the store and use it back in your room to supplement the mini-fridge.

13 Gail from the Rock! { 03.30.14 at 11:09 am }

Shirley & Dave:
I prefer not to use on-line shopping-with-delivery-to-room because I like to compare prices, pick out my own produce/perishable, & browse for items like Disney Souvenirs & unadvertised specials.

I only needed a cab one way back to the Resort:
……ONE WAY CAB (used MEARS) back cost me ~$15 to POFQ, and another time ~$5 to BLT/CR (Nov 2013 & Jan 2014)

I chose to “walk” there: Took Disney transit to DTD Marketplace, then walked ~3k (~2 miles) to Winn Dixie on Vinland Apopka:
….It was ~2km along Hotel Blvd to Vinland Apopka (That intersection has a smallish Goodings Supermarket –some prices are higher, but IMHO not significant. I wanted a larger selection so I bypassed that).
….And another ~1km, turning left up Vinland Apopka to WINN DIXIE
….The walk portion took me 30-35 mins.

This way I had options of checking out DTD & eating lunch at one of the many eateries enroute on Vinland Apopka:
…..eg Shoneys, Subway, IHOP, Denny’s, a Chinese Buffet right by the Subway (I spoke to a couple leaving who told me it is good value/good food).
There’s also some minor shops & a Walgrens Pharmacy enroute.
…….The WinnDixie was great, you can sign up on the spot for a customer discount card. Like many stores, they sell pharmacy goods, summer supplies and Disney souvenirs, and even wheeled totes!

I brought my own folding grocery wheeled bag & large reuseable bags (including an insulated one) from home, which made it less tedious to get from the Cab to my Resort room. (one year I walked back from Winn Dixie to DTD, but walked really fast on a hot day & wore down the rubber on the wheeled tote…. that was a pain as I then had to carry a very heavy tote!)
I called MEARS when I got to the checkout, so not much of a wait– they take your cell number & text you a few mins before Cab approaches the block!

Great site, Dave!

14 Dave { 03.31.14 at 7:52 am }

Hi Gail, and thanks for your thoughts and the kind words!!

15 Linda { 05.14.14 at 7:08 pm }

Someone said they took a small wheeled tote in Disney world to carry food and water. can you still do this? we have to be conservative. Linda

16 Dave { 05.15.14 at 11:32 am }

Linda, I wouldn’t. Use small backpacks.

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