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Old 05-23-2013, 09:52 AM   #1
mermaidblue!
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family of 4 did WDW dining on the cheap

Just returned last week from 6 days at Pop Century May 12-17. We never left Disney property. Approximately $50 worth of groceries were purchased at Walmart in advance:
Cereal/bowls & spoons
Bagels
Peanut butter
Apples/oranges
2 gallons of milk (which fit nicely in the POP fridge, btw)
Pop tarts
Cinnamon rolls (huge!)
Soy milk
Pre-cooked bacon packages ($1.99 for 15 strips which we shared every AM
after heating it in the food court microwaves! Loved this idea.)

This provided breakfast/late night snacks for 2 adults, 2 kids (7 & 12). All other meals were counter service meals purchased at POP or Disney parks. We charged every meal with our Key To The World, and they gave us the bill when we left. I had estimated we might spend $25 per "adult" on 2 CS meals + 1 snack a day, and $17 per day for our 7yr old kid. Estimated total around $550, plus $50 of Walmart groceries would be $600. Not bad!

I was astounded that our Disney meals came to only $300 for 6 full days!!! $350 when you include our Walmart groceries.

Yay! We each had ice cream every day, ate whatever we liked, and frequently had more food than we could eat. The key was splitting meals. Our kids are still young enough that they simply don't eat as much as myself and my husband. Splitting meals and sharing sides saved more money than I every dreamed possible. Plus, bringing food for the fridge was an amazing time & money saver! We also brought our own wide-mouthed water bottles, which I filled with ice water at any restaurant w/a soda fountain, free of charge. Real $ saver there. Alot of people don't know that you can ask for a free cup of ice water anywhere in WDW and they will give it to you if they have a soda fountain. Our friends traveling w/us didn't realize this, and wasted cash buying bottled water at every snack cart.

My husband regrets not purchasing the hotel's refillable mug. Would have saved on diet cokes & coffees for him. Live and learn!

Our two previous trips were on the Free Dining plan, which was excellent. : (Loved character dining!) This was my first OOP experience on a serious budget, so I was nervous but I absolutely loved it. Just thought I'd throw that out there for those planning their CS dining...
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:15 AM   #2
nonstopdisneymom
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Thanks for this!! We share a lot of meals when we go out to eat too. I was a little concerned about our food expense for this trip, but you have renewed my hopes of only spending 6-700 for our family of 5-- 2a, 16yr dd, 14yr dd, 8 yr ds. If we can stay in that dollar amount I would be thrilled! And to be able to eat all on property (minus breakfast in room) would make for a nice trip! Thanks again! And glad you had a great trip!
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Old 05-23-2013, 01:48 PM   #3
kbr345
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Great Job!!! Would you mind sharing what/where you ate?
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Old 05-23-2013, 01:51 PM   #4
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Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Very refreshing post. I like to hear about people being frugal and smart in place where frugality is nearly unheard of.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:28 PM   #5
mermaidblue!
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Thanks for the positive feedback.

Wish I'd documented all the meals better. My family thinks it's hilarious when I photograph their food!

We purchased 3 adult meals and shared them, OR we'd order 2 adult meals along with an extra side dish or two, then share. Additionally, I'd bring a couple of apples/oranges or PB bagel along for snacks to eat while we walked around.

Places we ate:
Pop Century Food Court (ate most dinners here, can't beat the variety)
Sunshine Seasons
Bakery in France
Yak & Yeti ($4 fried rice made a great lunch for our 7yr old)
Pizzafari
Restaurantsaurs
Lotus Blossom
Frontierland hot dog cart (snacks)
Sunshine Tree Terrace (icy drinks/ ice cream snacks)
Auntie Gravity (ice cream snacks)


I told the kids they could choose 1 snack per day, just like the Disney meal plan on our last trip. They enjoyed choosing their funnel cakes, cupcakes & ice creams. Worked great.

Definitely take your favorite food staples w/you if possible. Our last day we had a half gallon of milk after we checked out. We took it to the food court w/us and shared a leisurely brunch (purchased there) while we finished it off. It was fun! My kids kept giggling that we had a huge jug of milk on our table.

In the past, I always felt discouraged when I read posts about how much $ people spent on food. (Even just CS meals) But now I know it's possible to eat heartily and keep the numbers down! Wishing magical trips for you all!
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Old 05-23-2013, 11:52 PM   #6
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OP, did you buy your milk from WalMart, too? I was planning on ordering from them, but I wasn't sure how that would work with refrigerated items.
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Old 05-24-2013, 11:28 AM   #7
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Thanks for this. We will be there in a week for our first trip with no DDP. I was double checking my shopping list a little bit ago. Your post was encouraging. Thank for the tip about the food court microwaves. This is our first time at Pop (previous stays at All-Star Movies), so I wasn't sure if they had them. That will help me out even more. Honestly my 10 year-old dd can eat me under the table, but I also have a 3 year-old so there'll definitely be some sharing going on.
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Old 05-24-2013, 01:14 PM   #8
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We always do this, no matter where we stay. We have found that big meals and theme parks don't mix for us, so we stick with breakfast in the room, shared meals or snacks in parks, then dinners either at home or occasional restaurant splurge.

Great things to split are the chicken wraps at CS, large drinks vs. multiple smaller drinks, fish n chips in UK, platters at Morocco, egg rolls and fried rice in China and AK, pizzas and salad meals, funnel cakes at Sleepy Hollow.

Our family has worked really hard to eat less and much healthier. We don't get our money's worth any more at buffets or TS meals, so no only are we eating less, we're saving a TON of money.

Once you downplay eating as part of your daily routine, you find you can enjoy your time and not rush from one place to another. And when you're not weighed down by too much food, you feel better!!
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Old 05-25-2013, 12:36 PM   #9
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I love this as well. We just found out that we have a pin for FD but up to that point, we were doing OOP. I had roughly budgeted about $100 per day for us and that wasn't including the food we were bringing for breakfast and snacks. I was stressing about that because that is a huge impact on our budget. I love knowing this for future trips! Thanks for posting!
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Old 05-25-2013, 12:55 PM   #10
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Also good to have on hand from the grocery store - microwave soups (like Campbell's soup to go) or any of the lunch/snack meals that don't have to be refrigerated (Hormel's make some I think) - When in a pinch - late at night or snacking around the pool - these came in handy - just used the microwave in the food court and nobody even blinked

Our family loves to experience all the food that WDW has to offer, but sometimes its nice to keep the budget in check and know that you can spend $$$ elsewhere on your vacation.
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Old 05-25-2013, 12:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redc View Post
Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Very refreshing post. I like to hear about people being frugal and smart in place where frugality is nearly unheard of.
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Old 05-28-2013, 06:56 AM   #12
mermaidblue!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MermaidMommy View Post
OP, did you buy your milk from WalMart, too? I was planning on ordering from them, but I wasn't sure how that would work with refrigerated items.
My husband stopped at the Walmart super close to Disney (on Osceala Blvd, I believe) & purchased 2 gallons of milk, plus other food stuff. (We had our own car since we drove from Ohio.) I was surprised that 2 gallons of milk plus several cans of soda & sqeezable jelly would fit in the hotel fridge at POP. I took out the bottom rack in the fridge to make room for it all.
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Old 05-28-2013, 03:51 PM   #13
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Great accomplishment


I travel with just adults now, but the one TIP I try to give anyone is the meal sharing/splitting. (especially between kids).
When mine were younger we brought cereal and crackers and other dry snacks in our carry on. ( when luggage check-in was free)
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:40 PM   #14
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Great job OP! I'm always looking for inspiration and ideas to keep our food costs lower.

I didn't realize that you could put all of your meals on your KTTW card. Was it all itemized when you got your bill? What did it look like?
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Old 05-30-2013, 05:30 AM   #15
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This is so encouraging!! We want to go this year and the only thing holding us back is the cost of food. We aren't use to eating a lot of CS but I know there are a lot of choices. I am going to go ahead and book
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