Best Values if You Don’t Have Dining Plan?

scheddj

Take that Tag Fairy - I made my own!!
Joined
Mar 14, 2006
This will be the first time in over a decade we won’t have the dining plan or a full kitchen. What meals/snacks are the best value when paying out of pocket?
 

EsseG

Earning My Ears
Joined
Nov 21, 2017
Rather than specific meals/snacks, here are strategies for saving $$:
Kid's meals for adults
Shared meals
Entree without sides
Appetizer + dessert, no entree
Table service for breakfast and lunch, counter service for dinner
Research menus before you go Disney Menus
Use Mobile Ordering to make your selections without the rush at the cashier stand

Pack:
Small plastic sandwich box and/or baggies for leftovers=evening snack or next-morning breakfast
Flavored drink powder for free ice water
Snack packs and bars

The biggest difference for us is the 3 full meals with gourmet expectations DP mind set vs. 2 quick meals plus a special snack and more time for rides OOP mentality. When we don't build our days around getting full value from the DP, we move much faster. Nothing wrong with building a Disney trip around food; it's just not a priority for every trip.
 
  • scheddj

    Take that Tag Fairy - I made my own!!
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2006
    Thanks for the ideas so far. We won’t have a car so offsite isn’t an option for us.

    Back in the day, before the dining plan existed, we used to do a lot of kids meals and splitting adult meals like the rib and chicken dinner at Cosmic Ray’s. The ones we used to get don’t exist anymore. I know the pulled pork fries at Flame Tree and the pulled pork mac & cheese at 8 Spoon are large, taste good and are a good value at approximately $7.

    I guess what I’m really looking for are things that made you say “wow, that was really tasty and cheap ( for Disney)”.
     

    karen4546

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 3, 2012
    Thanks for the ideas so far. We won’t have a car so offsite isn’t an option for us.

    Back in the day, before the dining plan existed, we used to do a lot of kids meals and splitting adult meals like the rib and chicken dinner at Cosmic Ray’s. The ones we used to get don’t exist anymore. I know the pulled pork fries at Flame Tree and the pulled pork mac & cheese at 8 Spoon are large, taste good and are a good value at approximately $7.

    I guess what I’m really looking for are things that made you say “wow, that was really tasty and cheap ( for Disney)”.
    LIke previous posters said- choose kids meals for adults. They are very filling and include a drink. for around $7

    Split the platter at Flame Tree. the pulled pork fries are great to share also.

    If you go to a sit down restaurant that is not a buffet - split an entree and order an appetizer.

    Try the brunch/breakfast at The Wave - it is like $20 and worth it. There are couple of other places that you could have a late breakfast and consider that your lunch also.

    My husband and I get the dining plan if we are bringing the grands because we do a lot of character meals. If we don't have the grands, I put the money that the dining plan would have cost on to a Disney gift card. We just did this in September and we ate and drank around the world, ate at Sanaa, Teppan Edo, Cape May, Sci Fi, and several other places and ordered everything we wanted. We split entrees where available and order one or two appetizers. We had over $200 left over on the gift card. OH, and I paid for 2 resort refillable mugs with the gift card. We also used the gift card for tips. I will add that we have the TIW card for 20% off food and alcohol.
     

    VAfamily1998

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 8, 2008
    We never do the dining plan. We like to do a lot of "special experiences" that aren't covered by dining plan so we just don't find it cost effective.
    We bring food with us for breakfast in the room, or if that's not possible maybe one adult could take a cab/lyft/uber to a local grocery store to pick stuff up.
    We usually just do one table service per day.
    We bring snacks from home.
     
  • mzsarah10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 8, 2012
    we haven't done the dining plan the last three or four trips. we enjoy the freedom of choosing whatever we want. One value we find is sharing a large pizza at Via Napoli and sharing a combo at Flame Tree BBQ with extra fries.
     

    David G Farr

    I didn't mean to put my real name as my handle
    Joined
    Oct 11, 2016
    Brown Derby Lounge was a great bang for my buck. My gf and I shared 3 of their small plates for lunch, got completely stuffed, for $25 a piece. We could have just done 2 of the plates and been fine and gotten out for less too. The quality is way better than any quick service too.
     

    only hope

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2014
    I think Cosmic Rays still has a half chicken dinner that is huge. I’ve read that the Mexican place near Splash has huge portions too. The bowls at the canteen in Pandora are big enough to split. If you want to save a lot of money, bring enough food to pack lunches and all snacks. You could pack oatmeal and bowls too and make oatmeal for breakfast at the hotel. If you’re checking a bag and like pbj’s, pack all the ingredients and assemble sandwiches for lunch in the parks. Or buy the individual packs of tuna which can be carried on and bring bread or crackers for lunch.
     
  • shocker

    It's a WDW realty that not every moment is magical
    Joined
    Mar 18, 2008
    My short list for paying OOP:

    ESPN & Big River Grill @ Boardwalk
    Trail's End buffet at FW
    Any QS to forego tips. Satuli Canteen in AK will even have you eating on real plates & using real silverware.

    As PP say, at least pack your own snacks.
     

    Bahamontes

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 9, 2019
    Some really, really small things go a LONG way to saving enough money that you have more options.
    Breakfast, for me, is an essential for a long day at the parks. It also adds up really fast, and offers some of the least value at QS. So by doing breakfast in the room every day (yogurt and granola, cereal and fruit, etc), I’m set up pretty well before I even leave the room.
    Peanut butter and jelly / banana and Nutella sandwiches - like, a lot of them! - end up subbing for QS snacks for me most times. Instead of mindlessly grabbing a Mickey pretzel, I know I have something to eat that requires neither lines nor cash.
    Beer/soda offer the least value, and I’m a HUGE fan of both.

    I always hit a Publix on the way down, or have groceries delivered, to make the above possible. Haven’t done the dining plan in a long time.
    An Uber to a nearby restaurant can often be cheaper than dining in park.

    Actual best bang for the buck foods:
    Bread service at Sana’a
    Chicken bowl at Satuli
    Chicken gyro at Harambe Market (the combo one is not as tasty and costs more)
    Any sandwich at Les Halles
    Fish and chips at YC Fish Shop
     

    Minniesgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2013
    Thanks for the ideas so far. We won’t have a car so offsite isn’t an option for us.

    Back in the day, before the dining plan existed, we used to do a lot of kids meals and splitting adult meals like the rib and chicken dinner at Cosmic Ray’s. The ones we used to get don’t exist anymore. I know the pulled pork fries at Flame Tree and the pulled pork mac & cheese at 8 Spoon are large, taste good and are a good value at approximately $7.

    I guess what I’m really looking for are things that made you say “wow, that was really tasty and cheap ( for Disney)”.
    We have done offsite many times wthout a car. bus to downtown Disney then walk to the Crossroads.

    But then we get tired quickly of Disney food.
     

    ezma

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    May 14, 2004
    I am not sure the time frame you are going ...but for our "dinning plan" we have a chase Disney visa card we use the points from the rewards for our dinning. One year we did not go for 3 years and I had a little over 3000 points to spend!! Now if you pay your bill off each month its free money to spend at Disney!! For this coming trip in Feb. I have close to 1350 points to use for dinning. Again you must pay off your visa bill in order for it to be free.
     

    sunsetbeachgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 22, 2010
    Great suggestions above. We love the kids meals especially the ones at the food courts, as they include beverage and the little packages of fruit. If we don’t eat the fruit it goes in the room fridge for a snack. But, I only get the kids meal if it is a smaller portion of an adult meal, Not the ones that are specific for kids, just not my taste.

    Someone else mentioned our favorite, Wolfgang Pucks express in the old Disney Marketplace area of Disney Springs. Their portions and pizzas are large so we can split one entree and split a salad. We also like the Yorkshire Fish in Epcot, Pecos Bills in MK and 50’s Prime Time for a sit down meal.
     

    chris benton

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Kimonos at Swan for sushi. For quality in WDW, the simple nigiri options are a bargain.

    Flame Tree's spare ribs full slab platter (get the onion rings, please.) This is shareable for two to three people, adn it's pretty decent qs "in park" food, it's not just the quantity.

    Made to order sub sandwiches at Fuel in Dolphin. BARGAIN!

    Many ppl love the fajita platter at Pecos Bill. It's easily shareable for two ppl. I found it to be horrific, but that's just my opinion, plenty of pl love it.

    Schwarma Platter at Tangierene Cafe - I'd only get the lamb - the chicken is more of a chicken "product." It weirds me out a little - like when people call turkey loaf "turkey" - yeah, that's not turkey, and I don't want it for a sandwich, thanks. turkey is not a rectangle, I've had turkey before.

    Make a dessert party a dinner! Check the savory options, and see if you can spin those into a dinner to get a better perceived value. We can do this easily, and I think WDW has made a mistake calling them "Dessert Parties."

    Paying OOP - just eat at the same places you normally would, especially if you LIKE those places, and order what you'd like- you might find that you spend less money. You might order much less, and still be just as full, or well, maybe less full.

    I'd also suggest strategic snacks in the room and also park bags:
    Cereal, milk, spoons and bowls (or whatever can float your boat for a breakfast in your room that makes sense.) Am park time is precious, imo. But, we are am people. We are up and at em ready to go for rope drop or emh. A bowl of cereal (or whatever) makes an easy, quick, start to the day while fam members are getting ready..

    Non sugar laden snacks for the park.
    Jerky, and peanuts are in our bag. Stuff that won't get crushed, or melt. We'll get plenty of sugary treats form vendors. We are pineapple float hounds to our core. Ice cream at Ample Hills and the joint in the France Pav will generally see us a few times per week.

    Starbucks Via if you are coffee ppl. Their packets for cold sweet drinks are pretty decent - just need some cold water, ice, and a decent cup to make a coffee treat on the go.

    None of this stuff is out of the ordinary for us. It's just not overpaying for not so great food, just because we're at Wallyworld. And even tho we walk ten miles a day, we still somehow manage to come home a few lbs heavier! It's not like we don't still eat and drink more than we should! Good luck - hope you find some winners to share, we are always looking for more.

    I'll also add that Teppan Edo and Hoop De Doo, all in all, are not bad bets for OOP considering the entertainment. HDDR can actually be cheaper oop.
     

    loves to dive

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 21, 2011
    A lot of good suggestions here. As far as things that make you say wow, hard to say since everyone's tastes are different. What we enjoy:

    Instead of doing 3 meals a day, some days we will do a big breakfast (which for us is a QS meal and I get a kid's meal) then just a quick snack mid-morning and lupper (lunch/supper) at a TS somewhere.

    We also love to eat appetizers for a meal instead of a meal - Spice Road Tables has some good ones, we order two and share. Nomad Lounge is another favorite. HBD lounge is another favorite. The wine bar at Italy has some great cheese plates.

    If we are eating QS, I always get a kids meal, more often than not, my son has to finish even that for me. We love to eat at Tangerine Cafe in Morocco, huge servings are easily shared.
     

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