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I know it seems impossible, but eating cheap at Disney World is easier than you think. For those on a budget, the prospect of affordable food at Disney World is often daunting.
However, it is entirely possible to achieve Disney dining on a budget. I promise you, not only are there cheap eats at Disney World, but they are also delicious (Updated January 10, 2022).
Eating Cheap at Disney World Basics
Let’s face it, a trip to Disney World continues to get more and more expensive. It’s more important than ever to know all the tips for making your trip more affordable. That’s where Disney dining on a budget comes into play.
Dining is probably one of the areas you can manipulate the most in order to keep your trip under budget. This post focuses on all aspects of how to eat cheap at Disney.
Some people are looking for ways to keep their Disney food budget close to the bone. These people are looking for the cheapest way to eat at Disney World.
Others want to save in some areas of dining in order to splurge in others.
A lot of the information below can be adapted to whichever scenario you are looking for in order to save money on food at Disney.
How Much Should I Budget for Food at Disney World?
The answer to this question can vary widely. There are so many factors to take into consideration there really isn’t a stock answer.
The final number that represents how much it costs to eat at Disney is determined by some of the following factors:
- Family size
- Type of restaurant
- Length of trip
- Whether you have any dining discounts
- Eating habits
- Ages of group members
What I recommend is to attempt to figure out how much you are willing to spend on food per person, per day. This will give you a much better idea of which of the following tips you need to employ in order to stay within your budget.
As you’ll see below, I successfully ate for $35 a day during a short trip. Recently, my family of 4 spent a total of $986 on food for a 6 night trip. And that was before you factor in that I paid with discounted Disney gift cards and used my Disney Visa rewards redemption card.
If you haven’t already, look into the Disney Visa rewards card. The sign on bonus is usually a nice bit of extra money to put towards your trip.
It is VERY easy to go overbudget on dining at Disney when you are in the moment. If staying on budget is important to you, you need to have a pretty solid plan in place before you go.
Before your trip, haunt the Disney World dining website. It has full menus and up to date prices on all of the restaurants around Disney World. Play around with different combinations of food to find out what you can eat in your Disney food budget.
11 Tips for Disney Dining on a Budget
Here is a list of a few basic tips to enjoy Disney dining on a budget. All of these tips are pretty easy to accomplish, some just require a little awareness.
1. Get Groceries Delivered to Your Resort
This is one of my favorite money saving Disney World hacks. And technology has made this so easy for us! You used to have to physically stop at a store on your way to the resort to pick up items. Now you can order food for delivery as soon as you arrive in Orlando.
There are a few different grocery delivery services you can choose from, but my favorite is Amazon Prime Now. If you are already an Amazon Prime member it is a free service. You do need to spend $25 in order to get free delivery.
However, I haven’t found that to be a problem for my family of 4.
If you aren’t an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime shortly before your trip. This gives you all the benefits of Amazon Prime while you’re in Disney.
I’ve gotten everything from breakfast foods to snacks to an extra piece of luggage through Amazon Prime Now. All of this was delivered right to my resort within hours of placing the order.
Other grocery delivery services to consider:
- Garden Grocer
- Wholefoods via Amazon ($9.95 delivery fee applies)
- Walmart+ (sign up for the 15-day free trial just before your trip)
You do not need to be present to accept the order either. The groceries are delivered to bell services of your resort where they can refrigerate your order.
Once you’re ready, head to bell services and pick up your food. If you pick it up from bell services yourself, there’s no fee, but if you have the groceries delivered to your room, expect to pay a $6 per package handling fee.
Bottom line: The more food I provide for myself and my family the less we need to spend on food at Disney World.
2. Pack Food to Bring Into the Parks
Now that you’ve had all those groceries delivered to your room what do you do with them? Well, obviously you eat them…
These next two tips are the direct reason for having those groceries delivered. Many of us spend very long days in the parks. As such, you are a captive audience when everyone gets hungry.
Disney is known for the great snacks they offer. However, those expenses can begin to add up over the course of a trip. If you bring your own snacks into the parks you can decrease the amount of money spent on snacks.
My goal is for everyone to choose one Disney snack a day. The rest of the snacks we need through the day come from the backpack. This way we get to enjoy Disney’s famous snacks within a reasonable Disney food budget.
If you want to, you can even pack entire lunches for your family. Disney has a generous policy when it comes to bringing food into the parks. Coolers are permitted in the park as long as they are smaller than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high.
Pack some sandwiches and find a quiet spot to enjoy your lunch.
An insulated backpack like these is a great way to pack your lunch or any other perishable items. The fact that it’s a backpack makes it easier to carry around.
Of course, if you have a stroller with a nice storage basket, the world is your oyster when it comes to coolers.
In addition to the size limit, Disney doesn’t allow rolling coolers either. I definitely don’t recommend a hard side cooler of any sort. They’re just bulkier and heavier. Trust me, you don’t want that added weight all day.
If you don’t want to carry your cooler all day, you can always opt to rent a locker at the park and store it in there.
Also, either bring your own ice packs to put in the freezer each night, or bring freezer bags to fill with ice. Loose ice is not permitted in the cooler.
3. Eat Breakfast in Your Room
This is an absolute must for us. It’s just an easy way to cut down on some of the food costs. We typically go to a character breakfast once during a trip. But the rest of the time it’s breakfast in the room.
The type of room you stay in will impact that type of breakfast you can manage. If you are staying in a Deluxe villa you have access to a microwave or stove which ups the options considerably.
However, below you will find some breakfast ideas that work in most other rooms.
Ideas for Breakfast in Your Room
- Fresh fruit
- Breakfast bars
- Single serving cereal bowls
- PopTarts – if that can be considered breakfast…
- Peanut butter and jelly – because why not?
And yes, I will pack some of this stuff in my suitcase to bring from home. The bonus is that once you eat it all you’ve freed up space in your suitcase for souvenirs!
P.S. – Just make sure you also pack spoons or other items you might need to eat and prepare the food. If you forget this, simply go to the quick service restaurant of your resort and grab some!
4. Always Eat at Quick Service Restaurants
If eating cheap at Disney World is your priority, then eating only at Quick Service restaurants is the way to go. Quick Service restaurants are essentially Disney’s version of “fast food”, just 100 times better.
Honestly, considering they have you as a captive audience, the prices on Quick Service meals aren’t horribly outlandish.
It really is possible to have delicious Quick Service meals for lunch and dinner every day of your trip (plus a snack!) and spend less than $35 per person each day.
Keep reading this article and you’ll get to my section all about how to do that.
5. Order Free Ice Water With Your Meal
I know this is boring but it also saves you a ton of money over the course of a trip. At every restaurant you have the option of simply asking for ice water.
Cast Members at Quick Service restaurants will either give you a cup of ice and water already filled or hand you a smaller sized cup to fill at the soda fountain. And it is FREE!
At the time of writing this post it costs $3.99 for a fountain beverage and $3.50 for a bottle of water. And these are popular for price increases so they’ll only go up from here.
If you order a fountain beverage for lunch and dinner every day of a 6 day trip you are looking at $48.77. Now multiply that by everyone in your party. It adds up.
Alternately, you can bring your own water into the parks. Whether you do this in the form of water bottles you’ve ordered from grocery delivery, or bring a refillable water bottle like this this one, you can refill it with that free ice water.
I have the insulated version of the water bottled pictured above. I can tell you from experience that it keeps things cold all day long in hot temperatures.
However, it’s a little on the heavy side for carting around the parks all day. So go with whichever is more important to you: cold water all day or a lightweight water bottle.
6. Grown-ups Can Order Off the Kids Menu Too!
While this is not the case at Table Service restaurants, at Quick Service restaurants there is nothing stopping you from ordering a meal from the Kids menu.
Some people just don’t need all the food that comes with the adult size entrees. I personally eat like a horse so this might not work for me, but it will work for others.
And Kids meals come with a beverage bundled into the price! Let’s take a look at an example. At Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe the entree size Pork Carnita Bowl costs $11.99, not including a beverage. The kids size Pork Carnita Bowl costs $7.69 and comes with a small bottle of water and a side of fruit.
7. Don’t Buy Combo Meals
Disney World (and most other fast food restaurants) tend to push combo meals, giving you a side and beverage for an upcharge. But you don’t HAVE to get a combo meal.
If you have a smaller appetite, just getting the entree itself might be enough for you. That along with your free cup of ice water will definitely be cheaper. Maybe split a side between two people and you have yourself a meal.
8. Share Your Meal
Nothing states that you absolutely must order a separate meal for everyone. If you have a couple people in your group who want the same thing, consider splitting an entree.
Again, in some respects this needs to be done by people who tend to eat less. Or who are splitting a meal with a child. However, there are some meals that are so large you can easily split it between two rather hungry adults.
Clearly, this won’t work with every type of meal, but there are definitely meals large enough to use this strategy.
9. Kids Can Split Adult Meals
Sticking with our theme of splitting meals, you can also split an adult size entree between two kids. If we go back to the Pecos Bill Pork Carnitas Bowl, if two kids share it, you are now paying $11.99 for two people instead of $7.69×2.
Of course, this assumes you have kids who not only like the same food but can cooperatively share the meal.
10. Make Lunch Reservations at Table Service Restaurants
If you want to throw in a Table Service meal or two as a treat, stick to certain seatings for a cheaper price. In some Table Service restaurants, the lunch seatings are cheaper than dinner. This is particularly true with buffets.
11. Lounges for Signature Restaurants Offer Great Food for Less
This is one of my favorite ways of eating cheap at Disney World while still getting some amazing food. Every one of the Signature Restaurants around Disney World has a lounge attached to it.
The Signature Restaurants are Disney’s version of fine dining and are amazing. It just so happens that a Signature Restaurant and its lounge share a kitchen. And food. And sometimes even menu items. All of this at a fraction of the price.
One of my favorite places to eat at Disney World is Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom. Nomad Lounge is attached to Tiffins and serves small plate items. Delicious small plate items. Doug and I have successfully made a full meal out of splitting some of these small plates.
My favorite things to eat at Nomad Lounge are the Chicken Satay and Churros (gluten free!). These two items total $19 and will fill you up completely. Trust me I know. I might have eaten all of that by myself…
It’s a crying shame for all of us that the Chicken Satay is no longer on the menu, but there are several other drool worthy choices to choose from.
But $19 for Signature Restaurant caliber food is amazing.
Which Restaurants Offer the Cheapest Table Service at Disney World?
As I mentioned before, just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you don’t want to experience some sit down meals as well. There are some Table Service Restaurants which offer cheaper meal options than others.
Character meals will ALWAYS be more expensive than non-character meals, so keep that in mind. But here are some of the cheapest places to eat at Disney World if you want a sit down meal.
I LOVE eating at the Plaza Restaurant. The food is delicious and soooo reasonably priced. The most expensive entree on the menu costs only $22. That is just insane. You can get an entree for as low as $17!
In addition to that, you could order the Plaza Loaded Fries appetizer for your whole meal and be completely stuffed. That will set you back a whopping $9. That is a meal for a cheaper price than a Quick Service meal.
And the Plaza Loaded Fries are utterly delicious.
Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness
At Trail’s End you can find delicious stick to your ribs food at a reasonable price. While it used to a buffet, thanks to the pandemic it’s now family style dining. It currently costs $30/adult and $18/child. And the food really is so darn good.
Seriously, it’s a lot of food, all done with a southern BBQ flare. It is scrumptious.
Via Napoli Ristorante
This one only works if you are all willing and able to split a pizza or an entree between at least 2 people. Or perhaps split an entree and appetizer if you are a couple of adults.
Let’s say you and your partner want to enjoy a nice Table Service meal at Epcot. Because Disney World is a great place for adults! But you don’t want to break the bank. You decide to split the Mozzarella Caprese appetizer ($12) and the Spaghetti e Polpettine ($28).
Once you factor in a tip your meal comes in around $23ish per person (of course depending on tip size and tax). Not too shabby.
The dining room at Splitsville (Disney Springs) is another place you can potentially get a large pizza to split between your family. Their menu is actually quite extensive and offers everything from sushi to pizza to sandwiches.
But splitting a pie is where you get the most bang for your buck.
A large pepperoni pie costs $18. Split between 2-4 people (depending on appetites) this is a nice inexpensive meal during your Disney vacation.
Sanaa (at Animal Kingdom Lodge) is NOT a cheap restaurant by any means. However, if you go with the plan to avoid the entrees and eat your fill of appetizers you will not leave disappointed.
Sanaa is famous for its Indian Bread Service (also offered gluten free!) which costs $19. While that seems like a lot, it’s also large enough to split. I would suggest that you actually order a selection of appetizers to share with the adults in your group.
By doing this you are able to have a truly amazing (and outside of the box) dining experience for a fraction of the price.
How to Eat Cheap at Disney World – $35 a Day!
During one of the trips I took with my sister I made it my mission to keep to a pretty strict Disney food budget. I planned it all out ahead of time, even factoring in the assumption I would over eat at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.
Because I can’t resist an Epcot festival…
I was there for 3 nights (4 partial days) so the trip was on the shorter side. However, what I learned during that trip can certainly be expanded to a week long trip.
I’m going to show you an example of how you can do this at each of the parks. Keep in mind, Disney can increase their prices at any time which might change the numbers.
But the examples themselves should consistently show how eating cheap at Disney World is not only possible but easy.
There are a few things to point out about these examples:
- This is based on adult meals; kids would be cheaper
- Water is free at each Quick Service location
- Breakfast is always eaten in the Resort room
- Each example is for one person
- I didn’t include tax. Because that’s way too much math
- If you use some of the other tips mentioned above you can get the overall cost down even more
Sample $35 Day at Each Park
I’m going to break down examples of lunch, dinner, and a snack at each of the parks and Disney Springs. These are just some examples but there really are any number of combinations you can come up with.
- Satu’li Canteen: Chopped Wood Grilled Chicken Bowl, $12.99
- Flame Tree BBQ: Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork, $12.49
- Pongu Pongu: Pongu Lumpia & Night Blossom drink, $9.78
- Total: $35.26
- Crepes a Emporter by La Creperie de Paris: Cream of Brie Cheese Galette and a Butter & Sugar Crepe, $15.90
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse: NOrth Carolina Chopped Smoked Pork Butt Platter, $12.99
- L’Artisan des Glaces: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich, $7
- Total: $35.89
- Columbia Harbour House: Chicken Strips, $9.99
- Pinocchio Village Haus: All Meat Flatbread, $11.99
- Cheshire Cafe: Cheshire Cat Tail, $5.49
- Total: $27.47
- Woody’s Lunchbox: Totchos, $9.99
- ABC Commisary: Chicken Club Sandwich, $12.49
- Hollywood Scoops: Brownie Sundae, $7.49
- Total: $29.97
- Cookes of Dublin: Famous Fish and Chips, $14.99
- D-Luxe Burger: El Diablo Burger, $12.49
- Everglazed Donuts: Peanut Butter Explosion Donut, $5.75
- Total: $33.23
Aside from the fact that each day’s total came in right around $35 (and under) there is one major thing I want you to notice: you aren’t stuck eating burgers and fries everyday.
This is one of the wonderful things about dining at Disney World. There is a tremendous amount of variety in your food choices.
Let’s pretend that this menu represents a 5 day trip. This person spent $161.82 (plus tax) on all their food. For 5 full days at Disney World that is phenomenal. See, it really is possible to save money on food at Disney!
As I updated this today, I admit I wasn’t sure if I could pull off the $35 a day goal. What with supply chain issues and rising food costs, I didn’t know if it was still possible.
But I’m very happy to report that it is. Not only that, in some of these examples I actually chose foods that cost a little more, or gave you two items in one meal or snack.
In the end, I hope this proves to you that eating at Disney World on a budget is not only possible, it’s delicious.
Eating Cheap at Disney World With Food Allergies
The good news is, if you have food allergies, you can use the same basic examples as above. I eat gluten free, so it’s something I pay attention to.
There might be slight upcharges here and there for specialized foods, but to be honest, I’ve never actually noticed any. This is just yet another example of why it’s so wonderful to eat gluten free at Disney World.
When I successfully ate at Disney for $35 or less per day my entire menu was gluten free.
Final Thoughts on Eating Cheap at Disney World
As you can see, not only is eating cheap at Disney World possible, but you can have some really delicious food to boot. And it’s actually pretty easy, all things considered.
So please, don’t think you have to break the bank in order to eat at Disney World. Just because there are restaurants that cost a fortune doesn’t mean you have to go to them.
Or maybe you pick one splurge meal for the family and make the rest of your meals cheaper.
Really, the (Disney) world is your oyster! Make your dining experience at Disney cost as much as you want.
And then you can make everything even cheaper if you pay using your discounted Disney gift cards. Score!
What do you think of these cheap eats at Disney World? Have you eaten at Disney World for even cheaper than $35 a day? I would love to hear any tips and tricks you’ve used to make your meals cost less. Let me know in the comments below.