$400 Budget Update – Disney Version

Our cupboards are nearly bare and I have spent exactly $0.00 in the last week toward the $400 budget.  I will head to the store later on and stock up.  In the meantime, we are going to do something a little different for my Thursday budgeting post.

Yesterday, the Team Made Family arrived back home from a wonderful, albeit exhausting, week away to Walt Disney World.  Over the next several weeks, we will post a whole bunch more about the trip.  You will learn why we went there, what we did, how much fun we had, and of course, how we saved money.

It would not be a Team Made Family post about vacation time if we did not save money in some capacity, right?  Here is the thing that just about everyone knows about Disney, though: it is extremely difficult to save money there.  Because let’s be real: Disney really, really wants our money.  All of our money.  In our more-frequent-than-we-have-ever-intended trips to Florida, we have learned a few tricks to thwart Disney’s money-snatching ways, though.  And we are more than happy to help others use those techniques, too.

Today, I am going to share how we saved money by bringing along some of our own food to Walt Disney World.  Next week sometime, I will show what we spent on food purchased while traveling, at the resort, and in the theme parks.  You will see our final total for seven days, five people.  The amount is a little staggering, but it could be a whole lot worse.  Especially considering that we are talking about Disney, after all.

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First, two notes that are not always well known:

  • Disney does allow visitors to bring their own food into the theme parks.  Straws are not allowed in Animal Kingdom due to safety concerns, but otherwise pretty much everything else is fair game.
  • All Disney resorts have refrigerators in the rooms.  Some also have microwaves.  This is handy, because there is a grocery service that delivers to the Disney Resorts.  It is called Garden Grocer.  I found Garden Grocer’s prices pretty steep.  Their customer service is outstanding, though, and I am not sure how we would have acquired perishable food otherwise.  In this one instance, I was willing to splurge (a lot) so that we could have fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, and milk.

While we were in Disney, our breakfasts were very consistent: cereal with milk, fruit, and maybe a hard-boiled egg.  We ate all of these meals in our hotel room.  Lunch was the same every day as well: a carbohydrate I would not normally buy (the kids insisted on Sun Chips), beef jerky (I was a little afraid of food poisoning with other meat varieties), a fruit, and a vegetable.  We stuck to water in our collapsible bottles to stay optimally hydrated.

Snacks varied.  I tried to sneak in as much fresh produce and as many sources of protein as possible.  I always planned for three snacks a day.  Sometimes we were only hungry for two.  On Father’s Day, we bought an afternoon snack at Disney–ice cream.  Supper was purchased on site every day from a Disney restaurant.

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Everything I brought from home came with me in a large Rubbermaid tote.  My kids were slightly embarrassed by my frugality, but they will thank me later when we still have enough money left in the food budget to continue eating for the rest of the summer.  Just kidding.  Every day, we loaded up a small cooler with the food we needed and headed off for adventurous fun.  It was a pretty seamless process.

Here is what I purchased online from Garden Grocer:

  • Hard boiled eggs (1 doz.), Cheese sticks (12 ct.), Whole milk (1 gal.), Go-gurt (8 ct.)
  • Fresh green beans (1 lb.), Celery (1), Apples (3 lb.), Carrots (2 lb.), Grapes (2 lb.)
  • Total price: $62.83 including the $14.00 delivery charge

If I had just gone to my local grocery store and purchased these items on sale, I would have paid about $40.00 less.  But in the end, I figure it was worth it anyway.

Here is what I brought from home:

  • Granola bars, Trail mix, Soynuts, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Peanut butter, Beef jerky,
  • Fruit leather, Raisins, Carrots, Craisins, Applesauce,
  • Pretzels, Cereal, Sun chips, Gluten-free pretzels, Veggie straws, Ginger snaps,
  • Cheese cubes, Shelf-stable almond milk,
  • Water flavoring.
  • Total price: $143.51

Grand Total: $206.34

This total, while more than we would normally spend on groceries, helped significantly in keeping our Disney food purchases down.  I estimate that we saved roughly $300.00 by bringing along so much of our own food.  How so?  We would have spent around $200.00 just for our lunches, so we essentially saved ourselves the cost of all our breakfasts, snacks, and beverages.  Plus, we have some leftovers here at home that will be incorporated in our regular menu.

What are your favorite ways to save money on food in Disney?  Let me know in an email or comment below!