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30 Top Ways to Save Money on Food at Disneyland

30 Top Ways to Save Money on Food at Disneyland

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Buying food at Disneyland can take a big chunk out of your vacation budget! There are many ways to save money on food at Disneyland using these tested tips. This article contains insider ideas on what to order, where to eat, and how to pack your own food for a day at Disney.

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This article originally posted January 16th, 2017 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

Save Money on Food at Disneyland

Disneyland can be the Happiest Place on Earth. It can also be very pricey! But contrary to what you’ve heard, Disney vacations don’t have to be expensive. You can do a cheap Disneyland vacation, and still experience all the magic of the theme parks.

These practical ways to save money on food at Disneyland will help ease the stress of your vacation budget.

One of the BIG ways my family saves money at Disney Parks is at meal time. Using these tips, you can do Disney on a budget and save money on food at Disneyland, without sacrificing any of the fun.

Plan One Disneyland Parks Meal

If money is tight, consider only eating one of your main meals in the theme parks. Use the tips in the rest of this article, including packing snacks or eating at the hotel to round out meals for the rest of the day.

To truly budget the cost of your meals, use the Disneyland app to view restaurant menus and dining costs. Figure out how much dining will actually cost, then make a note of what you’ll plan to order so there’s no last minute guessing.

Need to stay on a Disneyland budget? Use the free printable worksheet in this article to keep track of Disney Vacation Costs throughout the trip planning process.

Save Money on Food at Disneyland By Skipping Meals

I know, it sounds odd that I would suggest that you DON’T EAT as a way to save money on food at Disneyland! But hear me out.

There are several ways you can opt out of purchasing another meal and save yourself a chunk of money. With a little planning, here are a few scenarios to making this work well for your family:

Eat a Big Breakfast and Skip Lunch

Eat a large breakfast, perhaps indulging in a buffet at a character experience. A big breakfast may stave your family off until late afternoon.

Enjoy a snack or two mid-day (something that you pack in). This will allow you to skip lunch completely and then eat dinner early.

Free Breakfast, Early Lunch and Hotel Dinner

Take advantage of the free breakfast that’s served at many of the Anaheim area hotels (more on that to come in this article).

Dine in the theme parks on an early lunch, then return to the hotel for dinner.

Big Lunch and Snacky Dinner

Dine on a light breakfast of food that you’ve packed in, eaten while waiting for rope drop. Enjoy a few packed snacks if anyone gets hungry, thank purchase a hearty lunch in the park.

Choose a generous meal for lunch that will fill everyone up. Consider eating past your usual lunch time.

When the family gets hungry late in the evening for your usual dinner meal, enjoy a special treat or snack instead. Ice cream for dinner is one of our favorite ways to celebrate at Disney!

DISCOUNT DISNEYLAND TICKETS – My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through January 12th, 2025. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today today and lock in the best pricing of the year.

When you’re ready to book your Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package (when booking 2+ nights with two or more tickets).

Which Meal is Cheapest – Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner?

If you’d like to eat one meal full-service but are still trying to be budget conscious, consider table service dining for breakfast.

When dining full-service, the prices of the dishes will increase at lunch and raise even higher for dinner. This holds particularly in regards to the cost of character dining buffets.

Child in a Minnie Mouse dress sits outside Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel
Breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen character meal is much cheaper than dinner.

Make Water Your Beverage of Choice

Skip the soda and ditch the juice. Water is your budget-friendly beverage option! Water is a savings of several dollars per person, per meal to just drink water instead of ordering sodas.

Plan to Drink Water

  • Pack empty water bottles. These can refilled at water refill stations throughout the parks.
  • Disneyland offers free water. Guests can request complimentary ice water at any quick service restaurant.

Bring Your Own Beverages

  • Feel free to bring in your own water bottles, juice boxes, or plastic soda bottles.
  • Flavor water with hydration packets or water enhancers, like Mio.
It's Hot at Disneyland! What to Do When Temperatures Soar
Stay hydrated with bottled water that you bring in with you

Customize Your Orders

Does the menu only show “meal deals” that include a main dish, side dish and a beverage? You can, in most cases, request only the main dish at a reduced cost.

For instance, if you only want the burger (but the deal comes with fries and a soda), request only the burger. Confirm the cost with the Cast Member, as it should charged at a discount.

Choose Quick Service to Save Money on Food at Disneyland

When it comes to budgeting for food at Disneyland, always choose a quick service meals versus full service dining. Quick service (or counter service restaurants) are the equivalent of “fast food”, however the meal quality is often much higher. Full service dining (or table service restaurants) include a wait staff.

Less Expensive Meals

Meals at quick service restaurants are generally lower in cost than at full service restaurants.

No Plate-Splitting Cost

Sharing food is an ideal way to save money on food at Disneyland. However some of the upscale restaurants including Blue Bayou may charge a fee to share a meal.

More Flexibility

Eating quick service is a great way to eat at Disneyland without Advance Dining Reservations. If you decide you aren’t really hungry for a full meal, you can easily change plans without risk of being charged a fee for a last minute reservation cancelation.

No Extra Gratuity

A regular table service meal requires tipping of your waitress or waiter. No need to work extra gratuities into your dining budget if you eat at quick service restaurants.

Flo’s V8 Café offers both indoor and covered outdoor seating.

Use Mobile Ordering

If you’ve planned out all your dining choices for the trip, you’ll be able to easily use the mobile ordering feature to stay on budgeting track.

Using mobile order via the Disneyland app allows you to place a quick service dining order through your device. Simply plug in the time block for pick-up when ordering. Then press the “I’m Here” button when you’re ready to eat.

Aim to mobile order early in the day if you want to stick to your schedule. By mobile ordering meals, you’ll be more likely to stay on budget and not add in spontaneous purchases.

Review your order at the end to ensure you’re within budget and use a credit card, Disney Visa Redemption Card, or gift certificate for payment through the app.

Take Advantage of Free Breakfasts

Many of the Anaheim Good Neighbor Hotels serve complimentary breakfasts. These free morning meals range from grab-and-go bags, light continental breakfasts, to a full hot breakfast prepared to order.

Read the fine print (or call the hotel ahead of your trip) to know what to expect of your free breakfast.

Anaheim Hotels with Free Breakfast

Ayres Hotel Orange – Complimentary hot breakfast buffet with plenty of seating.

Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South – Made-to-order omelets and a completely free hot breakfast buffet are a major perk! Return to the Embassy Suites in the evening for the “Manager’s Reception” with complimentary snacks and drinks.

Hyatt Place at Anaheim Resort – There’s plenty to satisfy the family with this free breakfast at Hyatt Place!

Book a Hotel with a Kitchen

Families that want to save a lot of money on food at Disneyland take advantage of the hotel kitchen. There are a variety of ways to use a kitchen, even if you aren’t preparing complete meals.

  • Use the fridge to store drinks and cold foods.
  • Freeze ice blocks in the freezer to chill sandwiches and salads you bring into the parks.
  • Use the appliances, like the toaster for Pop-Tarts and coffee maker for a cheap morning brew.
  • The microwave can be used to make popcorn or heat frozen vegetables.
  • Take advantage of the stovetop to prepare hot meals, including macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, or oatmeal.

READ MORE: Hotels with a Kitchen Near Disneyland, including additional suggestions for meals and which hotels including the best amenities (like dishwashers!).

Sonesta ES full kitchen

Good Neighbor Hotels with Free Breakfast AND a Kitchen!

These gems offer both a free breakfast and a full kitchen. Families on a tight budget can dine on a complimentary breakfast, then prepare a complete lunch or dinner in the hotel kitchen.

Element by Westin Anaheim Resort Convention Center – Not only do they offer an expansive hot breakfast buffet, the Element also has suite rooms with a full kitchen.

Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort Convention Center – Dine on the hot buffet breakfast daily or cook something for the family in the full in-room kitchen. The Residence Inn is within walking distance for an afternoon retreat.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort Convention Center – Another hotel with both a hot buffet breakfast and full kitchens. The Homewood Suites is conveniently located next door to the Toy Story parking lot for quick (and free) access to the theme parks on Disneyland bus transportation.

Homewood Suites full kitchen

Pack Snacks in Your Luggage

Purchasing snacks in your hometown to bring on vacation is a reasonable way to save money on food at Disneyland. Pack a cooler with food and drinks for a Disney vacation road trip. Bring snacks onboard the plane with your carry-on.

Pack only lightweight snacks if adding them to your suitcase for air travel. When flying to Disneyland, be sure to check the airline policies in regards to luggage weight restrictions.

Snacks to Bring From Home

Choose shelf stable items in sturdy containers that won’t easily break. Look for sturdy crackers, like Wheat Thins or Triscuits, and potato chips like Pringles that come in a tube.

Fruit snacks, granola bars, protein bars, beef jerky, and dried fruit are ideal. Avoid anything with chocolate that could melt, and obviously nothing that requires refrigeration.

Save Money By Ordering Groceries

Getting groceries is a practical way of stretching the food budget while at the Disney parks. This will allow you to keep food in the hotel fridge and pack things in to the theme parks.

Best Grocery Store Items for a Disneyland Vacation

  • Consider buying things like milk with cereal, eggs, oatmeal packets, and breakfast pastries for breakfast.
  • Fresh fruits and veggies are great for snacking. Purchase pre-cut to save time, or prep them yourself and distribute into Ziploc bags for storage.
  • Loaf of bread or bagels for lunchtime sandwiches. Purchase jars of peanut butter and jelly or sliced deli meat and cheese.
  • Pre-made salads and meals are all great ways to save on the cost of theme park restaurant dining. Look for microwavable meals or sandwich packs in the grab-and-go section of the grocery.
  • Boxed pasta, like macaroni & cheese are kid-friendly and easy to prepare if you have a hotel room with a kitchen. Spaghetti noodles with pasta sauce can be made on a stovetop. Look for individual frozen dinners, like pizza, that can be made in a microwave.

How to Order Groceries for Delivery in Anaheim

Check with the front desk to find out their policy on deliveries and drop offs. Some hotels will hold an order for you, and some will require your presence. Most grocery locations will request that you check in at the hotel first, then place your order.

Grocery stores in the Anaheim area – If you have a vehicle, rental car, or can take an Uber or Lyft, consider picking up your own groceries. Vons, Target, Walmart are large local grocery stores that also offer hotel delivery.

Online or App ordering – Many guests swear by Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and DoorDash for Anaheim grocery delivery.

Convenience stores – If you just need a few small things, area convenience stores like 7-11 and CVS are nearby.

Hotel Mini-Mart – Many of the Anaheim hotels (including Disneyland Resort hotels) offer basics like milk, packaged snacks, and single servings of cereal in their lobby or souvenir shop.

Saving Money at Disneyland Food Festivals

The Disney California Food & Wine Festival, Lunar New Year, and Disney California Festival of Holidays are seasonal events that offer special foods at quick service kiosks.

These plates of food are high-quality, limited-time dishes. They can’t be found outside of the event. And for for that, you’ll pay a premium price!

Budgeting at Disneyland Food Festivals

At the kiosks for these events you’ll be able to order fancy appetizers, small servings of a top-notch dish and alcoholic sips. It’s important to be aware that each one of these mini-delights could be almost the same cost as a full-sized quick service meal!

If you’re wanting to indulge in a few of these kiosk treats, stick to a set amount. Items can be purchased individually as you wish. Choose wisely, or else your Disneyland trip meal budget could be eaten up very quickly.

Save Money with a Sip & Savor Pass

All of these Disneyland festivals offer a type of punch card. The pricing for a Sip & Savor Pass works out better than if you pay separately for each individual item.

Purchase a Sip & Savor Pass at one of the participating locations inside Disney California Adventure park. The cost of a Sip & Savor is offered at a discount for Magic Key holders.

Use over multiple days – The Sip & Savor doesn’t have be used in one day. Spread out the Sip & Savor Pass use over a couple days as a special vacation splurge.

Pay attention to the prices – Choose only the most expensive items when using Sip & Savor tabs to get the most value from the card.

The Disney California Food and Wine Festival is an annual family-friendly event held at the Disneyland Resort, inside Disney California Adventure park. Get all the tips for taking toddlers, preschoolers and kids to this special event including what to do, kid-friendly dining, shows, entertainment and itinerary for a well-balanced day!
The Sip & Savor Pass is a budget-friendly option for all guests.

Share a Plate of Food to Save on a Disney Trip

Reduce your overall food costs by sharing meals between other family members. Many of the platters in the Disney parks are large enough to share between two or more people.

You can find large platters of food ample for sharing at many full-service and quick-service dining locations. Be sure to read this post for exact recommendations on what to order in this article, the best meals for sharing at Disneyland.

Be aware that some table service restaurants may charge a plate-splitting fee. If you’re eating quick-service, request extra plates to divvy up the meal.

The sandwich and rings combo at Hungry Bear is big enough for two.

Avoid Leftover Food by Sharing

If each person in your group orders their own dish, you’ll not only be stuck with a large bill, you also may be stuck with leftovers!

Leftover food at a theme park is unpractical. Depending upon the food, it could also require refrigeration to keep it safe to eat. It’s better to order just enough to enjoy meals that are freshly prepared.

When is Sharing Food at Disneyland NOT Allowed?

One place you will be unable to share is at a character dining buffet. The only guests that may share food from a buffet without additional cost are very young children, aged 2 and under.

Every guest gets charged to eat at buffets, except for kids two and under.

Which Snacks Are Best to Share?

Sharing is a great idea when it comes to Disney Resorts purchased snacks and treats, as well! Bring separate Ziploc bags to divide up snacks for sharing between multiple family members. Some snacks and treats are easier to share than others.

Bagged treats that are sold in the candy shops are very easy to divvy up. Candied apples can be sliced up to make it easier to share. It’s a great idea to share boxes of popcorn, big cookies, and churros.

Saving Money on Disney Kids Meals

Kids meal sizes and prices are smaller than full-sized meals. And that can be a both a positive and a negative, depending upon your needs!

Kids Meals Are In Smaller Portions

If you want to experience Disneyland flavors, but don’t need a large portion, try one of the kids meal options.

Some restaurant locations serve identical food on the kid’s menu compared to the adult menu, just in a smaller serving. An adult can order a kids meal at any quick service dining location!

Want to avoid the Disneyland meltdown on your vacation? Temper tantrums at Disney can be avoided by following these tested tips with advice for a happier kids. Includes a list of quiet places to rest inside the Parks and tips for kids with special needs.

Disneyland Kids Meals Cost Less

Comparing the cost of Disneyland dining, a kids meal costs less than an adult meal. If you want to enjoy Disneyland food at a cheaper price, try one of the dishes off the kid’s menu.

Reasons NOT to Buy a Kids Meal

Personally, when it comes to ordering meals for my own kids, I very rarely order them kids meals! I’ve found the cost of buying a single adult serving and having the kids share is a better value.

Purchase one full-size meal to split between two children. This will offers children a good portion, and a greater variety of food as well. The menu for kids is often limited.

READ MORE: If you often share plates when dining, find out What are the Best Meals for Sharing at Disneyland.

Dozens of ways how to save money on food at Disney! Save money on dining at Disneyland and Walt Disney World with these dining tips.
A full sized burger meal to be shared (avocado on the side!)

Save Money on Food at Disneyland with Disney Visa Credit Cards

Earn Points to Redeem on Food in the Parks

One insider tip to save money on food at Disneyland is to use Disney Visa Redemption Dollars to pay for meals on vacation!

Use the Disney Visa credit card before your trip when purchasing as one of the easiest ways to earn money towards your vacation. A percentage of your everyday purchases goes into Disney Visa Redemption card that can be used for dining, tickets, souvenir shopping, hotel, and more.

Every little bit helps! Depending upon how much you spend, you may end up with several hundred dollars banked to pay for meals. We’ve personally use our Disney Visa to pay for all our resort dining for years.

Disney Visa Cardmember Dining Discount

Once on vacation, use your Disney Visa credit card to pay for dining and receive a discount. Select restaurants within the theme parks and resort hotels offer a 10% off the dining total. Be sure to check the list of participating locations, as this perk does change on occasion.

Beware the Disney Souvenir Cup, Straw & Ice Cube

Just about every dining location offers some sort of upgrade to your beverage. These may come in the form of souvenir cups, twisty straws shaped like Mickey’s silhouette, or flashy glowing colored ice cubes.

Naturally these add-on’s come at a steep price! Disney seems to hit pretty hard on the kids menu in this category. Make sure you work these add-on items into your souvenir budget!

Check out these tips about the Disney Souvenirs to Buy BEFORE Your Disney Vacation.

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort is simply magical! Here are the top tips on maximizing your Christmas at Disneyland vacation.
Adorable souvenir straws add more to your dining budget

Best Food to Pack for Disneyland

Yes, you can take in your own food to the Disney parks! Just use common sense when packing in snacks or meals. Certain foods, like lunch meat and yogurt will need to stay cold, so pack them in a soft sided cooler with a chill pack. Read up on what to bring to Disneyland, so you aren’t turned away.

Food To Bring Into Disneyland

Bringing food into Disneyland is easy, if you know what to bring and how to pack it. Pack items that won’t get crushed or broken in your bag (nobody really wants that mushy banana, do they?).

Stay on Track with Dietary Meals

For some guests, staying on a restricted diet on vacation is important. Whether it’s for health, allergies, or personal reasons, there are ways to find healthy food at Disneyland.

In any case, if you have a dietary restriction, be sure to let security know when you’re bringing in your own meals.

Splurge on Something Special

For my family, we’re usually packing our own snacks and meals into Disneyland to stay on budget. That said, we often will splurge on bringing a special food for our kids that they don’t have on a regular basis.

A treat like licorice, fruit leathers, squeezable applesauce, yogurt covered raisins, and mini muffins are always welcome! They might cost a bit more than the usual snacks, but still much cheaper than snacks purchased in the parks.

Eat with Discounted Gift Cards

When you use your Target Red Card to purchase Disney gift cards, you’ll receive 5% off! That may seem like small savings. But if you’re eating a lot of meals in the parks and paying for them solely with these Disney gift cards, you’ll be saving good money!

Watermelon Lemonade at Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Plan a Disneyland Picnic

If a picnic in the theme park sounds like an enjoyable way to dine, check out these tips. Pack your own lunch, then settle in at one of these perfect picnic areas at the Disneyland Resort!

Disneyland Picnic Area Outside the Parks

Just outside the entrance to Disneyland is an official picnic area. There are concrete picnic tables for dining outside. Rent an oversized lockers for storage of a soft-sided cooler with food.

Mickey’s Toontown Picnic Areas

Families are encourage to sprawl out on the grassy areas throughout Toontown for resting and dining. There are additional shaded spots in several locations throughout Toontown.

Find out more about the best Disneyland Toontown rides and attractions, including these picnic spots.

grassy resting area in disneyland toontown

How to Save on Disneyland Desserts

Don’t Buy Dessert at Table Service

If you’re dining at a full-service restaurant, skip ordering dessert off the menu. The dessert prices are going to be considerably higher in the sit-down restaurants versus quick service.

In-Person Vs. Mobile Ordering

Before you purchase a dessert via mobile ordering, check out the actual item in the shop. This way, you’ll be able to judge the size of the dessert to verify it’s worth the cost.

Look for Sharable Treats

Some desserts are easier to share than others. For instance, buying a dessert sundae is less expensive than purchasing individual ice creams. You can often request to buy cones separately. Then simply scoop some of the sundae into a cone!

Mickey sundae at Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland

Choose Just One Splurge Meal

If you’re already booking a hotel room and purchasing multi-day tickets to the theme parks, the added cost of daily dining at the theme parks will definitely bump up the vacation budget. That said, Disneyland dining can be a special experience that’s worth splurging on!

Disneyland character meals are often one way that families splurge on dining. These experiences offer guests a chance to personally meet ‘n greet with favorite Disney characters while enjoying a large buffet-style meal.

Consider making your splurge meal on the last day of your trip. This gives your family something to look forward to on the getaway day. Pick a special meal at one of the on site hotels to stay in the Disney magic just a little while longer!

Read more about some of the Disneyland splurges and how to save money on the costs.

Little girl in Minnie dress holding a Minnie Mouse waffle

Eat Away From the Theme Parks

No reason to feel trapped with your park-only choices! Guests can leave the parks and dine elsewhere. These are some ideas for cheaper meals in the Anaheim area:

The Disney Hotels and Downtown Disney District have lots of dining options with budgets that fit everyone.

At Disneyland, it’s also pretty easy to walk outside the Park to grab meals at a reasonable price. Restaurants like McDonald’s, Denny’s, Mimi’s Café, and Pizza Press are located outside the gate within a ten minute walk.

More Ways to Save at Disney!

Disney vacations don’t have to be over-the-top expensive. There are lots of ways to have a cheap Disneyland vacation!

This article includes links to many other posts that details other ways to save money at Disneyland during your vacation. Here are my best tips for budgeting on a trip:

Dozens of ways how to save money on food at Disney! Save money on dining at Disneyland and Walt Disney World with these frugal dining tips.

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Lori Ketcherside

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

We are big fans of eating lunch at sit down restaurants rather than dinner and splitting meals. Another good money saver is the free cups of ice water rather than purchasing bottled water.

Julie Bigboy

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

Yes, meal sharing is a big one for our family of 6!

Becky @ Disney in your Day

Tuesday 17th of January 2017

I like being able to get a kids meal when I'm not that hungry! That I will say that we were at Tutto Italia (and it is a sit-down, so maybe that's part of it) and my friend tried to order off the kids menu and they wouldn't let him. He couldn't eat anything on the regular menu so he literally did not eat dinner. I've had no problem ordering kids items at other sit-downs so I'm not sure what was going on there.

Julie Bigboy

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

Hmmm, I wonder if they didn't let him order a kid's meal because it was a full service restaurant :( In his case, I would have tried to make a special request for a meal, the chef is usually pretty accommodating.

Kimberly K

Tuesday 17th of January 2017

We also use Disney gift cards from Target to buy nearly everything at Disney and we share plates a lot. It also doesn't hurt to ask about discounts. I've found some restaurants that give me a discount for my annual pass or my DVC membership or my Disney debit card that I have for my checking account at Chase bank. Thanks for the tips!

Julie Bigboy

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

Yes! We often take advantage of the Disney Visa discount in restaurants as well!

James

Tuesday 17th of January 2017

Getting creative with ordering by customizing your meal, sharing plates, or getting kids' meals is a great way to save money. Sometimes we're in such a rush to get in and out of a meal that we don't take the time to think it through.

Julie Bigboy

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

For sure, it does take a bit of advance planning to remember all these little details!

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