Military Family Disney Dining Budgeting Strategy

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers

Military Disney Dining Budget Strategy

Military Family Disney Dining Budget Strategy

Is your Military family heading to Walt Disney World and you’re hoping to not break the bank? Believe it or not, you can go to Disney and not spend a fortune on food. All of the tips and tricks below.


Coming up with a Disney Dining Budget Strategy

I know when you think of Disney, the word “budget” doesn’t seem like it would go in the same sentence. But let me assure you, if you want to (or need to) stick to a budget or pre-determined amount, it can be done! Obviously, every one’s family is different and their eating styles will definitely vary. So hopefully this strategy can at least guide you in your attempts to not spend *too much while on vacation.

Stay at Shades of Green

So my first suggestion for coming up for a budget strategy is to stay at Shades of Green.
If you were unable to make a reservation or decided to stay elsewhere, skip on down.

Personally, one of my favorite reasons for staying at Shades of Green is because of the incredible money saving abilities you have while staying at Shades of Green. Everything is tax free and much cheaper than inside the parks or at Disney Resorts.

Shop at the Exchange/Pre order groceries

Whether you’re staying at Shades of Green or not. Shopping at the Exchange or pre-ordering groceries is a great way to save money and stick to your budget. Buying groceries so you can have breakfast in the room, making sandwiches for lunch, and packing snacks to bring in the parks are all money-saving ideas. A great grocery delivery service at Walt Disney World is Vacation Grocery Delivery. Not only will they deliver your groceries, they also have $5 daily stroller rentals and pre-made gift baskets.

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Unless you’re choosing to splurge to have breakfast at a character dine, do not overpay for breakfast items in the parks or at a Disney Resort. This (along with snacks & bottled water) is the biggest waste of money. If your little ones like a hot breakfast or really want some Mickey waffles, consider giving them a small morning snack to hold them off until it’s closer to lunch, and that way they will stay full later into the day and won’t need such a big lunch.

Bringing food with you into the parks is also a huge money-saving tip. A lot of people are surprised to find that you can bring outside food and drinks into the parks. You can opt to bring your own lunch with you or leave around Noon to have lunch in your room. And as I said above, buying snacks in the parks is a HUGE waste of money. What you will pay for a banana or a small bag of chips in the parks is likely 3-4 times more than what you would have paid at the Exchange or by pre-ordering groceries.

Eat at Shades of Green restaurants

Another reason why I tell people to stay at Shades of Green is because of how reasonable the restaurant prices are. The Quick Service restaurants like the Express Café and Evergreens Sports Bar have great options, that can easily be shared between two children and/or are reasonably priced adult meals.

Updated Build Your Own Fried Rice: $19.95

Another great thing about the restaurants at Shades of Green is the meal deals. For dinner, Garden Gallery offers three different options. A family pizza combo that includes a large pizza, chicken wings, and a 2 liter of soda. There is also a Build Your Own Fried Rice or Pasta meal that have HUGE portions and will easily feed two or more. For a family of four, you could totally split 2 meals and spend roughly $50 and still have too much food.

Do not pay for water in the parks

A big, big, big waste of money is to pay for bottled water in the parks. What you will pay for just one bottle of water in the parks, you can buy an entire case of water. Bottle water in the parks is insanely overpriced. I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT PAY FOR WATER IN THE PARKS! Instead, buy water from the Exchange or order a case and have it delivered. You can also ask for FREE water cups at any Quick Service restaurant.

Another idea is to bring a reusable water bottle or camelback. We like to freeze the (almost full) bladder of the camelback overnight. Then in the morning, we add a little bit of cold water so we have water available right away. As it de-thaws during the day, we have cold drinking water. There are a few water refilling stations where you can refill a reusable water bottle.

Magic Kingdom Water Refilling Location(s)

  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Water Refilling Location(s)

  • Near Expedition Everest ride entrance
  • Near the Flight of Passage ride entrance
  • Near the Na’vi River Journey ride entrance
  • Jambo House playground

Epcot Water Refilling Location(s)

  • Near the restrooms by Starbucks in World Showcase
  • Epcot Experience
  • Odyssey Events Center

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Water Refilling Location(s)

  • Near the Slinky Dog Dash ride entrance
  • Near the exit of Smugglers Run
  • Near the restrooms in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • At the bus stops/Skyliner station, outside the park

Sharing is caring

California Cheese and Charcuterie Plate from BaseLine Tap House in Disney’s Hollywood Studios – $10

Yes. Sharing is allowed at Disney.

Many people are shocked to find out that you can share meals at Disney. The portion sizes at many Quick Service, and even Table Service, restaurants are very big. And can easily be shared between two children, or an adult and a small child.

Sometimes what my husband and I like to do is sample a little bit of everything. So instead of us both getting an entrée and an appetizer, we will share. Sometimes we will split a couple of appetizers and that way we both can try a number of things.

Bavarian Pretzel from BaseLine Tap House in Disney’s Hollywood Studios – $9

Dining Budget Strategy

Chicken Nachos from Evergreens Sports Bar $12

How to spend less than $100 a day on food

This example is based on a family of four, two adults and two children under 9

  • Day 1:Arrive
    • Garden Gallery (2) Dinner Specials $19.95/each
    • Shop at Exchange buy breakfast items $8, bread/pb&j $6 + chips $5, milk & waters $8
    • Total Spent: $66.90
  • Day 2:Rope Drop Magic Kingdom
    • Have a quick breakfast in the room or while walking to the bus stop
    • Head back to the resort & have lunch in the room or at the pool
    • Dinner at a Quick Service restaurant $15/adult $7/kid
    • Total Spent: $44
  • Day 3:Rope Drop Disney’s Animal Kingdom
    • Have a quick breakfast in the room or while walking to the bus stop
    • Lunch at a Table Service restaurant $25/adult $10/kid + tip
    • Head back to the resort, swim & have early dinner at Evergreens (2) pizzas $17/each
    • Pack snacks to take to the park in case someone gets hungry in the evening
    • Total Spent: $104
  • Day 4:Break day
    • Have brunch at Garden Gallery $19.95/adult $11.95/kid
    • Head to Disney Springs grab a small bite to eat or share $40 max
    • Resort Hop via Disney Bus to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort share snacks/appetizers $50
    • Total Spent: $153.80
  • Day 5: Rope Drop Disney’s Hollywood Studios
    • Breakfast from Express Cafe – share (2) $7/each
    • Pack lunches to eat in the park
    • Dinner at a Quick Service restaurant $15/adult $7/kid
    • Total Spent: $58
  • Day 6: Rope Drop EPCOT
    • Breakfast from Java Cafe – muffins (2) $4.30/each
    • Walk around the World Showcase, sample multiple items from Food Booths
      • Average food price $10 x 10 = $100
    • Dinner at a Quick Service restaurant $15/adult $7/kid
    • Total Spent: $154
  • Final Total Cost: $580.70
    • Divided by 6 days = $96.78day

Obviously, there are a lot of other factors that can increase your food spending. These are just examples and can hopefully provide you with an idea of how to not overspend or at least spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars a day on food.
NOTE: If your family are big soda drinkers, that will significantly increase your spending (same goes for adult beverages). So keep that in mind when budgeting. Just like with water bottles, you CAN bring drinks into the parks, but definitely no alcohol. So if you know your someone is going to want to have a coke with their meal, grab those things at the Exchange or add your drinks to your grocery order. Also. Know that energy drinks are very hard to come by in the parks. If you or someone in your party is an energy drinker, make sure you buy them ahead of time (at the Exchange/grocery order).

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