Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Trip to Disney on a Fishstick Budget

There is one little phrase that makes my heart skip a beat... Vacation to Walt Disney World! What child or adult for that matter, does not Fantasize of a trip to Disney?! This ultimate family vacation spot is expensive. Crazy expensive. Even for an ex-Cast Member like myself. You would think I would know how to keep it under $500 bucks but that’s laughable. When a single day ticket is now $105 per adult (in Disney, an “adult” is anyone over 10). For a family, these costs get ridiculous and this is not even considering hotel or travel expenses. Luckily, Disney has discounts for Military personnel and their families. This does help two ex-Cast Members come to terms with buying park ticket. Let me tell you it’s hard to pay $100 a ticket for one day when you use to get into the parks for free whenever you wanted!!! Thank you Disney for offering discounts for the Military and their families! We truly appreciate it! By the way if you go the military route DO NOT FORGET to have your tickets exchanged at Guest relations!! Believe me we missed a whole rope drop because we also had to go back to the resort to get Miltary IDs. 

Then there is food, a family of four can easily spend upwards of $200 per day on food and water alone. And treats are EVERYWHERE at Disney! 

When you first come into the Magic Kingdom and walk down Main Street towards the castle, they have blowers pushing the smells of cookies and confections out the stores to you in the street! So if you are going to bring your own food, it needs to satisfy despite that onslaught of temptation.

This year, Ryan and I decided to go visit Disney in the fall to celebrate Halloween. But in order to be able to go, we needed it as cost effectively as we could. There are plenty of ways to save at Disney, and there are whole websites dedicated to this subject. But I wanted to share how I pack food enough so that we only have to purchase dinners in the parks (sometimes not even dinner). Because one other great thing about Disney theme parks is you can bring in your own food. We are honestly perfectly content with this idea.

First, I have to admit most people going to Disney are traveling from elsewhere. So my advice is useful for those who are driving to Disney or have access to transportation because a trip to the grocery store is required or a well stocked five day cooler. In Florida, they are blessed with a very decent grocery chain called Publix. They are easy to find around Orlando, and a quick search on Google Maps shows 3 locations just minutes from Disney. 
So second, I pack a small cooler and bring it as a backpack (see my ryan in the photo below, blue hat. cooler is in the back). 

Third – nutrition. I will give Disney this, they really have made progress in offering some healthier options at concessions. One evening, I ordered a child’s dinner consisted of chicken with grapes, yogurt, and milk. Then one meal I had a sandwich with hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw on multigrain bread. Not too bad at all for amusement park food. So, it is good to see Disney improving there. Except for our cheat meal!! I just love Casey’s on Mainstreet at MK.

On the other hand, I have seen articles on packed lunch ideas listing out all sorts of organic foods to pack. I get irritated when I read these articles because with all that ‘organic’ food, I would save no money. I flirted with organic in the past and saw my grocery bill shoot up $50-60 as a result. I can’t justify that, especially when organic food is not automatically healthier. And we do not eat enough red meat to justify buying half a cow.
What I do believe in is eating REAL food. I usually cook from scratch. I go to the farmer’s market. I have a small vegetable garden. I avoid artificial sweeteners. So with the majority of our diet coming that way, it does not bother me to allow some crackers (love my goldfish crackers!) and occasional treats. To me, this is balance. …And I recycle.
Ok, onto the food….
This photo is a sample of what I packed for our days at the parks.

Even more important than food is water! It is as hot as the sun at Disney in the summer – only more humid. Figure on a bottle per person per hour if it’s Africa hot, which adds up to a lot of water quickly. And they charge $2.50 per 16.9 oz bottle of water in the parks. Honestly, it’s not possible to avoid buying water, but I highly recommend at least bringing in some to get you through part of the day. You can get free ice water at any quick serve stand that serves drinks in cups at Disney! All you need to do is ask for one. We’d often just ask for a cup of ice

Breakfast in the Hotel.
If you stay in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast – great! Good luck finding that around Disney though. Also, the way we operate, we just want to get up and get to the rides! So, when staying in a hotel, I pack bananas, cereal, and milk. Bananas are filling and come pre-wrapped as a perfect to-go food and cereal can be quickly made in a hotel cup. Instant oatmeal works too using hot water from the coffee machine. Just remember to bring plastic spoons. We love bringing Fiberone Bars and we even brought the Keurig this time with Starbucks Holiday Blend K-cups and mini moos.

Lunch Prepared in the Hotel Room.
I like freshly made sandwiches, so I make our sammies the day of. If staying in a hotel, we bring everything needed and store it in the hotel room fridge. I also bring plastic wrap or foil, utensils, and some paper towels to lay down on the hotel desk to make a “clean” surface for putting the sandwiches together. Although once, I completely forgot to bring all this stuff, so I just assembled the sandwiches quickly in the park when we were ready to eat. This was still easier and cheaper than buying food in the park.

Lunch Idea 1:  Chicken Salad Sammies
  • Use deli meats and cheeses or make some yummy chicken salad.
  • serve on Hawaiian sweet sandwich buns
  • Chicken Salad Combine all ingredients  in a bowl. Serve on the sandwich buns. Yields: 4 servings.
    • 2 c cooked chicken, chopped
    • ⅓-½ c light mayonnaise
    • ½ c pineapple tidbits
    • ¼ c dried cranberries
    • good pinch kosher salt
    • pinch fresh cracked pepper
    • 1 large celery rib, diced
    • 4 Hawaiian sweet sandwich buns

You can even use the leftover cranberries with some cereal and nuts to make a trail mix.

Lunch Idea 2:  Mediterranean Chicken Salad Subs
  • 2 c cooked, chicken breast, chopped 
  • ¼ c light mayonnaise
  • ¼ c onion, finely diced
  • 4 bakery sub rolls
  • additional toppings: kalamata olives (pitted), sliced pepperoncini peppers, fresh spinach
Mediterranean Marinade
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic, rough chop
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper
Just combine in a large ziploc bag and add your meat of choice. If marinating steak, do so overnight in the fridge. If using chicken, marinate 6-8 hours in the fridge. Then grill! (We bring the George Foreman grill)

Lunch Idea 3:  Deli Subs!
  • ¾ lb deli meat (we like Boar’s Head Buffalo Chicken, Virginia Ham, and Roast Beef)
  • light mayonnaise to spread
  • sliced cheeses (we like Publix-brand pepper jack and sharp cheddar)
  • fresh spinach
  • 4 bakery sub rolls or 8 slices sandwich bread
With the sandwiches, I always have some chopped fruit or veggies (such as single serving carrots and ranch packs), cheesesticks (if there is not cheese in the sandwich), and juice boxes. Publix sells pre-chopped fruit in convenient packaging, and I usually grab some watermelon or cantaloupe since they are so refreshing on hot days.

    (Sorry thought I should show some of the yummies)

Snack Ideas:
hummus, pretzel chips – (single packs with pretzel chips are available in the deli section)
pre-sliced apples with single serve peanut butter packs (such as Jiff natural – they come with 6 servings)

When you order food in a Disney park, there’s a certain chaos involved. Lines, indecision, keeping track of the kids, noise. So in addition to the cost savings, we like keeping at least that chaos to a minimum. You deal with enough crowds on the rides. Instead of having that at lunch too, we relax. Then of course we cave and get some ice cream at some point.

After all, it is Disney!

1 comment:

  1. A Trip to Disney on a Fishstick Budget is always a great fun one can have. And I think you all had a great fun there too