Friday, December 2, 2011

Disneyland MEALS on a Budget

My mom had a “crazy” idea 2 months ago and decided that taking her grandchildren to Disneyland was one of those things on her “bucket list” (that she just needed to do before she died…or wanted to do before she was unable to because of declining health).  So….for Thanksgiving this year, we headed to Disneyland!!!
This was our "most" Disneyland type picture....guess I was having more fun "doing" than hiding behind a camera!
This is NOT our typical type of family vacation.  In fact, it was my children’s AND my husband’s 1st time to Disneyland.  AND....Being a frugal person, I decided to see how cheaply we could do things.

Since our time at Disneyland resembled a family reunion (cousins, aunts/uncles, and grandparents), I suggested we rent a house verses hotel rooms.  Ultimately: it was cheaper, we felt more like a group- yet maintained our privacy, AND we had access to a full kitchen.  (We LOVED that dishwasher!!)  The house we rented was within walking distance to Disneyland—so we avoided the parking fee—yet we were able to enjoy the benefit of riding the parking lot tram.  Thus, saving a small walking distance AND saving a $15 a day parking fee.
Since meals can be one the bigger costs of a Disneyland vacation, we planned on NOT using any restaurants. 

  • House Rental:  Each morning for breakfast we woke up to giant muffins from Sam’s, cereal, juice, bagels, and toast.  (We wanted an “eat-and-run” style breakfast so we could pack in as much FUN as possible.)  And since we rented a house, we just rinsed our dished, put them in the dishwasher! 
  • Hotel/Motel:  Had we been in a hotel, we would have hopefully had a continental breakfast, but IF not we would have done the same breakfast but the dishes would have been washed in the sink before we left.
After we finished breakfast, each person packed their snacks and prepared a sandwich for the day. 
·         House Rental:  We just pulled things out of the fridge to prepare sandwiches and then put the supplies back in the fridge.
·         Motel/Hotel:  I would just pull supplies out of our cooler, prepare sandwiches on the typically small, round table and put the supplies back in the cooler with ice from the ice machine as our “fridge” away from home.
Transporting SANDWICHES to Disneyland: 
·         House Rental:  We brought lunch meat style sandwiches in an insulated casserole carrying case (got on sale from World Market) with reusable ice containers, straight from the freezer—keeping things nice and cold.  (No one wants to get food poisoning from meat gone bad—especially on a road trip!!)
·         Motel/Hotel:   I would bring my sandwiches in a small cooler with ice from the ice machine at the hotel.  Sandwiches could be stored in Tupperware or Ziploc baggies.  If you put the ice into a gallon Ziploc bag as well,  there is much less chance of soggy sandwich!!
Transporting SNACKS to Disneyland:  Each person in our group was responsible for filling a small Tupperware of their favorite sacks.  Then each person was responsible for carrying their OWN snacks in their own fanny packs—including my 4 year old!!  (It didn’t feel so heavy to him, because he was transported to rides via stroller…but the fanny pack was still attached to HIS body!)  Everyone liked the convenience of having their snacks within arm’s reach at ALL times, even when we split up to ride different rides for a short time.

Since Disneyland is the most “packed” in the afternoon, we liked heading back to our rental for an early dinner before our children got cranky.  (We ate about 4:30-5p.m.)   Before leaving for Disneyland, I had prepared some homemade soups (link to my EASY soup recipes) and froze them. 
I chose several flavors of soups from my freezer to bring with us!  Dinner in a snap!!
We brought the frozen soups from home with us—along with some rolls from the Wonder Thrift Store that we bought right before leaving home.  (link to HOW I buy good bread for less).  In the morning, I removed one of the flavors of soup, defrosted it a bit in the microwave—enough that the contents would slip out- and dumped it into the crock pot we brought from home. 
I turned it on “low” and headed out for our FUN day at Disneyland.  When we returned to our rental home after walking around the park ALL day long, and had a meal waiting for us.  I didn’t have to find the energy to cook, our diet didn’t change, and I didn’t hear my children “whine” about when dinner would be ready.  
·         Rental House:   Again, when we were done eating we had the glorious luxury of rinsing our dishes off, putting them in the dishwasher and we were READY for some more fun at Disneyland.
·         Hotel/Motel:  Using a crock pot at a motel/hotel is just as easy.  Just bring your crock pot from home (or pick one up at a thrift store) and plug it in next to the sink area!!  It works like a charm and we’ve never had any complaints!
Easier MEAL, but a little more expensive:  Open a can of stew, canned chili, canned baked beans, or other prepared food (at your local freezer OR Costco) to heat all day long, (while you are away having fun), in the crock pot.
Our 1st day, we rented a locker as a big group.  You have unlimited access to that locker ALL day long.  It was electronic—so our whole group could get in & out of it regardless of our being together or not.  It was a nice way to store everyone’s lunches (ice packs included)…though the locker filled up with everyone’s jackets as they day went on.  However our 2nd day at Disneyland, our group headed out at different times.  We ended up keeping our insulted casserole carrying case filled with our sandwiches in the bottom of our stroller and it worked out just as smoothly for lunch without the locker.
We brought ONE water bottle per person and labeled them with a sharpie.  During the day, we drank water (refilling them as necessary)—but at lunch time everyone wanted juice.  We didn’t want to purchase anything, nor did we want to bring additional things creating a lot of bulk to keep track of.  Sooooo....
I had previously bought “single serving” ON-THE-GO flavor packets at the dollar store. 
We enjoyed lemonade, cool raspberry, and Hawaiian Punch.
There are SO many stores inside Disneyland just waiting to empty your pockets.  My children really wanted little plastic guns that resembled a pirate gun until they heard the price: $8.49 for a SMALL one!  They dropped their pleadings when they heard the price.  They didn’t want to spend their hard earned money on that!  But their urge to “buy” was not satisfied until the penny arcade.   If going shopping is just “calling your children’s name”… Promise them you will take them to the Penny arcade on Main Street, where they can watch old time movies for a penny.   (It was next to the candy factory).  Just dropping that coin into the machine and pressing their faces into the view finder helped to alleviate that urge to just buy “something”.
Our total spent:
  • Restaurants: $0
  • Snacks: $0
  • Entertainment/Shopping: $0.06
  • Food: Nothing more than if I had been a home anyway....everything came out of my fridge, freezer or pantry!!
Other Tips I would share:
  • Use those FastPasses to your advantage.  Whenever you have the chance to get it!  Work the other rides around the FastPasses!
  • Go back to your rooms or house during the middle of the day when the park is at its fullest for a rest, swim, or a snack!
  • Get FastPasses to Star Tours fact get one 1st...and then ride while you wait for the fastpass to become good.  There are 54 short interactive movie could never see them all in one day!
  • A small vile of bubbles from the dollar store is a wonderful tool when waiting in line.
  • Bring a sharpie....its not just for those water bottles.  You can write your cell phone number on your children's arms!
  • A highlighter---highlight either the bathrooms...or all the rides that are a "must" for your children on the map you get when you enter the park!
  • For MORE ideas and advice than you can imagine...but an amazing resource, check out "The Unoffical Guide to Disneyland" from your local library!
Happy Stretching Pennies...