Cheap eats and coupons - all your tips for food on a budget

Hello lovely liners.
Firstly, how have I only JUST found there’s a forum for deals, this is where I’m most at home!
Anyway, as you may have seen we’re lucky enough to have over a month in Orlando as part of a 7 week visit to the US. As wonderful as this unlike normal holidays where we can splurge on food for a week or two, we just don’t have the budget for that for such a long time.
So in this thread I’d love your best tips on how to make our food budget go as far as possible - and in many cases that means not having your vacation hat on, but your normal experience of eating out and grocery tips from everyday life. Things seem quite different in the States from how we do things in the UK (where groceries are CHEAP OMG! Who knew!).
But you have a much bigger eating out culture than us, and outside of Disney it seems much cheaper too. So I’d love your recommendations on things to do, places to eat and coupons or deals to look out for.

We are staying in a villa, so that means we’ll have breakfast there and cook a lot of our own food in the evenings too.
Here are our basic principles to keep things affordable:

  • Breakfast at the villa, simple cereal, toast, etc
  • Packed lunches made ourselves or pick up something like a Publix sub and pair with bulk bought snacks and chips plus our own water bottles
  • If eating in parks just use QS and split meals if appropriate
  • On full days at parks take a break going to a waterpark and visit an offsite restaurant that’s cheap but good
  • Get refillable popcorn Day 1 and use it as our default snack
  • Making sure where we do go for TS meals they are really memorable (DS10’s birthday on our last day for example).

So, that’s about it really. While we’ve had dining plans at DLP, our home park, we’re just as happy doing it on a budget and we all love to cook so shopping and cooking is part of the fun for us.

Any ideas or suggestions you have would be so welcome. Whether it’s places to eat on I-Drive, best supermarkets, clever ways to save money, where to find coupons or deals, it’d all be so helpful!

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Buy a local Sunday paper when you arrive. This will likely have advertisement for local grocery stores and coupons to cut out. See if Publix or other local stores have an App, these often have coupons and deals!


Brilliant, would never have thought to do that! Just the kind of thing I’m looking for, thank’s Ryan!

Is food really cheap in the UK? I have only really been to London, but I remember everything there appearing to be regularly priced, but then I realize the exchange rate!

One recommendation for breakfast instead of cereal would be to lean more towards protein, like eggs or oatmeal (porridge?) so that you are full for longer! The US also has TONS of different protein granola bars, etc, for every taste you can imagine. We have Cliff bars, Luna bars, Rx bars, Kashi bars in all my diaper bags and in my car for any time the hunger strikes.

Pasta can definitely be your go-to meal at home. Quick, easy and cheap. One trick I do at home is boil the water in the morning and leave it on the stove. It will boil up faster when you get home that way. The grocery stores will also sell fresh meatballs or chicken cutlets or marinated veggies, etc, to go with it. I like cold fried chicken from the grocery store when I’m sick of sandwiches for lunch. Frozen chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie (with beef here) are also easy!


Glad to help. My wife and I collect coupons allot, some stores even double them at certain times. Also sign up for Publix loyalty card, those are free and save allot of money!

Yep, regular groceries are among the cheapest in the western world apparently. I’m certainly amazed how much some of the staples are looking at some of the US supermarkets compared to here. We’ve had 10 years of sustained pressure from Aldi and Lidl keeping basic prices low which has been brilliant.
Interesting article here on London vs New York. And that’s comparing a small local store, those prices are about 20% higher than the out of town hypermarkets.
Having said that, I always find it even cheaper in France where we love visiting the big supermarkets as part of our trip to DLP.

I think you just gave yourself one of the best options there: Shop at Aldi. I’m guessing they have completely different choices here than you are used to, but they will be cheaper on almost everything.

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Oh really it’s that much cheaper there too? A new one’s just opened near the villa so that’s handy!

If you do a TS, like Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, perhaps choosing a late breakfast buffet syle would be more bang for the buck. We did a 10:30, which meant eggs, bacon and mickey waffles when we arrive…and all the lunch meats were there by the time we left. We were stuffed and only needed a light snack for dinner! Plus, you can grab bananas, oranges and apples and maybe wrap a roll or two for snacks later on.


So wait, you do a late breakfast and they start putting out the lunch items and you’re allowed those too?! :astonished:


Yupp, Aldi and Walmart are the two cheapest grocery store options. Especially for toiletry items, which can be extra expensive at other grocery stores.

We brought bottled drinks instead of purchasing beverages with our meals. We also brought grapes, granola bars, and snacks for our toddler into the park with us every day. And we did a lot of QS sharing. We also shared snacks most of the time. For instance, dole whip is actually really big, if your family is ok with sharing.

Also, if you like pizza, look for a good deal on that. Dominoes has 2 or more medium pizzas for $6 each, and we’ve found that’s the cheapest we can get eating out.

2 medium pizzas for $6!!! They’re £15 each here (which is insane, we know, somehow Domino’s is a premium brand)
We’re good with sharing! Dole whips definitely.
Any other recommendations on good QS or snacks to share?

Yeah it’s a crazy good deal. We were just going to get one on our trip but she said it would be $13 for one. :laughing:
We pretty much ate all day. We’d split one snack before lunch. Share 1 or 2 plates at lunch (2 adults, 1 toddler), and then get another snack to split. That way we got to try a lot of stuff without spending a ton of money and we were never stuffed or throwing away food.

Supermarkets frequently have salad bars or hot food bars. These are more expensive than buying “convenience” items like bagged salad mix or a whole rotisserie chicken (and way more expensive than buying basic items and prepping/cooking them yourself). But I have used selected items from the salad bar to make a simple bagged salad more interesting.

A cheap dinner we used to do is buying pre baked pizza crust and topping them with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and toppings. You could easily make a nice dinner for 5 for around $10-12.

For making sandwiches I prefer to use round rolls that have a full crust. They stand up better to any moisture from lunchmeat or condiments. Remember to pick up sandwich bags!

Do you know what type of cooking facilities and utensils you will have?

Hear, hear! We do almost all our grocery shopping at Aldi. Saves us about 40% on our groceries, even considering we almost NEVER buy anything name brand, when compared to Kroger (or Publix, which is the Florida equivalent). Anything we can’t buy from Aldi, for whatever reason, we end up buying from Kroger to supplement. Aldi is significantly cheaper than Walmart as well.

For Pizza, Domino’s was mentioned…but there’s also Little Caesars (which we prefer). They have $5 large Pepperoni pizzas and other similarly cheaply priced items, much of which is “Hot and Ready” which means you don’t have to pre-order. (If you want specific toppings, I suggest ordering on-line ahead of time.)

We are getting an Aldi in the next town over! DH and I are doing a keto/low-carb diet and Aldi is a fantastic place to shop for our basic items. They have a great assortment of snacks, many in single size packs that would be convenient for bringing to the parks.

This is really helpful everyone, thank you! The Aldi is brand new and just a few minutes away so that’s fabulous.

A really well equipped villa, it’s our friend’s winter home, so cooking for ourselves will be a pleasure I’m sure.

So what about the cheap restaurants on I-drive etc. I have offers for places like Cici’s of two buffets for the price of one, 20% off Golden Corral etc.
Are those places acceptable for a cheap lunch? Any stand out as better than the rest?

I know you plan to hit Universal as well. Here are a couple of tips.

One, if you want a cheap lunch in IOA, head to Captain America’s diner and order all kid’s meals. They give you exactly the same burger, just without lettuce and tomato, and slightly fewer fries…but at almost HALF the price. We did that twice. (Granted, the burgers are rather pathetic tasting…but it provides sustenance cheaply!)

At Universal, there is a pizza place back near where The Mummy is. If you order a whole pizza for the family, you’ll, all told, spend less than buying individual meals elsewhere. We did that one day as well.

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We do indeed, thanks Ryan, brilliant tips! I hear the new Disney Springs Pizza place is very good value too, where they make it to order?

Speaking of Disney Springs, when it comes time for “snacks”. If you are at Disney Springs, look at the dessert options at Earl of Sandwich. You can buy some good brownies, cookies, etc., there at significantly lower prices. I think I bought cookies, for example, for like $2.50.