Disney Food for Families columnist Erin Foster is back with the third segment in her series about making and enjoying food in the Disney Vacation Club villa kitchens. See post #1 here and post #2 here!
In my previous post, I identified the grocery items that are sold in the Disney Vacation Club resort shops. But what I didn’t tell you was what the convenience of on-site resort grocery shopping will cost and what your alternatives might be.
Other Options for Groceries
In addition to buying groceries at your DVC resort hotel you can:
- Use a car or taxi to shop at a nearby grocery or discount store. You can find a list of grocery stores near WDW in the Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-Book.
- Bring non-perishable items with you in a suitcase.
- Purchase non-perishable grocery items at your local supermarket and mail them to yourself at your WDW resort hotel.
- Purchase non-perishable grocery items online (via Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com or others) and direct them to be mailed to you at your WDW resort hotel.
- Use a local Orlando-area service to have groceries sent directly to your hotel. The most popular of these is GardenGrocer.com. Others include wegoshop.com and Goodings.com.
The chart below gives a break out comparison of 20 grocery items sold in the DVC resort gift shops. I’ve shown the price breakout vs. what you might spend if shopping at Garden Grocer or buying at a Disney area supermarket. (Many thanks to the fabulous Shelley Caran of OnTheGoInMCO.com for being my trusty reporter on local supermarket pricing.) As with any retail experience, prices are subject to change and were accurate as of February/March 2011. Click on the image for a larger version.
While it’s clear that overall shopping at a local supermarket is the most economical of the three WDW-area options if you’re planning on doing a big shop, if you only want a few items the difference may be small enough to ignore.
Of course, beyond just the shelf price there are additional expenses associated with all of the purchase methods listed above:
- Driving to a grocery store involves either minimal gas expense or possibly substantial taxi fees. You can use the Mears Transportation Taxi Fare Estimator to assist with budgeting.
- Your airline may have substantial fees if you fly with additional bags or overweight bags. Check with them directly for more information on luggage rates.
- Mailing a package to yourself involves finding or purchasing packing materials as well as the shipping fees. You can find links to the shipping rates here for the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
- Amazon and other web retailers have shipping fees. Do your research at sites like CouponCabin.com to look for free shipping codes. I am an Amazon Prime member, which allows me free shipping on many grocery items. Depending on your site usage, this may make sense for you. Or perhaps you have a friend who is Prime member who can place the order for you.
- Garden Grocer and other delivery services have minimum order sizes and delivery fees.
How to Mail Yourself Groceries
If you’re using any of the mail or delivery options, you’ll need the street mailing address for your resort. You can find the address on the official Walt Disney World website. For example, you’ll see the address for the Wilderness Lodge on the right hand side of the page found HERE. The address for the villas will be the same as that for the main resort.
If you’re sending yourself a package, either by self-mailing or directly from an online retailer, there is some additional information that’s helpful to include: the word “GUEST” and your arrival date. For example, a well labeled package might say:
John Doe, GUEST arriving 5/1/11
Disney’s Villas at Wilderness Lodge
901 Timberline Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Disney does not charge a fee for holding packages for regular guests. (There may be fees for corporate guests who are shipping large quantities of boxes for conventions.) Speak with your shipping agent and try to time it so that your package arrives a day or two ahead of you. This way you’ll be sure to have access to your items even if there are delays due to weather or other unforeseen events.
Shopping Method Advantages
There are also advantages unique to some of the shopping methods:
- Shopping in a local WDW-area supermarket or using Garden Grocer allows you access to a wide array of fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and other perishable items. If you’re wanting to adhere to a vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise health-conscious diet, having in-room access to fresh foods may make travel easier.
- Shopping at a supermarket allows you access to store brand items that may be equivalent to, and less expensive than, the name brand items sold at WDW.
- If you want Disney contraband items like Pepsi or gum, you’ll have to get them off-property.
- Your WDW resort hotel will hold your packages or Garden Grocer delivery until you arrive. If there are perishable items in your Garden Grocer order, your WDW hotel will refrigerate them for you until pickup.
- Shopping in your DVC resort shop is incredibly convenient. If you want a quart of milk, just walk downstairs. Prices may be higher, but there are no delivery fees.
- Purchasing items at home or via your favorite web retailer gives you access to brands or items that might not be otherwise available. This may be particularly important if a member of your party has food sensitivities or allergies or if you are a member a religious group with specific dietary requirements.
- If you bring a suitcase filled with non-perishable food items to WDW, you will then have an empty suitcase which you can fill with Disney souvenirs to bring home.
Comparing In-Room Food Prep to Dining Out
When assembling a food budget, not only do you need to determine how much food would cost to prepare in your DVC resort kitchen, you also need to compare this to the cost of eating in the Disney parks and resorts.
Some of the compare/contrast is straightforward. A single-serve bottle of Coke costs $2.39 when purchased in the DVC resort gift shop. A six pack of single-serve bottles of Coke costs $4.79 from Garden Grocer, or $.79 per bottle. You’ll recoup the $15.00 Garden Grocer delivery fee after just 10 bottles of soda. If you’re a family of heavy Coke consumers, the choice seems clear.
Similar analysis shows that if you’re going to buy bottled water or packaged snacks in any quantity, you’ll quickly save money by buying off-site. The flip side of this is that you have to be prepared to carry around your purchases with you. There may be an advantage to paying a premium for not schlepping several pounds of liquid around the parks in your backpack on a hot day and instead traveling lightly and getting an icy cold drink when needed.
For actual meals, the cost/benefit analysis of shopping/cooking vs. eating in restaurants becomes even more complicated. Let’s look at a typical vacation lunch of hot dogs, fries, and soda. At Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom, a hot dog and fries costs $6.59 and a small soda costs $2.19. Multiply this times a family of four and you get a total of $35.12, plus tax.
If you’re shopping at Garden Grocer, an eight count package of hot dogs is $4.29, an eight count pack of store brand buns is $1.99, a bag of Ore-Ida frozen crinkle cut fries is $3.99, and as mention above, sodas are $.79 each. For a family of four, this works out to $16.59 for not one, but TWO lunches. Even if you spring for a $2.39 bottle of ketchup or a second bag of fries for day number two, you’re way ahead financially if you prepare your own lunch in the DVC villa rather than buying it in the theme park.
In just two in-room lunches, you’d save nearly $50.00 over the cost of eating at Casey’s. Do this for your breakfasts and few more lunches and you’re well on your way to enough savings for dinner at the posh Victoria & Albert’s.
So Where Should You Shop?
As with most Disney decisions, the answer to the “Where should we shop?” question is, “It depends.” It depends on whether you have easy access to a car, whether you have family members with a regimented diet, whether you enjoy cooking, how much pre-planning you’re willing to do, how price sensitive you are, and how much you enjoy dining in the Disney restaurants.
Have some honest discussions with your family about whether it makes sense to save a few dollars to go back to the room to eat, or whether you’d rather stay in the parks. Is eating breakfast with Mickey a “must do” or can you sleep in and grab a bowl of cereal in the room? Is the plastic cheese at Casey’s irresistible? Can you economize on snacks or beverages? Are you willing to splurge on food during vacation or would you rather put your disposable dollars toward a tour, parasailing, or a collection of Vinylmations. Also, what impact does cooking and cleaning have on your overall vacation enjoyment?
Do the math, crunch the numbers, and figure out what makes the most sense for your family.
Up next: A few sample menus made with only items sold in the DVC resort shops.