Let’s welcome back guest author Katie Drake with an interesting food challenge: saving cash by NOT ordering kids’ meals! Sounds counter-intuitive? Read on…
The Kids’ Meal Dilemma
Tell me I’m not the only parent this has happened to: you sit down for lunch, and instead of eating their chicken nuggets and apple sauce, your child is eager to get moving to the next ride.
So you and your spouse pick at the nuggets, eventually throwing most of the meal away. And 30 minutes after lunch is done, you hear the dreaded whine: “I’m hungry.”
No Kids Meal Challenge
I’m not a plate cleaner myself, but I do hate seeing so much food – and money – go to waste. So on our recent trip to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, our group of three families agreed to a challenge: no kids meals.
Instead, the three sets of parents would share their meals with the five kids in the group, supplementing with snacks if we were still hungry.
We figured this would work:
- because Disney’s portions are generally pretty big,
- our kids are still fairly small (ranging in age from one to five years old),
- we’re never actually hungry in the parks anyway since there is so much good stuff to eat by way of snacks.
Always prepared, the moms did supplement our meals a bit. String cheese, juice boxes, crackers, apple sauce, and fruit snacks all made their way into the parks with us, and they were available whenever any child showed the slightest hint of hunger away from a meal or other snack.
But for the most part, at meals we managed to stick to our guns and only order adult meals, which we shared. Our friends with the five-year-old and two-and-a-half-year-old ended up buying a meal for the kids to split if they were particularly hungry, but when they did, they usually had food left over. In fact, even eating only two meals throughout the day, we often had food left over.
So the big question: did it save us money? You bet! Even though we brought many of our own snacks from home, it was considerably cheaper than buying a similar Kids Power Pack. We did buy some of our favorites like fudge, pretzels, and a giant cinnamon roll, but we probably would have bought those anyway.
I calculated we saved $48.64 without tax by not buying kids meals for our daughter, and we had free breakfast at our hotel and didn’t always eat three meals a day. We also tossed a couple of juice or milk boxes in the bag each day, so we didn’t have to buy any drinks for her.
Things to Consider
Now, there are some caveats if you want to try this. The biggest factors are what your kids will eat and if you are willing to let that impact your food choice. If you have a nothing-but-chicken-nuggets eater, it’s probably not a great move for you.
This worked out OK for us because our kids are pretty good at trying new food. The only time I caved to my two-year-old daughter was when she asked for the San Francisco Shrimp Louie Salad instead of soup in a bread bowl at Pacific Wharf Cafe, which was fine by me.
It also depends on what you like to eat. We found it easier to share things like pizza and salad at Napolini, or chicken and mashed potatoes at the French Market than a messy chili burger at the Hungry Bear. If you are big on smaller meals like a hot dog and chips, you may still need to buy a kids meal.
Some table service locations, like Blue Bayou, have a split-plate charge, but it is still cheaper than ordering a separate meal.
It also depends on how old your kids are and how much they eat! At eight years old, my nephew could down an adult meal, so this wouldn’t be a good option for him.
This challenge would also be hard if kids outnumbered the adults by a significant margin, though younger kids could still split meals. Our only experience where the portions were just not big enough to share was at La Brea Bakery Express, where the portions – at least what we ordered – were really only enough for one person.
Overall, I thought this worked great and would totally do it again if paying for meals out of pocket. My daughter got plenty to eat, and my husband and I weren’t ill from trying to finish all of her meals.
Most of all, I liked that we didn’t throw away a ton of food! And the savings were pretty awesome, too.
Would you try the No Kids Meal Challenge? Let us know your Disney money-saving tips in the comments below!