No doubt about it—your Universal Food Budget is a massive expense when taking the fam to Universal Studios Florida. But, if you think you need an off-site rental or suite with a kitchen to save on food, think again! I saved my family hundreds of dollars just by ordering $75 worth of food from a grocery delivery service (in my case, Instacart!).
Your family’s Universal Food Budget doesn’t have to be crazy high!
My FREE Instacart grocery list will help you save hundreds on your Universal FOOD BUDGET during your family’s trip!
Universal Food Budget
We splurge on the hotel at Universal (one of the premier properties), so that we can take advantage of the heavenly Express Passes perk. That means we have to make up for it by cutting costs elsewhere.
Enter: the Universal food budget!
If you’re not familiar with how expensive breakfast, lunch and snack options can be at Universal, then let me give you an example. During my first trip to Universal Studios Orlando, I spent $15 on a hotdog. Granted, it was a foot long, but still. (I think I’m still sticker shocked by it LOL).
When it was all said and done, I spent about $70 bucks for lunch at the park on hotdogs, chips and cokes.
NOT ECONOMICAL. (And, one of the kids asked for a snack 5 minutes later!)
We had the luxury of having a car at the hotel, so that afternoon, I left the kids with my hubby and went grocery shopping. I bought just the essentials to cover breakfast and lunch, snacks, and bevy of choice.
I spent about $75 bucks on food, beer, and wine to last us for 4 days.
It was THE BEST choice I could’ve possibly made for my budget AND for my stress level.
If you won’t have a car while at Universal Studios, then Instacart (or other grocery delivery service) is exactly what you need! I used it during our second trip, and it was just what we needed to stay in budget.
And, even if you do have a car, I’d suggest using a grocery delivery service like Instacart simply because it’s such a time saver! Hands down, Instacart was the best use of my TIME & RESOURCES.
(*Using a food delivery service also helps keep you from impulse purchases, which will help you stay within your Universal Food Budget!)
Universal Food Budget Grocery List
Below is the breakdown of the foods I typically get for our stay at Universal. Our stays are usually 4 days, but I would still get groceries for a shorter trip. I always stay right around the $75 mark, but that could change depending upon what store you shop, what service you use, and what brands you buy (of course!).
If you want to skip the breakdown and go straight to my list, click here!
I either bring paper plates, bowls, cups and plastic utensils or I add them to my Instacart list. That way, everyone has the option of eating breakfast in the hotel before we head out for the day.
Almost everything for breakfast is from the pantry. That said, I do keep a half gallon of milk on hand for my two boys. My boys guzzle milk (and use it with cereal), so for us it is worth the space it takes up in the mini-fridge.
Here are some examples of the breakfast items I love (remember, this is vacay–try not to think about all that sugar!):
- Cereal (1-2 Boxes)
- Donuts & Muffins from Bakery
- Mini Muffins in ready to go bags
- Nutrigrain Bars
- Pop Tarts
My two boys will KILL some snacks. ALL DAY. EVERYDAY. So, thinking ahead and getting these stocked up are critical to keeping our budget in balance while at the parks.
Most of the snacks you want can definitely come prepackaged in the handy little snack bags. No muss, no fuss! But, if you really want to stay well within your Universal Food Budget, then get the regular sized box/bag and prep your own!
Ziploc bags are one of my essentials for traveling to Disney and/or Universal. (Pssst! Check out my Amazon Must Haves for Disney—a lot of these items are totally usable at Universal, as well!)
- Granola bars of every kind
- Trail mix
- Oranges, Apples & Bananas – No refrigeration required
- Slim Jims & Beef Jerky
- Pringles (in the ready-to-go individual cups)
- Sandwich Crackers
- Teddy Grahams (or animal crackers)
Though there are some AWESOME food choices at the parks (and at City Walk), we’re trying to keep to a budget! So, save that money for dinner!
There are loads of places to cop-a-squat and have a little picnic lunch with your kids at Universal Studios and Island of Adventures. No waiting, no lines—just sit and eat. WIN.
PRO TIP: You’ll need to pack a soft cooler if you’re going to take lunch everyday. But, you’ll also need to pack a few of these freezer packs!
My lunch items are very basic. I try not to overthink lunch. It’s more about refueling than anything else! Click here for the FULL LIST!
- Loaf of Bread (or two)
- Deli Ham & Turkey (1/2 lb – 1lb each)
- Pre-sliced Cheese (1-2 packs)
- Wow Butter (or any nut butter)
- 2 bags of chips
WATER: So, my last tip is on drinks. I always buy a 24 pack of waters for the 4 of us, and we always end up drinking them all. (Though, these reusable AND collapsible water bottles are on my list for next trip).
WINE: If you’d also like to have a bottle of wine or a few beers at the hotel room, then ADD it to your Instacart list! YES–they can deliver wine, too!
There’s no shortage of kiosks, bars, or hotel shops selling over priced booze—they are EVERYWHERE. Which, is super handy and a perk of the Universal experience (if you ask me!).
But, it’s extra convenient to have your own stash on the cheap! Instacart can make that happen for you. AND, your Universal Food Budget will thank you! Think about it—for $20 you can either get two cocktails or a bottle of wine and a six pack. No brainer!
Last Minute Purchases
Finally, one of the best things about grocery delivery is that you can grab those last minute purchases without stress. I remember the first time we went to Disney, I forgot to pack sun block. It cost me like $20 at the gift shop, and I hated every second of spending that cash!
Last trip, I forgot to pack our ice packs for our lunch cooler. But, Instacart saved the day! They had them at the grocery store, so I just added a few to my list!
So, whatever you’ve forgotten: sun block, tampons, ziploc bags, your favorite shampoo—just add it to your order. Click here for my FULL List!
How Grocery Delivery to Universal Hotels Works
Okay, so one of the TRICKS about getting groceries delivered to your Universal hotel is that you have to actually BE THERE to receive your delivery. They won’t accept it for you NOR hold it for you. (Disney DOES do this, FYI!)
So, when you’re scheduling the delivery, do it when you know you’ll be there. I scheduled delivery for our first night there, so I would have everything for the morning.
My only point of caution on doing it on your arrival day is that you may not actually be in your hotel room yet. It worked out perfectly for us, but there’s always a chance you may not actually get in your room at your check-in time. So, be prepared for that.
If things aren’t looking good at check in, you may want to bump your delivery time an hour or two. As long as your shopper hasn’t started your order, then you may change the time.
If it’s too late, then have a cooler on hand to stash the cold stuff for a couple of hours because your hotel will NOT do it for you.
Dinner at City Walk
I know that vacation is all about NOT cooking and prepping meals for your family. BUT, for me, the stress of spending crazy cash on things I can do on the cheap just isn’t worth it. That’s why I love that Instacart (and other grocery delivery services) is so HOT right now!
If you haven’t been to Universal yet, then you may not realize just how expensive snacks, waters, and burgers can be. It AIN’T cheap ladies!
In just a day, you can really bust your Universal Food Budget (trust me–I’ve been there!). But, just by using Instacart, you can save your family loads of cash – like in the hundreds!
Eat groceries for breakfast, lunch & snacks! Save your money for the City Walk restaurants at night, when you’re not rushing to get to the next ride.
Don’t forget to snag my FREE UNIVERSAL GROCERY LIST!
I’d love to hear your favorite tips for keeping Universal Studios (or Disney!) on the cheap! Share the wealth mamas in the comments below!