Buying all of your meals in the parks can get super expensive (not gonna lie, so tasty though). If you have a family of four and buy each family member breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a couple snacks, you're easily looking at 150-300 dollars a day just for food. The cost will be even more if you want to enjoy the more premium dining experiences and splurge on drinks and desserts. Here are a few strategies I've gathered from personal experience, and family and friends to save a few bucks on dining.
1. Find a hotel that serves a complimentary breakfast OR bring your own breakfast foods to store in your hotel (muffins, yogurt, fruit, bagels, etc.). Eating breakfast before coming to the park will also allow you to maximize the low wait times for rides when the park first opens.
2. Share meals! When my husband and I went to Disneyland just as a couple we ate breakfast at our hotel and then split lunch, dinner, and a snack. This was perfect for us because it allowed us to try lots of new things, but cut our cost in half! Splitting is also a good option because you don't end up so full after every meal that you get sick on the rides! Another meal sharing option comes from my sister-in-law. They have a family of 6, but will only buy 4 different entrees on the menu to share between the 6 of them. Everyone gets to sample the dishes and 4 is enough to fill them all. Of course the littlest bodies don’t eat as much so dad doesn't feel like he's getting gypped ;)
3. Buy discounted Disney gift cards at places like Sam's Club or Target (more on that here) and then use those to buy your food in the Disney Parks.
4. Bring your own food into the parks! As a family we did this every Disneyland trip that I can remember. We would plan to eat breakfast at the hotel and then eat snacks or a light lunch that we packed during the afternoon at the parks. We would then purchase dinner where everyone got their own meal. If you wanted to save even more though you could opt to pack your own dinner as well! Keep in mind Disneyland does not allow you to bring coolers larger than 6-pack size or glass containers in to the parks. There are lockers outside the park's main entrance where larger coolers can be stored for a fee.
5. Plan to eat dinner back at your hotel with food that you've packed. My brother-in-law's family does this on their Disneyland trips. Dinner is often when your family will be the most hungry and therefore when you will spend the most money. When not staying in a hotel room with a kitchenette, meals prepared previously can be kept cool in a mini fridge or cooler and then warmed in a microwave or crock pot.
6. Choose to eat at quick-service dining options in their park where tips aren't necessary.
7. Head off-site to more reasonably priced restaurants or fast food locations for lunch or dinner.
8. Don't buy drinks! Drinks are very overpriced at the Disneyland Resort. Instead, go with a free cup of ice water from any restaurant in the park. Many of the food/drink stands will give you a free cup of water as well without purchasing anything.