1. If you'd like to try some of the nicer theme park restaurants, like those in Epcot's World Showcase or the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios, eat there at lunch instead of dinner. Prices are considerably lower and you still get to sample some great cuisine.
2. Kids eat free with parents at some restaurants. Signs announcing which restaurants offer this deal are prominently posted.
3. Restaurant portions are huge--even for kiddie meals--so consider sharing entrees. Also throw a couple of ziplock bags in your purse. If your child can't finish all of her fruit salad now, she might like to nibble on it in a couple of hours.
4. Want to check out a cool restaurant that you suspect is outside of your price range? Arrange priority seating for a truly off time, such as 3 P.M., and just have dessert.
5. If you want to have money left to dine at a fun place, cut down on your un-fun food costs. If you're staying in a villa or time share, fix a simple breakfast within your room. Florida is hot and people drink a lot of liquids within the parks, and Disney knows it, which means that beverage prices are really steep. You'll save significant bucks by carrying a refillable water bottle or juice boxes in your backpack. And if you're staying at a Disney hotel, take advantage of this perk: You buy a refillable plastic mug on the first day and from then on, as long as you have the mug with you, all your drinks at the resort where you're staying are free.
6. The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are emphatically not the fine-dining parks. Fast food still reigns, so don't waste your dining dollars buying the same hot dogs and pizza you could have at home. Eat lightly in these two parks, and save your bucks for Disney's Hollywood Studios, which puts a lot of punch in its ambiance and service, especially at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theatre and 50's Prime Time Cafй.
7. Try Epcot, which is generally considered to be the park with the best food. Here you don't have to enter a sit-down restaurant to eat well. You can have a nice counter service meal at any of the World Showcase countries. I especially like Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway and the Yakitori House in Japan.