Eating at Disneyland pt. 1

Like most other things at Disneyland Paris, eating is expensive in relation to what you get for your money. I was surprised at how costly it actually was to purchase food at the restaurants when I went there and others I’ve spoken to has expressed the same opinion. Food at the food places at the parks are over the top and the guests are forced to pay up, since you’ve got to eat. As an example, I had to pay at least 10€ for a meal consisting of a hot dog, chips (French fries for you who are unfamiliar with British terms) and a soft drink, which is ridiculous. Food will, inevitably, be a costly story, especially if you’re part of a family. There are, as always, ways to save and be smart with your money without skimping on quality and your overall experience. After all, you’re at Disneyland Paris for the experience and to have a magical time – food should not be the reason you feel disappointed when leaving. In this post I’ll discuss the advantages of getting a meal plan for your stay at Disneyland Paris, a choice that is well worth the money if you can’t get it for free as part of a holiday package.

A meal plan is simply put a plan where you prepay for a set amount of meal, either half board (breakfast and either lunch or dinner) or full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with a different number of restaurants available, depending on what plan you choose (standard, plus or premium).

Meal plans

At the moment Disneyland Paris offers 3 types of meal plans:

  1. Standard meal plan
  • Either as half board or full board
  1. Plus meal plan
  • Half or full board
  1. Premium
  • Half or full board

The basic difference between the three are the amount of restaurants that you’ve got to choose from when you eat your lunch and/or dinner. If you book the half board of either plan you will get breakfast and either lunch or dinner for each of the days you’ve purchased, and full board includes three square meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meal plans are a fantastic way of saving money on food, I highly recommend having one when you visit the parks. The costs add up really quickly and when you’re on a plan, you know what you’ll be spending on the meals that are included in your plan. When I went to Disneyland I had a free half board plan included in the price that included breakfast and either dinner or lunch and it was fantastic. I had breakfast before entering the park in the morning, ate lunch in the park and used my other voucher for dinner after a full day at the park, before taking the bus back to the hotel. It worked like a charm and was well worth it. During your check-in at the Disneyland hotel you’ll be given all of the vouchers in an envelope along with a letter telling you how they work and where you can redeem your vouchers. The receptionist will also explain them to you very clearly and answer any questions you may have about how the plan works.

It’s worth noting that breakfast isn’t included in the price of a standard room as a standard, which has spawn a fourth option in regards to dining plans – the breakfast meal plan. Like its name suggests it only contains breakfast at your hotel’s breakfast room and is not a character meet and greet breakfast, those have to be booked in advance and cost extra. When I stayed at Disneyland I only had the option of going to counter services for my breakfast and didn’t even have hotel breakfast. Counter service equals restaurants that have over the counter services, like fast food place (e.g. McDonald’s and the likes of it). I found it limiting, but it worked out – breakfast isn’t my thing anyway. Breakfast is included in the price when you book a suite or a premium room at any of the official Disneyland Paris hotels. Disneyland doesn’t offer any plans for snacks and none of their meal plans have any included, so you’ll need to bring your own, or purchase them in the different snack shops inside the parks. Most of the snack shacks and ice cream parlours are closed at the moment for refurbishment, so if you’re heading over there in the near future – check the Disneyland website (www.disneylandparis.co.uk) for what’s open and what’s not.

The Standard meal plan is the cheapest option that’s on offer and is available in either half or full board. This is also where your alternatives for dining are the most limited – only a small list of buffets. No matter if you choose the half or the full board, you’re only going to be able to alternate between a series of buffets. So, if you don’t mind eating buffets for every meal then this is definitely for you. Each meal (lunch and dinner) includes a soft drink too. There’s no reason to feel bored when eating buffets at Disneyland, they have a few different kitchens represented at the parks and hotels – for example, at the Agrabah Café you’ll find a middle-eastern buffet. The cost, per person and night booked is 27£ for adults (half board), 19£ for children (half board), 42£ for adults (full board) and 28£ for children (full board).

For those who’re looking for a few more options, and don’t want to limit themselves to buffets during their stay, there’s the Plus meal plan. The list of available restaurants goes up to over 15 here and includes table service restaurants. Cast members working at the restaurant will tell you what dishes are yours to choose from, since the meal plan operates on a set menu premise. À la carte is not included in the price. I had the half board Plus Meal Plan when I visited and I enjoyed it, it was a perfect mix of restaurants and I even managed to reserve a place at Mickey’s Café, where Mickey and his friends does meet and greets during dinner service. In my opinion, this meal plan is perfect, especially the half board, for the reason I explained earlier in this blog post. It was very enjoyable to have plans for the morning and evening meal and then just go where I fancied for lunch, without being bound to a particular restaurant reservation. As with the standard meal plan one soft drink is included in the price (one per person and meal plan), any additional drinks must be paid for directly to your server (cast member). Prices are a bit higher for this plan: 38£ for adults (half board), 25£ for children (half board), 53£ for adults (full board) and 34£ for children on full board.

Should you want the full food experience while you’re in the parks, go for the Premium meal plan! Here you can pick and choose from the full range of restaurants and even the ones with Disney character interactions and the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West dinner show. Just like the others you can pick either half board or full board and one soft drink is included in every meal plan, for each meal (lunch and dinner). Prices are 62£ per adult (half board), 42£ per child (half board), 88£ per adult (full board) and 56£ per child on full board.

The best way to enjoy the food on offer at the parks on a meal plan is planning, planning, planning and then plan some more. Breakfast and dinner are the best meals to plan in advance and book any restaurants you most wish to visit during your stay. During lunchtime you’re generally in the park in the middle of having fun and might not want to be tied up to a place which might be at the other side of where you’re at. Whether or not you’re on a full board or half board plan – get yourself to a restaurant that’s close by, and that you’d like to eat at and is part of any meal plan (for those of you who’re on the full plan) and have a meal. Or plan ahead to make sure you’re close to the lunch restaurant you’d like to eat lunch at when you’re hungry. Like I’ve stated before, the popular restaurant who accept advance bookings will fill up quickly – book them if you’re sure that you’d like to eat there!

Tips & recommendations

  • Be on the look for free meal plans on Disneyland Paris website, it’s a very common offer to receive free half board for your stay. It can be worth a good amount of money, I saved close to 200€ on food by opting for a free half board. Be sure to read any terms and conditions to see if you qualify – it’s a great offer, should you be eligible!
  • Always, always, always reserve a table at popular restaurants well in advance, or at the places you really don’t want to miss. Tables at places like Mickey’s Café are extremely attractive, due to the character interactions going on there and forgetting to reserve can lead to a full restaurant and tears from your young ones (or yourself). Reserve as early as you can to, hopefully, guarantee your spot at your first hand options.
  • You can call the dining reservations up to 60 days before your arrival to book a table. Call +33 1 60 30 40 50 to make a reservations, or go straight to your receptionist or concierge at your arrival to book a table.
  • Disneyland Paris official website is disneylandparis.co.uk and they always list what restaurants, snack bars and bars that are undergoing refurbishment at the moment – check it regularly before your trip to avoid disappointment onsite.
  • One soft drink (nonalcoholic beverage such as soda, still or sparkling water and fruit juice) is included at lunch and/or dinner, per meal plan. Any more drinks you wish to drink must be purchased and paid for to your server or cashier. Choose the largest size allowed if you’re thirsty!
  • Always use the plans to the max and eat all your meals. Otherwise you’re going to lose money since you’re paying twice for a meal.
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Guide to Disneyland Paris

I’ve genuinely fallen in love with Disneyland Paris after visiting it last year, but I was a beginner and afterwards I wished I had known more than I do now about the parks and how they work. If I had then I would’ve got more out of my holiday than I did. Therefore, I decided to write a few posts with tips, tricks and advice to how you can make your stay as magical as possible for you and your whole family, or group of friends.

In this series I’ll be posting about; how to travel there, hotels, eating, the parade and so much more, so stay tuned. The website can be quite confusing, especially if you’re new to it and don’t know how to work it to your favour. I will only touch on topics, so if you’ve got further questions – contact Disneyland via their website or on Twitter, they’re usually very responsive to future guests’ questions.

Disneyland Paris is truly a magical place and definitely worth a visit, no matter if you’re going there alone, with friends or with your family. In my opinion you never become too old to love Disney and even adults can have loads of fun at the parks.

So, please stay tuned – next week there’ll be a new post!

Christmas on a budget

This year will be my first hosting a Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and since I don’t have a lot of money to spend on the food, it’s going to be a challenge. I’ve set a budget of 35£ for 5 people, which seems only reasonable and is a budget that will give me leftovers for a few days after. My guests will be my next-door neighbors and they’ve never tried traditional Finnish food before. The dinner will consist of a smorgasbord of a few selected, traditional Finnish Christmas dishes such as;

  • Finnish meatballs – pretty much the same as Swedish ones
  • Mini sausages – they’re called Prinskorv which translates to Prince sausages
  • Beet salad – a cold salad with beets, apples, pickles, carrots, red onion and cooked potatoes
  • Janssons Frestelse – a hot casserole called Jansson’s Temptation in English and is a dish with potatoes, onions, anchovies, cream and spices.
  • Mild smoked salmon – simple, tasty and very traditional.
  • Boiled potatoes – we’re a potato eating nation just like Ireland and Sweden
  • Julskinka – The Christmas Ham, cooked in the oven for a few hours before it’s coated with mustard and egg and sprinkled with breadcrumbs and then roasted at a high temperature. The ham is left to cool down and served cold in thick slices.
  • Ägg med gubbröra – hardboiled eggs with “old-man’s-mix” of anchovies, mayo, crème fraiche, chives and a few other things.
  • Morotslåda – a carrot casserole with rice and sprinkled with breadcrumbs that’s then cooked in the oven.
  • Potatislåda – it’s pretty much sweetened mash that’s cook in the oven. It’s sweetened with some treacle.
  • Peas – no words are necessary, it’s warm peas.
  • Toffee – hard toffee with chopped hazelnuts
  • Fresh fruits
  • Nuts and dried fruits
  • Aladdin – a Swedish box of mixed chocolates that’s always had after dinner
  • Twist – a bag of mixed chocolates and sweets
  • Merci – you know what this is, it’s more chocolate

All of this at a maximum cost of 35£, which isn’t that difficult really. The ham was the most expensive purchase at 25£, but that was bought a long time ago, so I’m not adding it to the cost. If you choose to do so then the total cost would rise to 60£, which would still be cheap for five people and a few days of food. Plus, the little sausages were given to me as a gift by my aunt when she visited me almost two months ago – not cost for them. A lot of the condiments – such as mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, spices – are already in my cabinets and will not be purchased which will further lower my out of pocket expenses a bit too.

I will be posting all the costs as they come up since I’m not buying everything at once. I’m very allowed to use coupons, reduced items and any other methods to save money. Reduced items can be a huge savior and it has: I’ve bought all the herbs and the smoked salmon reduced and simply put them in the freezer, with the ham, until it’s time to use them. The herbs I chopped before freezing just to ease the process a bit.

I’ll start a separate thread for the expenses of the Christmas smorgasbord.

Lasagna

A lot of people think that lasagna is a fancy, difficult and most of all: expensive dish to make. With proper planning it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive at all, it will, however, be a bit time consuming – but it will be well worth it in the end! If you buy the ingredients while they’re on sale and/or with coupons, and adjust the vegetables in in to what’s cheap and in season, it will be a cheap but fancy meal.

 

Ingredients:

Minced meat sauce:

 

500gr minced meat

2-3tbsp flour/thickening

2 cubes of meat stock

2 cans of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce

2 tsp black pepper

0.5dcl tomato paste

1-2tbsp soy sauce

1 can of water (use the tomato can)

2 onions

1tbsp paprika powder

1tbsp oregano

4 cloves of garlic

 

Cheese sauce:

1 litre of milk or cream

3tbsps butter

3tbsps flour/thickening

300gr shredded cheese

Salt, pepper

 

1-2 packs of lasagna noodles

150gr shredded cheese (to go on top of the lasagna)

 

Recipe:

  1. Start preheating the oven to about 200C
  2. Peel and chop the onions finely
  3. Heat a frying pan until very hot and put in the butter.
  4. When the butter has stopped sizzling, put in the chopped onions and cook them until they’ve got a golden colour.
  5. Put in the minced meat and brown it with the onions. Separate and chop up the meat until its fine and make sure it’s not pink.
  6. Coat it with the thickening and stir it in
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients for the Bolognese sauce and stir well!
  8. Let it simmer for at least 15 minutes to get the flavours out and then put it aside to cool while you make the cheese sauce.
  9. Melt the butter for the cheese sauce, on a hot stove, and put in the flour or thickening. Stir well, there shouldn’t be any lumps. I always use a whisker when I make the cheese sauce.
  10. Gradually add the milk or cream and mix until it has thickened and then add more until it’s all in there.
  11. Pull the sauce pan from the heat and carefully fold the grated cheese in to the sauce, until it has melted completely.
  12. DO NOT put the cheese sauce back on the stove after you’ve put the cheese in, it’ll make it chewy and stringy.
  13. Put out lasagna noodles at the bottom of the lasagna dish. Then put a layer of the minced meat sauce & a layer of the cheese sauce in there.
  14. Putin another layer of lasagna noodles and repeat until there’s no more sauce
  15. There should be cheese sauce on top.
  16. Spread the shredded cheese on top.
  17. Cover the dish in tin foil and make sure it’s wrapped tight over the top.
  18. Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes on 200 Celsius.
  19. Turn the heat down to 175 Celsius and let it be in there for another 20 – 30 minutes.

 

Serve on its own or with a light, fresh salad. Enjoy!

Sorry for not posting!

I’m sorry for not having posted in a while, it’s just that I’ve been VERY busy the last week and a half! I just came home from London (UK) where It’s been a few crazy days.

I’ve bought a house Dover at an auction in Maidstone West and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s my first auction and I had no idea whether or not I would get what I wanted – but I did. So, I’m moving next month probably, if the paperwork and payment gets through in time.

While I was in London I managed to do all of my gift shopping for Christmas, without going over budget. Plus I had time to squeeze in two musicals too; Les Misèrables and Wicked, all in four days! 

Now I’m really tired and I’m going to bed, so that I can start cleaning the apartment here in Stockholm tomorrow and do a bit of the paperwork for my new home.

Have a nice weekend folks and happy holidays!

Today’s Christmas haul!

So this week my local ICA shop has some amazing deals on baking stuff, and so I had to take advantage with all the holidays coming up. 

  • 2x2kg flour 1.50€
  • 2x1kg butter 3€
  • 10 eggs 1€
  • Muffin forms 50c/pack
  • 4 tubes of toothpaste 4€ 
  • 2 bottles of shampoo 2€
  • 4 packs of freezer bags 2.50€

The butter, eggs and flour will come in handy when I start my Christmas baking next month!

How to save on holiday foods!

What you serve at your Christmas dinner depends on where you live, as well as when you celebrate it – on the 24th or the 25th of December. You might nog even celebrate Christmas, you might have Chanukka or some other holiday. But there will be food and it can often cost a lot of money to buy. How many of us doesn’t curse at the expenses of food during regular weeks? Imagine the costs during a major holiday. If you want to save, like I do, or can’t really afford the food – but still want to give your family a nice meal – then planning, coupons and the weekly ad will take you a long way. I’m going to give some general tips and then post some links to coupon sites.

I’m using Christmas as an example since I celebrate it, but the tips and tricks can be applied to any holiday.

 

Tips:

  • Like when you’re buying the holiday gifts, planning is everything. If you haven’t planned anything then you’re going to end up overspending, miscalculating dishes for the amount of people present, multiple and unnecessary trips to the shops.
  • Start planning any dinners/lunches where your extended family will attend at least 3-4 weeks in advance. Plan what dishes you will be serving, what the ingredients are and how much you need to make of each dish.
  • Remember to plan for the side dishes, condiments, snacks, sweets and drinks! It’s easy to remember mustard when you sit there at the dinner table and want some.
  • Lists are everything! Make lists of what you need to buy and group the ingredients after what type of food they are, for example:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Condiments
    • Baking goods
    • Meats
  • When you make the lists, make sure to separate them buy shop chain as well! Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Walmart, ICA, COOP, you name it!
  • Will anyone be staying be staying with you, other than your closest family (spouse and children)? They need food too!
  • Will it be a buffet, formal dinner or a regular meal? Each have their own advantage, but I’d recommend some type of buffet.
  • If you choose to have a buffet, first decide on what dishes you’re going to be serving or assign a dish to each guest (if you’re having them). If guests are bringing some of the dishes, you all save on food!
  • Shops usually start marketing their Christmas food at least 6 weeks before Christmas. Take advantage of this and start buying what you know you need. Some things we always have at Christmas, every single year, so why not buy them now and tick them off your list?
  • Always check the weekly ads in the shops closest to you! More often or not they have one or two Christmas foods on sale every week leading up to Christmas, make sure you buy them and always buy the full allowance. For example: you have a baked ham on your Christmas table and one week your shop allows you to buy 2 good sized hams for 10€. It’s one purchase per household. Buy those two hams, even if you know that you’ll only eat one. You can cook the other one too and have dinners and lunches for a rather long time after, if you freeze it.
  • Remember that manufacturers often put out a lot of coupons for their products during the holidays, since they want you to buy their products. Take a few coupons and save them. You should of course use some of them for the items that you need at the moment, if it gives you a good price, but after Christmas the shops often drops their prices to make room for new products. That means that you can score some incredible deals, and even freebies or money makers, if you took a couple of extra coupons when there were some.
  • If your shop allows overage – use it to buy the things that you can’t get coupons for
  • READ YOUR WEEKLY ADS LIKE IT’S THE BIBLE, PEOPLE!
  • Take a couple of hours to surf around for coupons and discounts and print as many coupons as you’re allowed.
  • Your shops usually have some kind of loyalty card. Make sure to sign up for that. That way you get instore coupons, deals and rebates. The instore coupons can be combined with a manufacturer’s coupon and make a product free, close to free or a money maker.

 

Links:

Coupons.com (US): https://www.coupons.com/

Grocery Coupon Network (US): https://www.grocerycouponnetwork.com/

Be frugal (US): http://www.befrugal.com/printable/restaurant/

Retail me not (US): https://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/fastfood

Coupon Mama (UK): https://couponmamauk.co.uk/

Money Saving Experts (UK): http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/supermarket-coupons

Extreme Couponing (UK): http://www.extremecouponing.co.uk/

Extreme Couponing & Deals (UK): https://excoupuk.com/

Super Savvy me (UK): https://www.supersavvyme.co.uk/offers/coupon

Hot UK deals (UK): http://www.hotukdeals.com/groceries

Hip2Save (US): http://hip2save.com/

Southern Savers (US): http://www.southernsavers.com/