We’ve all been there: you glance at your account balance as it flashes across the screen of the cash register and you realize that you are approaching your last hundred dollars. How did this happen? You swear you couldn’t have eaten hundreds of dollars worth of food in such a short time…or could you?
Your meal card may seem like limitless Monopoly money that you can use on however many orders of quesadillas and garlic fries “Nowl” can provide on the way back from State St, but most of us start out with the “typical” meal plan of $896 for the semester. With about 100 days in the semester, that’s less than $9/day. This is not an impossible budget to stick to, but often the idea of a “daily limit” doesn’t even cross our minds (we’re hungry, half-asleep, drunk, trying to sneak out without paying, etc).
Here’s what you aren’t told when signing up for your meal plan:
Separate, stack and save.
Food from stations that are weighed (fresh fruit, salad bar, international, sandwich, etc) all have different prices per pound. If you mix these items together, the weight of your dish can be charged at the more expensive item’s price or for the price of both items you mixed!
Solution: Use a separate dish for each item of a different station (ie. bowl of blueberries, bowl of pineapple). It may be hard to balance if you want raspberries, rice, and salad, but your meal plan will thank you.
You will be charged for being drunk.
We mean at Night Owl, of course. While this is an appealing alternative to a legal charge, it can still take a toll. Most items available at the Grill during the day are only a few dollars, but once the sun goes down those prices can double, and even triple. Your omelet that was $1.70 this morning is now a whopping $7, and that CIW milkshake is no small fee at $6 each. Just a few of these drunken (or admit it, sometimes sober) purchases can lead you to a ramen-dependent end of the semester.
Solution: Avoid Night Owl! Keep some healthier snacks like oatmeal and natural popcorn in your room for late night snacking or studying. If you need your ice cream fix check out these new Ben and Jerry’s pints to keep in your freezer.
What should you do if you’re experiencing a mid-semester meal plan crisis? Frequent the entree station; it will have multiple options under $1 and should help get you back on budget. In the meantime, stock up on peanut butter, it’s free!