Let’s face it. You’re not going to find anything with an abundance of flavors at the caf. There’s no chipotle aioli or 24-hour marinade. They don’t slow roast their ribs for 12-hours over a wood burning grill or hire chefs with culinary degrees from critically acclaimed institutions.

Many things in the cafe with higher caliber are on the pricier side. Sushi is okay but $14 for a Rainbow Roll is a little pricey when you’re on the commuter meal plan of around $200 per semester. If you want to make your meal plan last and get enough calories for your brain to function (1400 for women, 1800 for men, bare minimum) you have to be careful how you spend your money.

Here are 7 ways to stretch that meal plan out like sweet, sweet taffy in the dog days of August.

1. Eggs


Photo by Alexandra Brand

These protein packed bundles of joy are full of nutritional value and relatively inexpensive by Chartwells’ standards. Grab 3 fried eggs with a side of bacon, toast a bread item, add some cheese and make your own breakfast sandwich. Oh, and leave that yolk a little runny because there’s nothing better than a warm croissant soaked in the gooey yolk.

2. Bagels


Photo by Jenny Shen

There’s a reason that bagels are a staple of NYC culture; their carbs give you plenty of energy to prepare you for the long day ahead of you. The caf’s bagels are pretty damn good and cheap, but paying 75¢ for each pre-packaged cream cheese is a scandal. Pretty easy fix here. If you look at the salad bar there is usually a big ole glob of the good stuff, just ready to meet its one true love.

3. Omelette


Photo by Keren Straus

I realize I’ve discussed eggs already but this one is too good to pass up, especially for all my workout junkies. The mysterious yellow custard that Chartwells uses for an omelette is a little sketchy for me; fortunately, they also stock good, old-fashioned eggs. So instead of getting secret soup, ask for a 4 or 5 egg omelette. They charge you the same at the checkout and you get way more nutrients that way.

Occasionally, the hot buffet line has hash browns in the morning. Those taste unbelievable on an omelette. So scoop some up on a plate, hand them to the person at the grill, and they’ll hook you up. Two toppings come free but keep in mind, onions add a lot of flavors AND are essentially invisible, so get mushrooms, peppers, onions, and mozzarella and snicker as you save about 70¢ on the free onions. Even with bacon, it’s only around 5 bucks.

4. Deals


Photo by Sammy Hickman

A pretty obvious tip here. The caf offers some pretty decent deals: $3 breakfast sandwiches, $5 for a crispy chicken sandwich, fries, and a drink, etc. These will improve the duration of your meal plan, but the deals differ day to day so it’s a coin toss. Another option is the punch cards at each station. The smoothie bar, pizza area, sandwich line, and the grill all carry them. Of course, theoretically, you could just grab a bunch of the cards, punch them in the library and claim your free food, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Another option is the punch cards that each station carries. You know you’ll eat at the grill at least 10 times, so just get it punched and get a free meal ya, dumb idiot. The smoothie bar, pizza area, Boar’s Head line, and the grill all carry those little buggers. Of course, theoretically, you could just grab a bunch of the cards, punch them in the library and claim your free food, but you didn’t hear that from me.

5. Flex Hack


Photo by Sammy Hickman

I use the word “hack” loosely here but nonetheless this is a little-known fact. When you run out of meal plan money, if you reload your plan, it all goes to your flex bucks. So get the cheapest meal plan and refill it as needed to avoid Chartwells all together and hit up Rosella’s for their indulgent Chicken Bacon Ranch Sicilian style ‘za.

6. Philly Cheese Steak


Photo courtesy of @ryuniqq on Instagram

An option that always seems to slip my mind as I stumble aimlessly through the aisles of the caf is the elusive Philly Cheesesteak, thinly sliced beef, paired with onions and bell peppers on a roll, traditionally with American cheese. Being a colossal cheese snob, I avoid American cheese at all cost so I go with swiss (3 slices, nice and cheesy) and add some mushrooms. Very few things in this world pair better than mushrooms and swiss cheese. All this for around 5 bucks; not too shabby.

7. Cheese Fries


Photo by Sammy Hickman

I think most of us can agree that the one place where the caf really excels is in its french fries. Those crisp little buggers are like crack cocaine: perfectly soft in the middle, not starchy, and yet not empty. And the outside, well I’m not a father, but I can’t imagine my child’s voice measuring up to even half of the eargasm achieved as my molars press that fried spud into a delicious mush.

Now, what if I told you that you could have not only that greasy god, but you could pair it with the deity of dairy herself, that’s right, cheese sauce. This symphony is easily obtainable. First, go to the grill and get an order of fries. Second, go to the “Mexican” food station and ask that they pour cheese sauce on it. Third, enjoy. Fourth, change your pants.

Additional tip:

It may seem a bit obvious, but under no circumstance should you ever get the prepackaged food from the caf. The snacks, crackers, chips, microwavable food, cans of soup, jars of peanut butter, and any of the other nonperishables on the middle shelves can be purchased at CVS, Key Foods, or Duane Reade for a teeny tiny fraction of the price Chartwells demands.