Midterms have come and gone, you've spent more hours in Perkins than you have in your dorm and you are somehow running out of food points... again. For first year students, as if budgeting yourself to 4 food points a day wasn't difficult enough, the endless temptations of West Union are a sure-fire way to burn through half your meal plan in a few weeks. As I discovered last semester, it is still possible to enjoy some of Duke's finest cuisine without spending all your food points. Here are the seven ways that I "hacked" Duke's West Union.

1. Use the Il Forno salad bar.

On days when you're feeling healthy, its tempting to grab a pre-made salad from ABP or graze at Farmstead's salad bar. However, Il Forno presents a much cheaper (and equally tasty) alternative with small salads starting at $4 and large salads for $7. Compare this with $6 to $8 for the same sized salad at Farmstead, and you've got yourself a dish that's good for you and for your meal plan. 

2. Get a side of mac and cheese from The Skillet.

coffee, cheese, beer, pizza, tea
Jennifer Schnadig

For those days when you're craving mac and cheese (and not the type you make in your microwave), head over to the Skillet. Since it's listed on the menu as a side, you can score yourself a plate of comfort-style mac and cheese for only $2.50. That's right, mac and cheese for less than three dollars. Does life get any better than this?

3. Take it to-go.

There's no denying the fact that the larger dishes served by Tandoor and JB's are incredible, but the portions are so large that I often end up throwing half my food away. Next time you grab that flank steak and mashed potato combo, get it in a to-go container and put half into your fridge for later. That way, a $9 meal is split into two $4.50 lunches and besides, everyone knows that leftovers taste better anyways. 

4. Embrace ABP.

chicken, sandwich, avocado
Katie Zizmor

Sometimes all you want is a large bowl of pasta to power you through your 3:05, and sometimes you're running late to your 1:25 on Science Drive and need a grab-and-go meal. If you're more the second type (I know that I am), be sure to swing by ABP for some meal-plan friendly sandwiches and quick-grab items like yogurt and soup. Most sandwiches range from $6 to $7, while similar ones are $7 to $8.50 upstairs at Cafe. Plus, parfaits and soups are only $2.50 to $4 and $3.50 to $5, respectively, if you're looking for some lighter fare. Use your food points wisely: eat at ABP.

5. Enjoy tacos at The Chef's Kitchen.

The Chef's Kitchen is truly a hidden gem of West Union. Only open for limited hours during the week, this Chipotle-style eatery offers massive burritos (for when you want to splurge) and equally delicious tacos (for when you want to be thrifty). Each individual taco is only $3. With tacos this food-point-friendly, the hardest decision you'll have to make is what toppings you want. 

6. Grab a slice of pizza from Il Forno.

beer, tea, coffee
Jennifer Schnadig

Everybody loves Il Forno's customizable wood-fired pizzas, but at $7.50 to $8.50 a pie, they're not food-point-friendly. However, you can still enjoy the same great pizza but at a much cheaper price by just buying a slice for $4. And when I say slice, I mean a slice that is practically the same size as the personal pizza. I'm not kidding, these bad-boys are massive. Save those food points for your mid-afternoon coffee craving and opt for the slice. 

7. Head downstairs for $5 lunch specials at the Devil's Krafthouse.

beer, coffee, wine
Kaila Perez

If you're as devoted to the Panera "You Pick Two" menu as I am, this one's for you. Every weekday from 11am to 4pm The Devil's Krafthouse offers its $5 lunch special, which includes  any taco or any half sandwich plus a side of soup or salad. Delicious and inexpensive, I wouldn't be surprised if you only ate here for the rest of the semester. 

So go out and enjoy all that West Union has to offer while saving a few extra food points for the things that really matter: coffee and pumpkin bread.