I've never really been a fan of Stevens' Meal Plans. For starters, they're really expensive, especially if you live on campus. Along with the $4k to $6k charge for room and board, $2k is tacked on for your meal plan, $3k if you're a freshman. After a year of living in Stevens housing and eating on the meal plan, here are my observations, tips, and some hacks to make more of your money's worth.

Don't get me wrong — the food isn't bad! It's just like any other college dining hall. With how many options there are, you have to be SUPER picky and SUPER pretentious to refuse to eat a single thing. Even my pickiest friends would eat the fries, cereal, and ice cream.

Stevens does their best to provide options for everyone and change things up; during the past few years, we've seen cafe renovations, a new catering company, and the addition of meal exchanges/Washington Street Wednesdays. However, if you don't know what all the options are, you're losing out.

Pierce Dining Hall

Stevens only has one dining hall, Pierce. It's on the second floor of the Howe Center, and features incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. It's an easy place to sit for hours with friends. You can easily grab pizza, the daily entrees, made-to-order hot or cold sandwiches, salads, pasta, omelets, breakfast food, and more. But if you're pressed for time, and know what you want to eat, you can also exchange your meal swipe at the following on-campus dining locations.

Colonel John's

CJ's is a student favorite, serving all-day breakfast and specialty burgers and hot sandwiches. Last semester, they introduced a new concept on the right of the registers called "Sono", which serves Chipotle-style burritos and burrito bowls. In previous semesters, that corner was occupied by Asian-takeout style food section but allegedly it wasn't too authentic or fresh. 

America's Cup / Red and Gray Cafe

Audrey Dsouza

Acup and Red and Gray are the two main cafes on campus. Both serve a modified Starbucks menu and bakery items from the campus catering service. Acup has a fresh salad and sandwich bar, while Red and Grey has a variety of ready-to-eat paninis, sandwiches, and easy grab and go items. Both cafes are popular among students to grab meals between classes. 

Pierce Cafe was added last semester but became somewhat irrelevant because it was located right outside of Pierce dining hall. However, it has a nice, quiet seating area for group meetings, and smoothies and other specialty drinks to sample with your Pierce swipe.

WSW and Duckbills

WSW stands for "Washington Street Wednesdays", which is a new service introduced 2 years ago. If you have an on-campus meal plan, then once a week on Wednesday you're able to exchange your meal for a meal at one of five locations in Hoboken. It's a great mid-week motivator, not having to spend additional money on real people food.

But when you really want to get a taste of the delicious food Hoboken has to offer, your ID card can hold Duckbills, the Stevens version of money. There are a ton of locations in Hoboken you can use Duckbills at, and many of them offer special deals and discounts when you show your ID.

Notable Duckbill Discounts

10% off at Qdoba, 10% off at Makai Poké, $5 Pitas at Pita Pit, 10%-20% of at Margheritas, exclusive promotions at Cluck-U-Chicken and Gio's, and many more. The deals can change from month to month.

Pierce Hacks

1) After eating at Pierce, meal exchange. Meal exchange for water, chips, tea, cookies. Note: Only works if you have unlimited meal swipes.

2) Pierce II: The special dining area is for students with allergies, but all students are welcome to take advantage of the stir-fry station to the left right as you walk in

3) This entire video that teaches you how to live the right way. I've seen people bring giant Tupperware to smuggle cookies and steal full gallons of ice cream. You can take 1 cup of cereal to eat during class, guilt-free.

Here's to making the most out of that $64k and rising tuition.

* Banner image and image of Red and Gray cafe are stock photos from Stevens Dining Services.