Ibby's is arguably one of the greatest things that Washington University in St. Louis has to offer: a full-service restaurant, right in the DUC that accepts meal points for everything on its menu. This semester, I became known among friends for hitting up Ibby's at least four times a week—on any given day, Tuesday through Friday (Ibby's is closed on Mondays!), you can find me there for lunch, and it's gotten to the point where my favorite waitress knows my order by heart (shoutout to Nita).

Ibby's multiple times a week may sound like an ambitious feat, but you, too, can dine like Wash U royalty if you make the right decisions with your meal points.

Questions people usually ask me

Q: Do you just never use meal points outside of Ibby's?

A: My love for Ibby's only gets me so far, and I, of course, still eat more than just one meal a day. I eat a full three in fact, but only two of those are ever on meal points. 

Q: Are you on the gold meal plan?

A: Nope, silver all the way.

Q: Okay, so you must be way under on meal points then?

A: Nope, again. I'm usually around 50-100 points over at any given time.

The secret

Jenna Thomas

I have two words for you: Ibby's lunch. I haven't tried sustaining Ibby's dinner for four nights a week because it would be a lot more difficult on a budget (with the draw of appetizers and pricey main courses), but Ibby's lunch is a gift. For $10.50, you get access to an all-you-can-eat buffet that changes daily (and you can find the menu for each day online). If the items on the buffet aren't speaking to you, there's also an à la carte menu with similar prices. Either way, lunch costs substantially less than dinner, which is key to sustaining a regular Ibby's routine.

The sacrifices you'll have to make

Jenna Thomas

The silver meal plan only really supports about two meals a day, so I use them for lunch and dinner. I either get breakfast foods that will last me for weeks from the local grocery store, Schnucks, or I'll buy boxes of cereal from Paws & Go or Millbrook Market on campus. 

One of the most important rules for making my Ibby's routine possible is avoiding purchasing coffee or tea with meal points. Religiously purchasing caffeinated drinks in the mornings or between classes is a fast way to make your meal points disappear. Either kick the caffeine entirely, or brew it on your own to save the big bucks.

Prioritizing your commitment to Ibby's is the name of the game. Don't get me wrong—I'm not saying all other snacks and drinks are a no-go, but just be cautious that they're not taking up a substantial amount of meal points, which might otherwise go toward real food.

How I avoid the wait for a table

Having a reservation isn't totally necessary, but I would highly recommend it. Half of the Ibby's experience is arguably sitting in the bistro itself, relaxing in the restaurant atmosphere in the middle of your chaotic day of classes and meetings. If you're worried about the time it'll take to sit down and eat, order your meal to go or ask to pay in advance. I've been in and out of Ibby's in 30 to 40 minutes before without having to rush, so time should never be an obstacle.

seafood, bread, fish, meat, vegetable
Jenna Thomas

I've been eating four times a week at Ibby's for over five weeks now, and I'm never going back. I throw in a few Ibby's dinner reservations every now and then to treat myself, but lunch is always the move. With a little budgeting and time management, you, too, will soon be friends with the staff of Ibby's and have a regular order.

While you're there, don't forget to snap a photo of your food for Gift A Meal because the only thing better than eating amazing food is eating amazing food while also donating a meal to someone in need.