Here at UVA, all first years are required to purchase unlimited dining plans with either 150 or 300 plus dollars. Upperclassmen also usually purchase some plus dollars to use when they're on-grounds during the day. Many students end up cashing all of theirs in getting late night meals from Crossroads or The Castle or buying pints of Ben and Jerry's.

I'm here to tell you that there are better options. 

In the few short months I've been here at UVA, I've tried to balance being an avid foodie with being a penny-pinching college student. Luckily, I've found that UVA dining has some great, diverse options for using the plus dollars that are included in my meal plan. 

My friends and I have "Food Truck Fridays" and I frequently stop by Einstein Bagels in the morning and Argo Tea to study in the afternoon. 

Here is a definitive ranking of the best uses for your plus dollars, from worst to best so that you can get the most out of your UVA dining experience:

21. Ohill/Runk/PAV Convenience Stores

beer, pizza, tea, wine, coffee
Renee Spillane

Yes, you can use plus dollars at the various convenience stores around grounds, including those at Ohill, Runk, the PAV, and Lambeth. However, all of the items are overpriced and it's fairly easy to walk to the corner and get them elsewhere, so I wouldn't recommend spending your plus dollars here. 

Unless it's an emergency pint of Ben and Jerry's or some instant ramen. Then go straight ahead. 

20. Einstein Bagels

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I love a good sausage, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel to start my day, but I wouldn't recommend spending your plus dollars at Einstein's Bagels. That's because if you go to the one in Rice Hall between 8:00 and 10:30 am, a meal exchange swipe will get you a bagel sandwich and a coffee! No plus dollars required. 

19. Crossroads Vendors: Sbarro, GrilleWorks, Burrito Theory

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The crossroads venders are a perfect SOS option for when nothing at Ohill looks edible, which, sadly, happens fairly often.

Burrito theory offers Chipotle-esque burritos, burrito bowls, and salads. Sbarro has pizza, delicious stromboli, pasta, and chicken parm that makes me feel like I'm almost home. And the GrillWorks menu is like you might imagine: burgers, sandwiches, and fries.

However, your plus dollars aren't put to great use here because after 9 pm, you can use a meal exchange swipe for several dishes from each of the vendors.

18. PAV Vendors: Subway, Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A

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The PAV is a great pitstop between classes or on your way back to dorms after a long day of classes when you're craving "real food."

I love Five Guys and Chick-Fil-A, so I'm the first to admit that I do spend plus dollars in the PAV. However, you can save them by using a meal exchange swipe on a number of Subway and Chick Fil A meals after 4 pm on weekdays.

17. The Castle

The Castle is a very convenient stop for all first-years living in old dorms, offering two different vendors and a convenience store. However, you can easily save your plus dollars by visiting after 8 pm Sunday through Thursday. Grilleworks burgers and chicken tenders and Claymore's sandwiches always sound great after a long night out. 

Whenever my friends and I decide to spend a night in, we wander down to The Castle and each pick out a pint of Ben and Jerry's. They usually have a wide variety of flavors. I wholeheartedly recommend pint-night every once and a while. 

16. N2Go

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Although the N2Go box is offered as a meal exchange swipe, all of the add-ons require plus dollars. I would highly recommend you pick up some mac n' cheese next time you need a little taste of home. They also offer a variety of packaged drinks that you can't find in the dining halls. 

15. Clark Café

Clark Café offers a variety of coffee items, both hot and cold. They also have pastries, snacks, and even sushi. It's a great stop between classes, but the line is usually really long. 

Right now, they have some really tasty seasonal drinks that are totally worth your valuable plus dollars. Treat yourself to a delicious Great White Pumpkin Mocha to get into the holiday spirit while you're studying for exams. 

14. Alderman Café

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Alderman Café is a perfect pick me up when you've been knee-deep in studying all day and all night. They offer most of the same items as Clark Café, but usually have a better variety of baked goods and Naked brand smoothies, which are a great way to get your fruits and veggies in tasty snack form. 

13. Starbucks

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Starbucks is tucked behind New Cabell in Nau Hall on the edge of Grounds, much more convenient for students between classes than the location on The Corner. Even though it's not a stand-alone store, they offer a menu full of all the drinks and pastries you can usually find in any other Starbucks. 

12. The Pie Guy

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The Pie Guy is one of three food trucks located near the amphitheater on weekdays at UVA. The pies are delicious and totally Instagram-worthy. If you're looking for a quality, portable meal, The Pie Guy is a great use for your plus dollars. I love munching on their savory pies with a side of mac n' cheese. 

11. Fine Arts Café

The Fine Arts Café has a lot of unique and fresh menu items that you won't find anywhere else at UVA. The location is very convenient for upperclassmen living off-grounds and any students taking classes in the arts department. 

Also, they offer several meal exchange options for breakfast omelettes and lunch salads and sandwiches, making using your plus dollars unnecessary.

10. In the Nood

Started as a Comm School project, In the Nood has been a huge success at UVA. It's located in Newcomb, so it's very convenient for a quick lunch or dinner.

The menu is unique, which is often hard to find on a college campus, with lots of different noodle and salad dishes. They always have a wide variety of fresh packaged sushi, so you can use your plus dollars here when you're in a hurry too.

9. Poolside Café

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Smoothies are one of the few things that are hard to find anywhere on grounds. With the Poolside Café, you can treat yourself after a hard workout with one of their delicious smoothies. Add protein for that little extra boost in #gains.

8. Argo Tea

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Located in Wilsdorf Hall right next to the Chem Building, Argo Tea's first benefit is location. However, the perks don't stop there.

They offer a huge variety of drinks, from your traditional warm tea and coffee to trendy boba tea and Kombucha. You can even make it a meal with one of their pastries, yogurts, sandwiches, or salads.

Fresh ingredients and tasty drinks make Argo Tea a great use for your plus dollars.

7. Rising Roll

sandwich, chicken, cheese, turkey
Annie Mester

Rising Roll is located in the center of Central Grounds in New Cabell Hall. It's the perfect place to take a breath before classes with breakfast and coffee or take a break between classes for lunch. 

They pride themselves with their fresh ingredients in a number of unique sandwiches, wraps, salads, and soups. The "pick-a-pair" option is similar to Panera's "you pick two," so it makes the perfect plus dollar lunch. They also offer a decent range of coffee drinks and smoothies. 

6. Domino's Delivery

After a long night studying or running around on Rugby Road, sometimes you just need that cheesy slice of pizza. But, admittedly, Domino's is probably not the best pizza you'll find in Charlottesville.

A few plus dollars open up a world of opportunity with Domino's delivery. All you have to do is order online then walk out of the dorm and your hero, the pizza delivery man, will be waiting with your warm, gooey pizza. Or check out this article if you're looking to branch out on your order. 

5. Greens to Grounds Box

Greens to Grounds is a student-run organization that brings fresh produce to broke college students like you and me. Go online and order one of their boxes using your plus dollars and you can pick it up in Mad Bowl on Friday afternoon.

The contents change every week so check back often to see what fresh, delicious goodies your plus dollars can get you. Even if you don't have a kitchen, they usually post dorm-friendly recipes.

4. Got Dumplings food cart

The only drawback of using your plus dollars at the Got Dumplings food cart is the crazy long line that forms every time class gets out around lunch time. If you have the patience to wait, the fried dumplings and sides pair perfectly for lunch. My personal favorite is the shrimp and chive dumplings with seaweed salad.

3. Marco and Luca's delivery

noodle, pasta, pad thai, vegetable, shrimp, rice, sauce
Coco Spagna

A brand new edition to the UVA plus dollars line up is Marco & Luca's delivery. Got Dumplings' famous competition that has a physical storefront on the corner and downtown just launched a plus dollar delivery menu that combines convenience and great food. Don't wait... 

Their giant soup dumplings are the perfect way to warm up from the inside out after a cold walk back from the library, so go ahead and order

2. West Range Café

Tucked away on the end of the West Range right by the food trucks and the amphitheater is this cute little café that many students don't know about.

They offer a variety of salads with fresh fruit, sandwiches, and blended coffee drinks and smoothies. In addition, they have snacks, pastries, and prepackaged meals for quick stops. Do yourself a favor and order a side of fries or try their loaded fries for a filling meal reminiscent of nachos. They add Old Bay seasoning instead of salt when they're fresh out of the frier.

I love grabbing a smoothie, salad, or wrap and studying in the comfy chairs by the window. The natural light can actually help you be more productive. The atmosphere is also great for meeting friends, so stop by next time you're looking for somewhere for lunch.

1. Yum Yum Xpress food cart

Renee Spillane

Okay, I may be a little biased on this one because I have a slight falafel obsession, but this little food truck manages to crank out some big greek flavor with their chicken, falafel, and lamb kebabs. They also offer gyros, dolomites (stuffed grape leaves), fresh hummus and pita, and baklava. Just thinking about their slightly spicy and super flavorful tzatziki is making my mouth water.

#SpoonTip: Order a Kebab with half falafel and half chicken. 

Their falafel is cooked to perfection and every day they offer a different "Flavor of the Day" chicken. My favorite so far has been the fajita spice. Make sure you ask for the free pita and tzatziki sauce. If you like spicy food, add a little sriracha sauce on top. The flavor works perfectly with the creamy tzatziki.

The final "dining" option is chicken noodle soup for the wahoo soul. Just go online and fill out the order form and you'll have the free soup, with matza balls, delivered to your dorm on Tuesday night, courtesy of the Chabad House. This option is great because what's better than using plus dollars? No dollars at all. 

So that's my ranking of the UVA dining options that will give you the best bang for your plus dollar bucks. The plus dollar system at UVA gives students access to a huge variety of food options on grounds that are a great supplement to dining halls.

Stick to a plan to avoid the dreaded dining hall food as much as possible. And don't forget to buy yourself a celebratory pint of Ben and Jerry's after your last final.