The dining halls at the University of Wisconsin-Madison operate differently than dining halls at other schools. We don’t have a pre-paid swipe meal plan system or “all-you-can-eat” meal options. You pay for what you eat, so budgeting is a necessity. By using these dining hall hacks, you will be able to minimize costs and maximize savviness.  

Luckily, there are ways you can save a little money and enjoy your college dining experiences with Bucky to the fullest. Here are 10 useful dining hall hacks for all of my fellow Badgers out there. 

1. On the side, please

When it's Taco Tuesday, get multiple little cups of salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side. You can use just a little bit in each taco and even save some for your midnight snack. Those Tostitos sitting in your room won't be lonely anymore. 

2. Avocado Toast

herb, guacamole, cheese, avocado, vegetable
Honorata (Nora) McIntyre

I'm a huge fan of avocado toast, so I continuously crave it in the morning. Unfortunately, sometimes I don't have avocados sitting in my dorm room. Luckily, if I have leftover guacamole from taco night (see above), I just spread it on toast and satisfy my craving. 

3. Elevate a microwave meal

rice, meat, seafood, fish, vegetable
Kendra Valkema

In a box to-go, grab some light ingredients from the salad bar like cabbage, shredded carrots, and boiled eggs. You can go back to your dorm and add vegetables and protein to your boring Ramen. It's just like eating a dining hall noodle soup for less.

4. Cookie Sandwich

It is easier than you may think - buy two cookies, and add the free whipped cream from the waffle station.

5. Pasta Salad

Get plain pasta at the pasta station, along with some salad fix-ins (tomatoes, cheese, olives, etc.). Pay for your food, and then proceed to the condiments station, where you can choose your favorite dressing and add as much as you want. 

6. Save the Other Half

If you're in a rush or just not hungry enough, save the other half of your sandwich for later without it getting soggy. Ask for no sauce, and don't get your sammie toasted. Add your own mustard, mayo, or other dressing to one half, and save the other half for a snack or dinner.

7. Saltines

Grab a few packets of saltines with your soup to snack on later. They don’t charge.

8. More for your money

When you fill up your soda or get an iced beverage from Bean and Creamery, don't ask for ice in the cup. Get your cup filled up all the way with your beverage, and just get a separate cup of ice from the water/ice machine. 

9. Weigh less, save more

If you're having a side salad, grab extra toppings at the burger and pasta stations such as lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes to save weight on your salad. 

10. More Ice Cream

A single scoop of Babcock ice cream at Bean and Creamery is usually around $2.50. A pint of any-flavored Babcock ice cream at Flamingo Run is under $5. You can get double the ice cream for less. 

When all of us Badgers are cramming for that next exam, we deserve the best meal possible. By utilizing these dining hall hacks, you'll be able to save the money that you'll need for weekend fun in Madtown.