Make your meal plan last all year

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Student card in one hand, burger in another

Jonas Hrebeniuk

FILLIN' THE MEAL PLAN, CLOGGIN' THE ARTERIES. If you frequent fast food restaurants and delivery with the money on your meal card, your funds will be dwindling quicker than you can say 'Jack Robinson.'

While you may have heard the horror stories about university cafeteria food, we’re lucky to be going to a school with one of the best campus food services in the country.

What you do have to keep in mind while chowing down, however, is that you have a limit on the amount of food you can purchase with your meal card, depending on the size of your meal plan.

So in order to avoid having to refill your card during the last month of school or stage a famine, below is some advice to keep in mind.

1. Avoid using your Meal Plan to eat out. While the occasional Swiss Chalet or Subway purchase won’t kill your meal plan, eating out at such establishments frequently will quickly erode your seemingly endless money " flex dollars in particular. At $10 to $15 per meal, these establishments are not as cheap as they advertise.

2. Eat in residence and not on main campus outlets. Although you can use your meal plan at eating establishments on main campus, such as at the University Community Centre, you do not get the same discount on food items as you do in residence, since you paid a large overhead fee to get a discount. As such, try to eat all of your meals in or bring food to campus residence.

3. Buy bulk items. Many food items in the cafeteria, such as the salad bar, sell large portions of food for a relatively cheap prices. Choosing such items to snack on in favour of the more expensive daily specials on a regular basis is a sure fire way to save cash.

4. Stay away from the vending machines. The convenient meal card slots located on the side of most vending machines make it very convenient to grab a bite to eat, particularly when you are hungry after a late night outing. Rather than spend $2 on a bag of chips or can of Coke, buy some cheaper items the evening before in the cafeteria and keep them stocked in your room.

5. Have a target for how much you want to spend each month. Having been accepted to Western, every student is capable of taking the value of their meal plan and dividing it by eight months. Regardless of what formula you use, try and set a goal for how much you want to spend each month and stick to it. You can check your balance on your card anytime you make a purchase.

By following these simple tips, you will be able to chow down during your first year and avoid scrambling at the end of the year for more money on your meal card.

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