Another semester of school has come and gone, and many of us are counting the remaining credit we have on our meal plan. It is most likely that you still have a considerable amount of money left on your catcard, choosing to buy snacks and frozen foods from outside store such as Target or Raley’s so that you don’t have to spend so much at the DC. A trip to the marketplace or bookstore might reveal that all the items you’ve wanted to buy are gone, leaving you with nothing to spend it on. Of course at the end of the fall semester the remaining balance is added onto the spring, but have you ever wondered just how much you can spend per day in order to completely use your spending money?
Let’s first start off with the standard meal plan of $1500 dollars per semester, and working to spend all of it before the end of the year. Each semester contains about 110 instruction days, an average of $13.64 a day to spend on food. We can further split this average several ways. Probably the most common way of spending is to split this amount four ways: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This would amount to about $3.41 per meal, which may not seem like much, but is doable with some dining hall know-how. The best deal is by far the sandwich station, which charges you based on weight rather than a flat rate. Even with a bag of chips your meal usually comes out to around 3.25, which is much cheaper than almost all other options in the court. Another option that is fairly cheap is to buy one of the smoothies offered at the pisanos counter. Regular fruit and coffee blends are anywhere south of four dollars while “Meal Replacers” usually are just above. It may be not the most filling option, but it will help save you money to spend for a heavier meal.
And speaking of which, heavier meals offered by the DC tend to be pretty filling, probably enough to cover two meals on their own. Taking this into account, we times 3.41 x 2, which equals now 6.82, around the cost of a blue plate meal, the most expensive station in the DC. The blue plate usually offers a decent amount of sides, so it is unlikely that you would need to purchase anything extra while there. And of course all the other stations offer cheaper options of filling meals. Two slices of pizza for example is a decently sized meal that comes in at under five dollars, and adding a fountain drink would put you close to the $6.82 mark. Meals usually tend to be around 5 and a half dollars not including tax, so it may be smarter just to leave the purchase with a bigger item.
Other cheap options at the DC are hearty foods such as the soup of the day, (running at $2.99,) and refrigerated options such as fruit and cheese packs and prepackaged salads. The latter can run anywhere from about 2-6 dollars depending on the item, with deli sandwiches and wraps being the most expensive.
In preparing for the next semester, these tips may help you keep in mind how to spend these cats dollars more frugally and perhaps save you some money to buy larger meals for when you are more hungry