Battling the end-of-the-semester meal plan budget crisis

Already begging friends for some generous meal plan swipes? Don’t be ashamed, it literally happens to (almost) everyone – but there are proven practices to make it last that I suggest you implement, before it’s too late. I’ve been off campus for over a year, but I know the pains that come with stretching out the meal plan to the last dollar. I have problems trying to stretch real money out – it’s called a budget, and it’s a gnawing pressure that makes decisions so much harder. What is the most economically efficient purchase? Why can’t I buy a Frappuccino?

The first and most important thing you can do for both fiscal and physical health is to avoid bottled drinks and extraneous beverages in general. That is, if it’s not coffee or tea or some stimulant without which you’ll go mad, the purchase deems itself unnecessary. Use and reuse water bottles to avoid being charged for tap water and for the sake of sustainability. And don’t forget: Bring your own mug to get 25 cents off on beverages.

Also in the expensive category are packaged goodies like granola bars, Pop-Tarts and Chex Mix, which are much more expensive at retail prices in Campus Auxiliary Services facilities. Don’t buy the Clif Bar that is $2.99 when you can buy it for $0.99 at Wegmans.

While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, according to every single scientist, don’t let it eat up your dollars. Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator Cory Hancock said she looks for things with whole grains, healthy fats and protein “that will provide fullness and sustained energy.” A piece of fruit, peanut butter and whole grain toast will do the trick, as she said, noting that the choice is both healthy and very inexpensive.

If what’s left of your meal plan doesn’t even allow for breakfast, my best advice is to buy a couple boxes of cereal for $1.99 each from Wegmans or a dozen eggs. With a high amount of the nutrient choline, eggs will also keep your brain energized through the morning if topped on a piece of whole grain toast.

For everyday choices, seek out the bargains on campus. Levison’s Deli in Mary Jemison Dining Hall offers cheaper sandwiches and sides than those in Fusion Market with higher-end ingredients. Buy a whole sub at Southside Cafe and save half for later.

If all else fails and your friends won’t budge, add more money to your meal plan, and try not to screw yourself over next semester. Campus Auxiliary Services Marketing Coordinator Rebecca Stewart offered a piece of advice: “You have to actually look and pay attention to what you’re spending, versus blindly grabbing what looks good and then getting to the register and realizing what’s in your arms.”