It’s that time of year again: snow is falling, temperatures are dropping and meal plans are wearing thin. With only a few weeks left in the semester, many students find themselves struggling to budget for food.
The average student at Geneseo can choose between four types of meal plans ranging from a total cost of $2,158-$2,662. That may seem like a high number, but when you break down the math, it’s surprisingly small.
The average meal plan divided by the number of weeks in the semester—minus one to accommodate for breaks—averages to about $150 per week. Take this and divide it by seven for each day of the week and then multiply by three meals a day. That leaves an average of about $7 to be spent on each meal for an entire semester just to break even.
While this might seem reasonable, it doesn’t take on-campus prices into account. Roughly $7 is not enough to buy a salad at Books and Bytes or Max Market. It is not enough to buy a water bottle and a carton of stir-fry from Fusion. It is also not enough to enter Food Studio North, touted as one of the best-value food places on campus.
Approximately $7 is, however, enough to buy less expensive food like a grilled cheese, tacos and other fast food items. Solely consuming these foods, however, raises questions about students’ health.
It is expensive to maintain a nutritious diet at Geneseo. At Max Market, a cup of cantaloupe is more expensive than a large order of fries. A bagel at Books and Bytes costs only a $1.50, while a fruit cup comes in at $2.75.
So how can you make your meal plan last to the end of the semester, and still have a healthy diet?
One answer is to eat meticulously. It is also likely that you will have to add money to your meal plan account at some point in the semester. A third strategy to help you stay on budget is to choose the cheaper meal plan option and use any extra money in your budget to buy produce and other healthy options at lower prices. Both Aldi and Wegmans offer students access to affordable healthy food.
Aldi, for instance, has a quality selection of produce that is far cheaper than anything found on campus. You can buy a carton of a dozen eggs for less than the price of the four eggs available in plastic cartons at Max Market or Mary Jemison. Additionally, a package of 24 water bottles at the grocery store costs about the same as four water bottles purchased on-campus. Students can also buy an entire bag of clementine oranges for the same price as a fruit cup of mandarin oranges in the dining halls.
Making the trip to Wegmans or Aldi gives people with meal plans a chance to stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grain pasta and other essentials. This will allow you to supplement the cheaper, unhealthier meal plan options with additional foods and get the best of both worlds.u