As a college freshman, it’s pretty standard to have a meal plan. It’s convenient, you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking (not that freshmen have kitchens, anyway), and it’s what everyone else has. People ask me all the time why I don’t have a meal plan, so I thought it’d be good to explain my rationale. I’m definitely not trying to convince anyone else not to have one (I think for most people, having a meal plan IS the best option!), but just wanting to explain why not having a meal plan works best for me personally.
1. Limited healthy options. I think it’s definitely possible to choose healthy options at the dining hall, but there’s not a ton of variety at our dining hall. There’s always a salad bar and some fresh fruit, but other options seem to be hit-or-miss. I also don’t eat the meat there. I do pay to eat at the dining hall sometimes if that’s where friends want to meet, but there’s not that much variety for me to do it on a everyday basis.
2. Cost. For the smallest meal plan offered at my school (~1 all-you-can-eat meal per day, which is the most I’d want to eat in the dining hall), the cost averages out to $10.69 per meal.
$1069 per semester/100 meals = $10.69 per meal
It’s hard for me to justify spending almost $11 every day for a meal that I don’t enjoy that much.
3. I like eating smaller meals with lots of snacks, and if I was only eating one meal at the dining hall per day, I’d feel like I had to eat a huge meal to make my $11 meal swipe worth it. I have friends who are big eaters who love having an all-you-can-eat meal plan, so it definitely just depends on the person.
4. There are lots of options for places to eat out on campus. Right below the dining hall, there are quick food options from both local restaurants and chains like Chick-fil-A. There are also tons of restaurants close to campus from Chipotle, Noodles & Co, and Panera to all kinds of great local places. A $5 bowl of pasta from Noodles, a $7 salad from Panera, etc. are things that I really enjoy and that are a lot cheaper than a $10.69 meal at the dining hall.
or a $5 wrap from Chick-fil-A
5. I can still be social. Eating in the dining hall IS a really social thing to do, but I have lunch dates with friends every day, and I go out to eat with friends on the weekends, which is perfect for me.
A Ben & Jerry’s kind of night with Jess and Emma!
6. I like being excited about what I’m eating. I don’t mind the challenge of figuring out how to eat healthy, grocery shop, etc. in college (I actually like it!), so it’s definitely worth the extra effort to be able to I enjoy what I eat every day. Having no meal plan as a freshman is some extra effort, though, but if it’s worth it to you, it can be really fun.
So, again, this is just what works for me. With a meal plan, you’re paying for the convenience and time-saving aspects, and I totally understand how these benefits are worth it to most people. I also understand that at some colleges, freshmen are required to have a meal plan, and I think that’s totally doable, too. Given the choice, though, I like having the flexibility to figure out my own meals. And if you’re like me, you might, too!
Questions: If you’re in college, do you have a meal plan? If you’re out of college, did you used to have a meal plan? Do you like having one?