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College Meal Plans - When does it make sense to buy the "Maximum" plan?

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Replies to: College Meal Plans - When does it make sense to buy the "Maximum" plan?

  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 791 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    At my daughter's school unless you lived in apartments with full kitchens you have to have a meal plan with 9, 13, or 19 meals swipes a week. The difference is the 9 has $200 in extra bucks, 13 has $150 and 19 had $100. Pricewise they are all identical and the places that you can use the extra bucks also take swipes. My daughter just sticks with the 19 even though she has probably never used all 19 swipes. It doesn't really make sense to me that the meal plans are all the same price.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77215 replies672 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re: #41

    So the student who takes the 19 meal plan instead of the 9 meal plan gets about 160 extra meals per semester in exchange for losing $100 of extra food money? Seems like very odd pricing if the 9 and 19 meal plans are the same price.
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  • gouf78gouf78 7776 replies23 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Unless your kid has no access to a food market of any type or even a compact refrigerator and no microwave the food plan is very expensive and not worth it.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 22457 replies14 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Daughter #1 took the lowest meal plan at 12 per week (and it reset every week) but after about 3 weeks she joined a sorority and had to switch to that meal plan (which was actually cheaper). She never ate the 12 meals at the cafeteria and rarely ate at the sorority but did use their snack room.

    Other daughter had two choices as a freshman - the all access cafeteria or the M-F all access cafeteria with $500 on a card as dining dollars. The second year she got $1700 on the dining dollars card and then had a certain amount deducted if she ate in the cafeteria.The dining dollars worked in the deli, the pizza place, and the little grocery store. Even with generously treating other friends to meals and toilet paper from the store, she still couldn't go through all the money on the card by the end of the year.

    Her boyfriend had a M-F lunch program when he lived off campus as an upper classman. He made out. Lunch was from 10:30-3 so he'd ofter each 2-3 meals per day there, a late breakfast, lunch or an early dinner (as long as you were in by 3, you could camp out there.
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  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 3948 replies55 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My kid had the 10 meal plan freshman year which was plenty. Didn't want to get up to go to breakfast, so did cereal, yogurt, fruit in dorm. Tons of options in Boston, so access to food not an issue. At an average price of $13+ per swipe, he could it at many decent places for lunch that were cheaper than the swipes. Plus he quickly got bored with the dining hall, so 10 was perfect. He was happy to go off the meal plan after freshman year since he scored am on campus apartment with kitchen.
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  • comptechmomcomptechmom 124 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @bopper When I went to CWRU - I just had the 14 meal plan - 2 a day. Parents wouldn't pay for that breakfast and no one wanted to walk to the hospital to get a breakfast ever. Brunch on the weekends were the absolute best! Of course, now I blame the fact that I don't eat breakfast on my undergrad days.

    UT Austin now has Unlimited meal plan for dorms. Ugh Ugh. You do have a certain amount of Dining Dollars to use at other places on campus but the prices are always twice as much and there is No Rollover of money anymore. They also give a smaller amount for off-campus food. If you want to switch that Unlimited meal plan to be more flexible on Campus - now they want you to pay $1000 for that privilege. I think I laughed and said No. I'd rather give them the cash if they need it to be used however they want. This is all to drive students to move off-campus after first year.
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 718 replies13 postsRegistered User Member
    Are you sure you get a choice for freshman? My daughter’s LAC requires all freshman to be on the full plan, which is incredibly pricey at $3490 per semester- over $200 per week. That’s less than I spend per week to feed our family of four currently, but since she doesn’t have a choice there is not a reason to dwell on it. Also, since she would likely have to eat out most meals without the dining plan, it would still be the cheaper option for her I think. It was just a momentary sticker shock for us.
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  • FlaParentFlaParent 82 replies19 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    It’s rarely a good deal. Ask most parents with older kids and they almost to a person but less of a plan after freshman year.

    In most cases buy the smallest plan possible and none if it is offered. Both larger stare schools here do not require s meal plan. Instead most people I know just deposit $150 weekly into students bank account for food. If they want to go to cafeteria, they simply buy a pass that is $11 for a dinner.

    Most students spend their money with greater care and have money for pizza/movies/beer/Chinese.
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  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 791 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    @ucbalumnus yes the price of 9, 13, and 19 meals are identical. I did try asking about it before she started but no one seemed to understand my confusion. I even called the registrar to confirm prices because it simply didn't make sense to me. Now I just say keep the 19 and use what you use. When she skates at 6am she stops by to grab a drink and muffin or light breakfast but if she doesn't need to be up early I doubt she goes to breakfast and she goes to many events with food that doesn't use swipes. She also keeps a small amount of microwave food in her room just in case for any reason she doesn't want to go out (bad weather etc).
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  • cshell2cshell2 310 replies4 postsRegistered User Member
    Looking into the school DS will most likely end up with I think we'll go with unlimited plan. You have to be on one of two plans if living in a residence hall and the choices are unlimited or 14/week. The difference in cost is only $200/semester ($1720 vs $1920) which is why we'll probably just go unlimited. Of course, they also make you purchase $200 in flex dollars for the food court and coffee shops each semester, so that's getting to be a lot of food...
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  • brooklynlydiabrooklynlydia 177 replies4 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    We did unlimited swipes because our child doesn't eat enough and we didn't want to make it any harder than it needed to be to get a meal. He ended up eating breakfast twice (once before his 8:00 class - a quick bowl of cereal) and once after with friends (something more substantial). I think in our case it was worth it, but for a more ordinary kid, especially a girl who needs relatively few calories) it is probably overkill.
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  • bopperbopper 13941 replies98 postsForum Champion CWRU Forum Champion
    @comptechmom...it was exactly that...i didn't want to waste precious moments walking to the hospital for breakfast!
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  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot 1538 replies12 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 9
    My kids started with the highest meal plan freshman year.

    After freshman year my oldest lived in a fraternity house and bought the fraternity meal plan which was MUCH MUCH less expensive than the CWRU meal plan. His senior year he lived in the apartments and we gave him money to shop/cook at home. Son did not like the dining hall food.

    My middle son had 5 meals his sophomore year because he had to have a meal plan. We gave him money to shop/cook his other meals. He ate lunch on campus. After that he moved off campus and we gave him money to shop/cook.

    My youngest had a full meal plan his first two years at Haverford. Next year he will be overseas in the fall and in the apartments in the spring. He wants to shop/cook for himself. He says dining hall isn't bad but much to expensive.
    edited June 9
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  • GrainraiserGrainraiser 469 replies3 postsRegistered User Member
    One of the first things I advise parents at my son school is not to take the max meal plan. Take a lower plan and make adjustments after first semester. I see lots of kids at the end of the spring semester beg upper classmen use their swipes. Some of these kids have over 50 swipes left and those swipes are right at $7 apiece. Now the school is making a rule that you can only give away so many swipes a semester although they are already paid for. It's much better to add to a plan than watch wasted meals be given back to the school.
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  • dentmom4dentmom4 1294 replies4 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    We went with unlimited when our kids were in the dorm. All were athletes with 5:30 am practice, plus afternoon practice. They were hungry and pretty much used their allotment. Once they moved off campus, we bought them 10 a week, as they were usually too tired and hungry to cook dinner after a long day. The girls usually ate a second breakfast after morning practice.
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  • mamommamom 3661 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My basketball athlete D was underwhelmed with 16-17 swipes a week in the fall. She was always hungry. By basketball season she worked out where to eat and when, but some was off campus (to accommodate her schedule) and cost additional money. We will continue with largest meal plan option 2nd year and go from there. I wish D3 athletes had other options, but we have learned to deal with it. For on athletes, who sleep in with later classes, a lower amount of swipes might make sense
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  • mamommamom 3661 replies24 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    BTW, reading the comments, my D liked (not loved ) the dining hall food. She had 7 places to choose from. But he hours the dining hall were open vs her workout schedule were in conflict many days. Which meant we paid for meals when she could not get to the dining hall. I would start with largest meal plan and then reevaluate second semester.
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  • mathmommathmom 32137 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Many colleges will have some takeout options if you can't make it during regular dining hours.
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  • lbflbf 394 replies0 postsRegistered User Member
    @Aug2019 always such a tough question since you and they don't know what their habits will be. So much good advice here. We have been all over the map first semester maybe go a little higher so it is easy and adjust after that?
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  • laraleilaralei 763 replies58 postsRegistered User Member
    DS had unlimited as freshman, mandatory. However, the dining options were varied and he could just pop in for a drink or get a take out box. Expensive, but I think it was good to not have to worry about meal plans while getting acclimated to a very large campus and intensive classes. Second year he dropped down a level. Once he moved off he used the commuter plan, significantly less.

    What I have found w/ youngest is there isn't much price difference between the lower plans, 9,12, 14. School also had unlimited, but I knew she would never use it; dining options weren't as good at her school. So we went w/ the 14 her freshman year. However, she had so many "swipes" left at the end of the year, she is now on the lowest just because it annoyed me so much! Not much cheaper than the 14, but at least they will be used.
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