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


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

  • natty1988natty1988 642 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    We did the smallest meal plan with our D. Then we gave her a set amount of money each month for flex dollars or to go to the store to buy food, or blow on restaurant meals.

    That said, we aren't made of money and we can't fund restaurant meals and food delivery night after night...part of being frugal is learning to cook or eating the dining hall food that is part of the meal plan you paid for. I didn't love the food in the dining hall at my school but I ate it cuz it was cheaper then restaurant food. When I had no meal plan, I shopped for food and cooked at my place...
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  • ChaosParent23ChaosParent23 447 replies26 threadsRegistered User Member
    I think it depends on the kid. S19 is NOT a morning person. He'd much rather eat brunch about 10ish, a snack around 2pm, then a big dinner. If he'd gone to his second choice school, we were going to get him the 2nd tier plan. Fewer swipes in the meal hall, but more flex money for the various snack bars. His 1st choice college, and the one he will be attending, is a flat rate all-you-can-eat no swipes meal plan. So it was moot.

    Now our youngest is your typical 3 squares, plus snacks. It takes him about 2 nanoseconds to wake up & need food. We'll probably get the max for him when he's ready to go off to school.
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  • one+twoone+two 115 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My S the former xc runner and a "get your money's worth" kind of guy got the required unlimited swipes meal plan as a freshman. His school has very good food. He ate breakfast then class then the earliest lunch time then class then back to lunch with friends from that class who hadn't eaten yet then dinner later. He gained 15+ lbs freshman year. He scaled to a lower plan and then lower still preferring to use the savings to eat out with friends occasionally and also not feel as pressured to use his swipes and as tempted by the all you care to eat situation.
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  • TQfromtheUTQfromtheU 1540 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Also consider your S's course load and class times. Will he be able to get to the cafeteria during their evening service hours? My DS had some late day classes and labs that kept him from making it back to the designated cafeteria. We had to make sure he had options. Things do change by the semester. DS and his friend group are eating together and bonding more in the cafeteria during their summer classes.
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  • GKUnionGKUnion 165 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My son had a 15 meal plan his freshman year. He eats like a horse but he still struggled to use all of his swipes each week because friends preferred to dine at on campus chain restaurants that took flex. Always default to lower swipes and supplement with flex.

    This year he’ll be off campus and I couldn’t be happier. Paying rent monthly is a treat and the total amount is less than on campus housing. He can also shop at local grocery stores with his flex account which should save us quite a bit on food. He’s a workout nut so he eats very healthy items. Healthy items are cheap. Most mornings he makes himself 4 egg omelets for breakfast. That can’t cost more than $2-$3. He’s also discovered tuna fish, another cheap source of protein. Back in May I bet him $20 he’d eat more than 150 cans of tuna in one year, from that date. He’s already up to 21 cans...it’s easy money and it saves us money.
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 3983 replies26 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    3 meals a day for college students is probably not the norm.
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  • boudersbouders 2465 replies172 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    D16 and S14 signed up for the second tier plan at their universities their freshman year. Both of them became food insecure as a result. They started to skip meals because they were afraid of running out of swipes.

    S14 discovered he had a month worth of swipes left in his last week of school.

    D16 had initially wanted to sign up for the lightest meal plan. She would have starved if she had. Her plan included flex dollars that were difficult to use for anything other than the campus Starbucks.

    I would sign up for the largest meal plan in freshman year and scale back if necessary.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78229 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 7
    Re: #25, canned tuna

    Some kinds of tuna may be high in mercury contamination (skipjack is a less contaminated type). Salmon and sardines have less mercury contamination.
    edited June 7
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  • GKUnionGKUnion 165 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @ucbalumnus Thanks, I had checked on mercury levels already. Chunk light tuna has lower levels than even skipjack and also happens to be the cheapest. I haven’t done the math yet on the number of ounces he’s eating per week.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7266 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree that it depends on the student and the college. My daughter is on the second highest meal plan at her school because she does eat three meals/day and her dorm is very convenient to many dining halls. Her plan comes with flex dollars that many of the restaurants and food trucks will take.

    Her school allows students to increase their plans but not move down until the end of the semester. We decided to start with a high meal plan for first semester because we didn't want her to worry about not eating enough. We had her keep tract of how many times she didn't go to the dining hall before we signed up for the second semester meal plan but she's using it all.
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  • bopperbopper 14067 replies100 threadsForum Champion CWRU Forum Champion
    I started myself and my kids with the "complete" meal plan the first year.

    Then you adjust when you find out what they really eat.

    When I was in school, the dining halls didn't have breakfast, you had to go to other places for that.
    So freshman year I would go with other folks and get breakfast there.
    Sophomore year it was clear to me that if nobody else was going over to that breakfast place, I wasn't going to do it so I dropped to a 2 meal a day plan and bought oatmeal/OJ to have for breakfast in my dorm. I did that the rest of my time at college (lived in the dorms all 4 years).

    For my Daughter, she did the full meal plan but was super picky so moved to a quasioncampus apartment sophomore year but had to buy her own food.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78229 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    GKUnion wrote:
    Chunk light tuna has lower levels than even skipjack and also happens to be the cheapest.

    Chunk light tuna is often skipjack, but may be yellowfin or other kinds.
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  • bgbg4usbgbg4us 1305 replies42 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    i agree with so many; start with full plan and see how that works and then adjust. You don't want your kid being "food insecure" as a new student along with all of the other new things!

    Our d willingly switched later on and mostly ate breakfast in her room once she figured it all out.
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  • thumper1thumper1 74785 replies3278 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    What is the rule about changing at your college? My DS signed up for the full meal plan as a freshman. BUT his school allowed changes up or down within the first three weeks of school starting. It took him a week to figure out he was never going to be in the dining hall three meals, seven days a week. So he switched to a plan that had a certain number of meals plus flex points he could use elsewhere. He just didn’t need that full plan...at all.

    DD was also able to switch, but her college uses a full points system...not a “number of meals” system. In other words, you get points deducted for the actual food you select. She was always WAYYYY under, and had plenty of extra points at the end of the term. They were allowed to carry over from quarter to quarter but not from year to year...so at the end of her freshman and sophomore years, she stocked up on cases of water, shampoo, power and granola bars, etc from the campus food store. And she had the minimum number of points allowed!
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  • JimQPublicJimQPublic 38 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    At MIT the meal plans appear to offer very little discount off the sum of the individual meal prices, so my daughter will be choosing the smallest plan available (it depends on the dorm) and she will just pay for any extra meals if neeeded. She likes to cook so is targeting dorms which don't require a full meal plan.
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  • mommdcmommdc 11377 replies31 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If the student will eat three meals a day in the dining hall, then yes.

    But if there are other food options on campus, pizza with friends, etc. then no.

    Both of my kids got a meal plan with about 10 dining hall meals a week and then extra dining dollars or flex to spend at other places.

    And both also found food places to try with friends off campus on occasion.
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  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 4066 replies87 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I got my kid the standard meal plan for his dorm, which is 12 meals per week. It’s included in the dorm price so unfortunately I can’t save any more money by refusing the plan. You don’t use it during a week, you lose it. I think the most he used for a week was maybe 8 times. He would usually go for breakfast, but for lunch or dinner he would always go to a restaurant since there are literally dozens of restaurants within one or two blocks of his dorm.

    Weirdly enough, he’s been cooking just about every day since he’s been back home for the summer. I wonder where he picked up that skill from?
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  • turtletimeturtletime 1245 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Like others, depends on what is being offered. I know at my kids college the price difference between the dorm required and premium plan was literally the difference in dining dollars. Pay the 300 more and get 300 more dining dollars. Personally, I’d rather save the cash and if they run out, give them some extra cash.... but, my kids always had hundreds left and desperately trying to use them up by end of year.
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  • Aug2019Aug2019 201 replies15 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    OP here...Checked the school's website; S can change his meal plan through the first two weeks of classes each semester.
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  • MassmommMassmomm 3924 replies81 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    There was only one option at Wellesley, either you were on the plan or you weren't, and you could only go off the plan if you lived in certain houses with full kitchens. At Oberlin, we bought the largest plan for my son his first year, and it was a waste. It was better to give him Obie dollars (flex dollars) that he used to buy food from local restaurants. We spent less his senior year because he had a minimal meal plan and got the rest of his food at other places. It probably wasn't as healthy, but at least he ate.

    I'd look at the local options and prices (Wellesley restaurants are high for most college kids) but Oberlin was quite reasonable. Make sure there are places within walking distance (Subway, Domino's, a burrito place, etc.) If he has a kitchen, will he use it? And can he get to a market to buy eggs, cereal, etc. to make a quick breakfast?
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