Last year a lab mate of mine ate out for lunch every day, but would talk about not having any money. Finally someone said, well then don't eat out! But, he already bought $500 per semester of meals which equaled to one meal a day during the week. Our semesters were 16 weeks long so that equaled $6.25/meal. There were nights that he did not eat because they had no food in the house, because they could not afford to buy any. How does that make sense?
We had access to a fridge and microwave at school and he had access to a fridge, stove and microwave at home so why spend $6.25/meal to eat out when that meant no dinner? It really seemed like it was just another bad habit from undergrad. You hear of the freshman 15 because freshman are eating out and can't cook in dorms. Why are we setting these kids up to fail? We set them up to overeat and overspend. Neither of these are good and this is how we start our adult lives. So what is a better idea?
First, cut the meal plan out if your university allows, if not call and see if they will waive the requirement and let you rent an apartment on campus. Most colleges only allow that for upper-division students but sometimes, if a parent pushes prior to acceptance, they fold for the younger students. As much as I believe in doing things for yourself, in this instance a parent has a lot more clout even if you have gotten a full scholarship or you are taking loans and working and therefore your parents are not paying. If you do have to take a meal plan, take the smallest plan you can so you do not spend too much money.
If you are in a small dorm room, get a mini-fridge and microwave and use that for breakfast and weekend lunches. You may even be allowed to have a crockpot which can make some wonderful dinners, all ready when you come home from classes or your part-time job. Speaking of part-time jobs, restaurant jobs are wonderful for college students. I paid my way through university on a server salary though I did a year of hosting to get enough experience to move up.
Does anyone have a positive experience with food plans that I am missing?