Senior Yoni Weiss on effective meal plan usage at campus dining options

By Yoni Weiss || Contributing Writer

What’s going on with all these new meal prices? Back when I was a first-year, almost everything was one meal swipe, no questions asked. With the increase in on-campus meals requiring both a meal swipe and flex dollars, using a meal plan just doesn’t seem to be nearly as easy anymore. Meal plans are certainly not inexpensive, and their cost is only going up. Is there anything you can do to counter their rising cost? Yes, there is! You may not be able to lower the cost of your meal plan, but you can get a better idea of how you can use your swipes to make the most of what you paid for! In this short piece, I’ll give you a quick and easy breakdown of my recommendations for which dining locations to use meal swipes at and which to reserve for flex dollars. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll not only use close to your whole plan, but you’ll also get more meals out of it! Let’s not waste any time, here are my recommendations:

Dining LocationRecommendation
Dining HallMeal Swipe
Blue LineMeal Swipe MealsFlex Snacks
Flavors (LSP)Meal Swipe MealsFlex Snacks
Mein Bowl (SCC)Flex
Grill on the Green (SCC)Meal Swipe
Simply Salads (SCC)Meal Swipe

These recommendations are how you get the best value for one meal at each of these dining locations. Let’s see why.

Dining Hall: Dhall is the most straightforward of them all: if you go to dhall use a meal swipe to access the all-you-can-eat buffet. In case you were wondering, breakfast is $11.70, lunch is $19.26, and dinner is $20.60 flex.

Blue Line: At Blue Line, a meal swipe is equivalent to $6 flex. That will be plenty for your favorite coffee, as most only cost around $3.50. When you purchase a meal using a swipe, though, you get a 12 oz. drink as well, which gets you nearly $10 worth of food for only $6. Some of those options require $2 flex in addition, but you still come out ahead by almost $2. Now, if you are just getting a snack or really just want your favorite coffee, consider using your flex dollars. Specifically, use flex if the cost comes out to less than $6. Don’t let this prevent you from buying snacks at Blue Line. I, too, bought my fair share of those amazing Nutella cookie sandwiches (which I miss very very much). Do keep in mind that at Blue Line, flex dollars won’t get you nearly as much food as your meal swipes will. 

Flavors: Flavors is very similar to Blue Line, with a minor twist. Like Blue Line, meal swipes give you much better value. Consider Flavors’ lunch options where you can get a meal, chips or fruit, and a drink with a single meal swipe. When I fall for one of their muffins or cookies, though, I’ll use flex dollars and so should you! The difference here is that Flavors doesn’t have a set amount of how many flex dollars make a meal swipe. Either you can pay with a meal swipe or you can flex your purchase.

Mein Bowl: Ready for this twist? At Mein Bowl, your flex dollars are more valuable than your meal swipes. How? For starters, one meal swipe is equivalent to $5 flex— the least of the on-campus dining locations. Next are the prices: the cheapest meal, at $7.19, includes one entrée and one side. As for the sushi, the cheapest option is the vegetable roll, ranging from $5.59 to $11.49. Most items are more than $5, meaning that they require you to use both a meal swipe and additional flex dollars for your purchase. Some meals are even over $10, meaning that you would have to use two meal swipes and additional flex dollars just for one meal! Consider how much food you get with one swipe at dhall and then see that here, you get less food for more swipes. So instead, just purchase your meal with flex dollars and pocket those swipes for another location. The last thing is that paying with flex means you’ll need to flex your drink as well. No matter, drinks are only $2.49 and you still save more by using flex! To their credit, though, Mein Bowl has come out with smaller sized meals available for a single meal swipe. Somewhat surprisingly, this may be the best valued meal they have.

Grill on the Green: Everything here can be purchased using a meal swipe and comes with a drink, so meal swipes are the way to go. Meal swipes are still equivalent to $5 flex, and, believe it or not, all of the meals cost more than that. Not only do you save, you also get more by using your meal swipes here.

Simply Salads: Like at the Grill on the Green, using your meal swipes are the best option here. Additionally, the new soup and salad combo (with a drink) is the best value. Note that your salad price is based on weight— the larger your salad, the higher the price in flex dollars. One meal swipe gets you a salad, regardless of size. Meals swipes are the winner here.

The take away from all of this is that the number of flex dollars that are equivalent to one meal swipe varies across the different dining locations on campus. This means that in certain dining locations, you actually get more for your money by paying with flex dollars. The last but most important tip I can give you is that the best way to use your meal plan to its full potential is to monitor your swipes. By checking in on what you have remaining, you can see if you are running low on one commodity and switch over to the other. To help with this, there is an online portal which allows you to see what you have spent and what you have left. By taking just a few minutes to remember this, you’ll maximize your meal count from your meal plan and will get the most out of what you paid for!

Senior Yoni Weiss is a Contributing Writer. His email is yweiss@fandm.edu.

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