Budget wisely for campus and dorm dining

You’ve probably heard the rumors:

The ones about the 15 pounds. The ones about only eating ramen noodles. The ones about living off of diet sodas and pizza rolls. The ones about being broke from said diet sodas and pizza rolls.

The rumors are true, for some people.

The rumors don’t have to be true if you know what your dining options are and how to budget correctly. The sooner you get a handle on this whole budget and responsibility stuff, the better off you and your 15 pounds will be.

Paying for on campus meals

If you’re living on campus in Union Drive, Richardson Court or Buchanan Hall it is mandatory you have a meal plan.

You have a few options when it comes to picking a meal plan. The more meals you buy the less money you pay per meal. The “Cyclone” plan is only $6.15 per meal, but are you going to eat 19 meals a week? If you are, then great, this meal plan is for you. From my experience most college students ate about 14 meals per week.

It’s important to know what works for you. If you hate the dining center food and want to live out of your dorm mini-fridge then maybe a “25 Meal Block” plan is best for you. With meal blocks one can add more meals at anytime, but you have to add dining dollars separately.

Dining Dollars are a great perk, but can be tough on your budget because they offer so much convenience. They’re dangerous because if you’re not watching how many Caribou coffees you’re consuming your dining dollars will deplete quickly. If this does happen you can add more dining dollars at anytime. Here’s where that whole “budget stuff” comes in handy.

Similarly to the cost of meals, the more dining dollars you buy at one time the cheaper the dining dollar costs. Buy more than $200 worth of dining dollars and you’re discounted 5 percent. That’s like getting free money.

So, if you don’t plan on eating at the dining hall frequently, another option is to load up on dining dollars.

Dining centers, campus restaurants and c-stores all accept dining dollars. Campus restaurants also have meal bundles, which can be paid for by meal blocks or semester plans.

Dorm diet

If living in a dorm it’s best one roomie brings the mini-fridge, and the other the microwave. You’ll need these for the breakfasts, snacks and possibly quick lunches. Buy cereal, oatmeal, milk and yogurt for quick breakfasts in the morning.

Take CyRide and make a trip to Hy-Vee or other local grocers to keep it budget-friendly. C-stores on campus are often more expensive and should be used in emergencies only.

Buy dried fruits and nuts for a quick trail mix snack. Ease up on the Cheetos, your roommate will not be happy when they catch you wiping your cheesy fingers on their futon. Not to mention they offer no nutritional value.

Don’t bother buying fresh fruits. Unless you really do plan to eat them several times a day, they go bad too quickly for dorm life. Besides you can leave the dining center with a piece of fruit at every meal to snack on later.

Same goes with the desserts. The dining center offers delicious cakes and pies that beat out stale cookies bought at the store, and it’s not tough to leave the dining center with a brownie in hand as well.

Microwavable meals are easy lunches, but try not to make it a habit; they’re expensive and high in sodium.

For lunch try making sandwiches with whole wheat bread and buy lean meat and non-processed cheeses from the deli. Try making burritos with tortillas, ready rice, cheese, black beans and salsa. Don’t forget you can always make grilled cheeses with an iron. Just make sure to clean the iron off when you’re done.

Be prepared with a can-opener and microwavable plastic storage containers, as well as a complete dining set for one person, to make the most of your dorm dining.