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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Opinion: Leave college dining plans behind

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Photo by Madeline Tesch

Fresh produce at Walmart on Friday, March 31, 2023. 

As a college student who handles all of her expenses, there is one thing I hate doing — spending money. To be more precise, I hate excessive spending.
Understandably, college is a hefty bill with universities finding new ways to shake down students for more money, with meal plans and campus food taking the cake on the list of up-charged expenses. Compared to buying and preparing your own food, it’s cheaper and healthier to make the switch.
The minimum meal plan, Block 110, which is required for freshmen, is $1,441 this semester. This includes 110 meal swipes and $300 dining dollars, but breaks down to only seven meals weekly over the 15-week semester.
If you choose to increase your plan to get more meals, you’re still not getting much bang for your buck. For example, moving up to Block 145 will only grant nine meals weekly for an additional $300. This is not a feasible diet. The amount of money put into these dining plans could be used for budgeting groceries while still maintaining healthier eating habits.
I was fortunate enough to move off campus my sophomore year and noticed I saved money buying and preparing my own meals. Not only was I able to afford good quality food options, but my fridge and stomach remained full.
My eating habits changed dramatically without dining plans, as I could eat regularly without snacking throughout the day because I was “saving” meal swipes, not to mention the weight I lost since I wasn’t eating the fast food choices or pigging out on buffets.
Though the switch was noticeable for me, how much could students actually save when meal budgeting?
For students who live on campus and enjoy the benefits of dining plans to manage their diet, the cost is worth the convenience. However, for those who are looking to devote funds elsewhere, like myself, it is an unreasonable price.
Using HEB grocery delivery, which includes a $5 delivery fee, I have been able to observe my own spending habits. Based on the past three months, on average I laid aside $215 on groceries monthly. If I scale this to a six-month period similar to the meal plans time coverage, I would spend roughly $1290.
Despite this including my toiletries, snacks and choice beverages, I still managed to save $150 and fit at least 2 to 3 meals daily with my monthly haul.
Understandably, $150 may be nothing comparatively, however, the benefits of choice, easy access and nutrient-rich options that come with meal budgeting add a very likable bonus. With budgeting and meal planning, propagating correct meal portions while still allowing indulges is achievable.
Students can only use the aforementioned dining dollars at select, usually overpriced, locations. These restaurant options such as Chick-fil-A and other food chains offered by Chartwells complacently feature unhealthy meals. Students indulge in burgers, pizza and other various high-fructose choices, neglecting their need for balanced meals. That, or they’re met with unhealthy portions at buffet-styled dining halls.
Prior to observing these charges and comparing it to the amount I spend on my own cost of living, I would have never noticed the upcharge.
It was an easy decision for me to make the switch. However, I highly encourage you to perform your own research.
Who knows, you may find better substitutions for budget-friendly meals.
Saanya Troutman is an English senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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