Do the math: Consider the cost of your meal plan

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Nick Harmon, Contributing Writer

Ever have trouble finding something appetizing to eat in the cafeteria? Ever wonder why you’re paying $7.25 per meal when there are cheaper alternatives? I certainly did, so I opted out of my meal plan as soon as I could.

When I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with a kitchen, I started buying groceries and making my own meals. For those students concerned with finances, I can tell you ­­– this is a good option. My grocery bill was about $500 per semester, which is one-fourth the cost of a 19 meal plan.

Many students are afraid of cooking for themselves because of a lack of cooking skills or a lack of reliable transportation to the grocery store. I was afraid, too, but it turned out that neither of these were real problems.

Photo by Rebecca RosenUD students make their way through a line of what Harmon considers over-priced cafeteria food, locked into a meal-plan that does not even save them any money.
Photo by Rebecca Rosen
UD students make their way through a line of what Harmon considers over-priced cafeteria food, locked into a meal-plan that does not even save them any money.

Learning to cook is not difficult. If you can read, you can cook. It’s especially easy when you are motivated by hunger. Getting to the grocery store has never been a problem for me, even though I don’t have a car. Plenty of students at UD have cars, and there is always someone willing to go to the store.

When you purchase a meal plan, consider what exactly you are paying for. Food alone does not cost $2,000. Convenience costs $2,000. Can we really justify paying so much for convenience?

In college it is necessary to free ourselves from most of life’s tedious labors so that we can focus on our studies. But can we justify spending $16,000 in four years merely because we don’t want to spend time cooking?

Perhaps some extraordinary people can. I mean those people who spend every second of every day doing something productive. Those people should not be wasting time cooking, so they can make extraordinary contributions to mankind later on in life.

For the rest of us, who maybe waste more than one hour every day going on Facebook or playing video games, it is not justifiable, especially for those of us with student loans.

Those loans, which make your meals even more expensive because of interest, can be eliminated by taking on the discipline of cooking.

Even if you are too timid to cook for yourself, you should still get off the meal plan. It’s often overlooked, but you can just pay as you go. Buying 19 meals a week as a walk-in costs the same amount as buying a 19 meal plan, except that when you sign onto a meal plan, you have to show up at the cafeteria for every meal or your money is wasted. If you want to go out for burgers one night instead of eating in the cafeteria, then you pay for two dinners. If you pay as you go in the cafeteria, then you don’t have to buy meals you’ll never eat.

If you cook for yourself then you won’t find yourself starving late at night with no food. You can eat your own food whenever you want. Students on meal plans can only do this if they waste even more money buying food from stores, or go digging through dumpsters. This makes people less sanitary, as well.

There is no need to fear getting off the meal plan. The cafeteria is still open to you. I encourage everyone to have a little discipline, be a little more responsible and give yourself the gift of planning your own meals. It’s worth thousands of dollars.

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