As the end of the semester approaches, you are probably finding yourself in quite a few stressful situations. From piles of homework and long papers due before finals, the one thing that you do not want to be worrying about is how you are going to get your next meal. That huge number that seemed to go unnoticed on the cash register as you checked out in the dining halls at the beginning of the semester has slowly trickled down, and now it seems to be racing you to your last final. With dining funds low, here’s how to make it work in the dining halls without buying Ramen in bulk.
1. Make the most of the “value meals”
BC Dining developed the value meal specifically for your type of student. The little-known soup and salad combo can be pretty satisfying, and the Chestnut Hill Grill line can always turn out a well-rounded meal for a fair price. With a protein and two sides, you can easily avoid being ripped off. In Lower, you can even take advantage of the fact that the sides are self-serve and really pack them in. Don’t forget that the meal comes with a fountain drink!
2. Spend more now, save more later
The large box at the fruit, yogurt, and salad bars can be packed full of yogurt, granola, pasta salad, or whatever you would like. Filling a box and taking food to go can be a great idea to last you for more than just a meal. Spending a little more to get the large container can save you money if you are willing to store it in your fridge.
3. Stay away from the specialty areas
Salmon and sushi may be enticing offerings, but now is not the time to splurge for these types of meals. The prices are listed next to each section, so make yourself aware of them before getting on line. Meals like the Christmas dinner special may only seem like a good idea until you get to the front of the cashier's line.
4. If you must get a drink, use the paper cups
There’s no winning with a bottled drink. PowerAde, Honest Tea, and Odwalla (that must be laced with gold with a price like that) will cost you an arm and a leg. If you must have your morning juice or milk, avoid the bottled versions and reach for the paper cups. There’s no need to drop three dollars on a plastic bottle that is smaller than the BC Dining cup.
5. Remember what’s cheap
The bakery section has a few secrets that will keep your prices low. With cookies for $0.99 and English muffins for $0.89, there’s often something small you can grab to pair with a meal or have as a quick snack. Bagels, pita, and muffins are also relatively cheap and basic offerings that are easily overlooked. The nearby cereal bar might seem like a low-priced option, but keep in mind that you could buy an entire box of cereal at the grocery store for the same price as a bowl of cereal in the dining hall.
6. Pre-made meal usually means rip-off
The truth is that even if they seem simple, the pre-made salads and clubs in the refrigerators can be quite pricey. There are a few exceptions to this rule that you may want to keep in mind. The PB&J and Fluffer Nutter are both $4.09, and they are fair-sized sandwiches. The Rat’s secret low-budget gem is the quesadilla, which only costs $4.29. The Rat’s grilled cheese is also relatively cheap at $4.09, but it is definitely less impressive size-wise.
7. Bonus: Free coffee for finals
Keep your eyes peeled for free coffee throughout finals! There’s no need to be shelling out a few bucks at the Chocolate Bar anymore, so be sure to absorb the benefits of the continuous flow of free caffeine while you still can.
As you try to pull through the last week, be sure to take advantage of that one close friend who has hundreds or even thousands of dollars remaining at this point in the semester. They may catch on that you are only using them for food, but what are friends for? Don’t be afraid to treat yourself to your favorite take-out one last time before the end of the semester either, but make sure you click the coupon buttons when using your Foodler account. Also, be sure to have a few lasting staples like peanut butter and other snacks on hand because these are often the things that will get you right to the end of the semester.Images courtesy of Flickr.