Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Meal Plan Buck

As temperatures drop and stress levels rise, many students find that dwindling meal plan money is just another thing to worry about in a sea of final grades and examinations. The temptation of an Odwalla juice on the way to the library or mozzarella sticks after a long night of studying can be difficult to overcome, but these are only two of the many sneaky ways to quickly deplete your meal plan dollars. Thankfully, Boston College Dining Services Director Beth Emery was able to give the Gavel some useful tips on how to get the most bang for your buck in dining halls on campus—as well as what to do if you really hit rock bottom.

“As you know, the BC Dining program is unique and meets the majority of student needs but can be challenging for a frequent user,” Emery says. “These students typically add funds to their mandatory plans.”

Through the Agora Portal, BC students can add funds to their Eagle-One accounts at any point in the year. Optional Dining Bucks offer a 10% discount on any purchase in a BC dining hall, while the Flex Dining Plan provides a significant amount of bonus dollars. With either of these plans, any leftover money will roll over to the next academic year, or will be refunded after graduation for seniors.

“We typically recommend that frequent users add $800 on the Flex Dining Plan which provides a total of $920 in spending dollars. This plan, in addition to the mandatory plan, will provide enough funds for most students to eat three meals per day for the entire year,” Emery says.

As the semester comes to a close, students may tend to eat most or all of their meals in the dining halls for the sake of on-campus efficiency. Frequenters of Mac, Stuart, and Lower looking to stretch their remaining meal plan dollars are encouraged to take advantage of BC Dining’s Value Meal options. All Value Meals come with any size fountain beverage, and range between $5 to $10 with a variety of options for meals throughout the day.

For $5, students can get pancakes or French toast and choose bacon, sausage, or whole fruit as a side. They can also opt for an Egg McBC or bagel egg sandwich and choose home fries or a piece of whole fruit.

For $8, students can get grilled cheese or a half sandwich with any 10 oz. soup, any two slices of pizza, or pasta and marinara with either meatballs or side vegetables.  Another alternative is a regular cold sandwich or sub, with side options of chips, a small salad, or whole fruit.

And, finally, for $10, students can get the following deals: any chicken breast entree with a choice of two sides; a vegetarian dinner entree with a small salad or one side; a large entree salad with a whole fruit; and a BC burger, garden burger, or grilled chicken sandwich with a choice of fries, whole fruit, or a small salad bar cup.

As far as other ways to save, being conscious of beverage choices can significantly impact the amount of money that students regularly spend. While coffee is free during finals week, all throughout the year BC Dining offers the specially-discounted price of a small drink to students who bring in a refillable beverage container, no matter the size.

Similarly, students are warned about the high cost of bottled beverages in comparison to those from the milk, juice, or soda fountains. Odwalla, Powerade, Suja, and other bottled drinks come at a significantly higher price for their name brand and grab-and-go convenience. Those trying to make wise spending choices should aim to steer clear of the fridge when browsing for drink choices, and consider drinking tap water instead.

Emery notes that regularly taking advantage of Late Night dining options can also add up and deplete meal plans quickly. The BC Dining site includes a handy-dandy Meal Plan Calculator, which students can use to budget out the remainder of their dining dollars.

“We would be happy to arrange for any student to meet with one of our dining general managers at the dining location that they frequent so that they can show him/her around and provide a few pointers on how he/she can take advantage of our Value Meals,” Emery says.

Students interested in learning more about how to save meal plan money can reach Emery by email at elizabeth.emery.3@bc.edu.

My parents live in Mississippi, but I live in the moment. Texting in all lowercase letters is my aesthetic. I probably eat too many mozz sticks and listen to too much Drake.

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