Strategies For Living Without a Meal Plan

It took a lot for me to decide not to purchase a meal plan this semester. I loved having the freedom to just swipe my ISU ID card and have a meal prepared for me in minutes. Not to mention, having dining dollars felt like I was just getting Caribou Coffee for free almost everyday. This semester, I decided to try to save some money and live without the convenience of getting a meal at the snap of a finger while on campus. Adjusting to that wasn’t the easiest thing, but I did have some strategies to make the transition a little easier!

1.) Leave the plastic at home – The first few weeks of class were a struggle to try to avoid using my credit or debit card to purchase food for lunch or a quick snack. I spent way too much money without even realizing it. (Until I went back and looked at my bank statements…. Ouch!) I started bringing strictly cash to campus; it’s a lot easier to see how much you’re spending when you actually have to hand the money over. It helped me think harder about whether or not I really need that chocolate croissant that looks so tempting behind the glass at the cafe…

2.) Pack a lunch the night before class – I have found the best strategy for making myself remember to bring a lunch is to pack it the night before so that I don’t have to wake up earlier than I have to and still make it to class on time. (A girl needs her sleep.) Foods that don’t require warming up work best with this strategy, so I’m a big fan of turkey sandwiches, pretzels, and some kind of fruit. If you like warm foods better, you can always pack those, too! A lot of the buildings on campus have a microwave you can use!

3.) Get a Hy-Vee Fuel Saver card – Planning my grocery list is so much easier when I can pick from items that save me money on gas, too! I can save five cents per gallon by buying a box of spaghetti?! Guess who’s having spaghetti this week. Yep, this girl. Plus, seeing how much money you save when you get your receipt after filling your car with gas is a lovely feeling.

4.) Limit the times you will go out to eat – Whether you want to limit yourself per week or per month or whatever time frame you decide, make a plan for the amount of times you will “allow” yourself to go out to eat. Maybe even make a weekly plan for all the meals you are going to have. You’ll save money, and probably eat a lot healthier, too.

5.) Take advantage of free food! – There’s usually some kind of free food on campus (or at least cheap food), and when you find it, you should eat it. Plain and simple.

If you decide to move out of the residence halls, you will likely be faced with the decision of whether or not to purchase a meal plan. If you decide to try to go on without one, hopefully these strategies will help you as well! đŸ™‚

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