The Economista: Making the Most Out of Your Meal Plan

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Welcome to The Economista! My name is Andy Pham and I will be giving you weekly tips and tricks on how to budget, save money, and have inexpensive fun at Brown!

This week, I will be talking about something very near and dear to my heart: food. More specifically, how to make the most out of your meal plan.

Just to provide some quick context about the meal plans, there are two main ones. There is the 20 meals/wk plan and the Flex 460 plan. The main difference is that the 20 meals/wk gives you exactly what it says: 20 meals per week. On the other hand is the Flex 460 plan that gives you more points (basically dollars to spend in dining halls, in this case you get 230 points per semester) than meals, as well as a little more flexibility. The 20 meals/wk plan is not as flexible in the sense that meals do not roll over. Therefore, if you only use 18 meals one week, those 2 other meals do not roll over to the next week. Furthermore, you cannot use more than 3 meal credits per day under 20 meals/wk. Flex 460 allows for rollover and for you to use as many credits as you want in a day (my personal record is 5).

Under the umbrella of each of these meal plans are smaller plans that basically just give you less. For example, the next level down would be 14 meals/wk and Flex 330.

That’s all the basic information that you need to know about the meal plans… Now moving onto what I want to talk about: how to make the most out of the meal plan that you choose.

Using All of Your Credits Each Day

Although I am on Flex 460, this is one thing that I always see my 20 meals/wk friends doing. Sometimes you don’t always have those 3 main meals of the day, sometimes you only have 2. In cases like that, it can be in your best interest to use that 3rd credit anyway. You don’t have to necessarily use it at a dining hall. My friends will typically go to Jo’s and use their credit to buy snacks like pop-tarts.

How to Get 2 Meals with 1 Swipe 

Another favorite tip of mine (learned through a recent graduate) is how to get 2 meals for 1 swipe when you find yourself running out. Let’s say you have already used 2 meal credits and are about to use your 3rd. Your problem is that it’s still early and you know you’ll be hungry later on but don’t know what to do. When you have a case like this, a to-go box becomes your best friend. What you do when you swipe into one the main dining halls is grab one of these boxes and start piling food. Then you get a tortilla and put it on top of the food already in the box. This becomes your meal divider. You then just add more food on top of the tortilla. When you leave to eat, you can eat the food on top and then the food under the tortilla becomes your meal for later! Of course, you also have points to use if you think you won’t have meal credits, but this is a useful trick to know.

Become Your Own Guest 

With each meal plan, you are allotted a certain number of guest swipes as well. The idea of this was so that you could bring non-Brown guests into the dining halls to eat with you. This concept is a little more important for 20 meals/wk students only since the guest swipe won’t be counted as your 3 meals/day. In any case, you can use these guest swipes if you find yourself running low. There’s no rule that you have to use guest swipes on guests; you can use them on yourself too.

These are some of the things that I have learned in the few months that I have been at Brown. There are probably more tips and tricks out there that people have that I will write about as I learn them. Until then though, these are the helpful tips I have for now!

Until next time!

I am open to any and all ideas, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have! If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments you can e-mail me at andy_pham@brown.edu . Thanks!

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