Life with no meal plan

Emily Doran

As I considered what I wanted my living situation to look like this semester, I made what I considered to be a pretty scary move: I opted out of buying a meal plan. Needless to say, as a second-semester freshman, I was a little worried about managing grocery shopping and cooking my own meals this early on in my college career.

Still, I had a few reasons for choosing not to renew my meal plan. For one thing, by the end of last semester, I wasn’t using all of my meals. I was primarily eating sandwiches from The Connection, which I didn’t want to keep doing indefinitely. Eating at Fresh wasn’t conducive to my schedule because it was far away from my apartment. Kleiner? Forget about it – and I had to eat my meal there as opposed to packaging it and taking it home, which I prefer to do.

Additionally, despite the fact that I had reservations about dropping my meal plan, I knew that I at least had the necessary resources to give cooking my best shot. For example, since I’m living in an apartment, I have a complete kitchen with an oven and a full-size fridge. I also have plenty of pots and pans, utensils and dishes.

So this semester, right before I moved back into my apartment, I went on an initial shopping trip to stock up on groceries. As I prepared a list of the food I wanted to buy, I definitely felt intimidated and overwhelmed. I kept wondering how my mom had managed to handle this whole process for so many years, and for so many people. In the end, though, as the first two weeks of the semester came and went, I began to get a better idea of what I liked to have handy in my fridge and pantry and how to prepare meals quickly and reasonably well.

On the whole, my experience preparing my own food has been largely positive, and I would encourage students on the fence to consider taking the leap and reducing or eliminating their meal plans. There are certainly plenty of upsides to making this switch. First, you get to eat what you want: Your food choices are not tied to what the cafeteria is serving that day. Also, you may ultimately be able to save money by buying your own groceries.

Still, it’s important to have some details worked out first. Being in an apartment or apartment-style dorm with a kitchen is important if you’re considering cooking your own food – you’ll definitely want an oven, fridge and cabinets. In addition, you’ll need to be outfitted with all the proper accoutrements, including dishes, cookware and plastic containers. Transportation is another important issue to consider. Will you have a car to drive to the store, or will you be able to utilize the bus system efficiently? Remember, carrying heavy grocery bags when you have to walk or take the bus can be very difficult. Still, if you can work out all of these variables satisfactorily beforehand, you may want to consider altering your meal plan.