Illustration by Megan Heddinger

Kelly Trom
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Transitioning to college is difficult, but using Cal Poly’s offered meal plans makes living away from home easier. Not having to cook every meal allows students to focus on balancing their time studying, working and hanging out with friends. But what happens when, halfway through the quarter, you run out of Plu$ Dollars? And how do you make sure you have a varied, nutritious diet every week of the year?

Every freshman is required to have a meal plan if they are living on campus. There are three different options for first-year student meal plans: the Freedom Plan, the Flexibility Plan and the Security Plan. The Freedom Plan gives students 525 Plu$ Dollars per quarter and eight meals weekly. The Flexibility Plan gives students 350 Plu$ Dollars per quarter and 10 meals weekly. The Security Plan gives students 100 Plu$ Dollars per quarter and 12 meals weekly.

“The most popular meal plan option among students living in residence halls is the Freedom Plan, which has more Plu$ Dollars to be used throughout campus,” campus dining marketing manager Yukie Nishinaga said. “We’ve noticed that students enjoy dining at the variety of restaurants around campus.”

The Freedom Plan gives students the most flexibility because Plu$ Dollars can always be used at all of the on-campus food venues, as opposed to meals.

“The Freedom Plan gives you just that: freedom. With only three places that accept meals, it really limits your options to use more meals than Plu$ Dollars,” electrical engineering junior and second-year resident adviser Ryan Bishop said.

To pick the meal plan that most fits your needs, go to Campus Dining’s website and research the different menus at each on-campus restaurant. You can estimate how many dining credits and Plu$ Dollars you would use weekly, and then find the plan that best fits with that estimation.

If you start the year with one plan but find that another would work better for you, you are allowed to change. There are specific enrollment dates both at the beginning and end of each quarter. This fall quarter, you may switch between Sept. 18 and 26.

Once you have picked your meal plan, how do you stay within your allotted dining credits?

Use your meals early

Use meals during the first few days of the school week because meals will not roll over from week to week.

“Early in the week, try to use meals more than Plu$ Dollars,” Bishop said. “Your Plu$ Dollars aren’t going anywhere, but your meals will be in jeopardy if you leave them to the end of the week.”

Plu$ Dollars roll over

If you have a few extra Plu$ Dollars at the end of the quarter, don’t sweat it. Your Plu$ Dollars will roll over from quarter to quarter until the end of the year.

Don’t let meals go to waste

You may find yourself on Friday with four meals left. Don’t panic. Instead, use them as dining credits at VG Cafe to buy snacks for the upcoming week.

“If students have a left over dining credit, and don’t plan to eat a meal before the weekly period is over, they often purchase snacks, bottled beverages and fresh fruit with their remaining dining credits to eat later,” Nishinaga said.

Check your balance often

You can monitor your balance at any time by logging into your Cal Poly Portal and going to the Money Matters tab. You can also download the PlusDollars app in the iTunes store or check your balance any time your card is swiped at an on-campus restaurant.

Dinner is the most important meal of the day

Eating dinner on campus costs more than any other meal, so use meal credits for dinner instead of having to resort to Plu$ Dollars.

“Try to use your meals for dinner more often than other meal times,” Bishop said. “Dinner allows you to get more food while still using only one meal.”

Take your food to go

Take advantage of the “Eco To-Go” program and help reduce the amount of waste in local landfills.

“Students will be able to obtain a reusable food container for taking foods to go from certain meal plan restaurants,” Nishinaga said.

Students can take their dirty food container into on-campus restaurants, where it will be replaced with a clean one. The program can be helpful for hungry students in a hurry to get to their next class.

Be healthy

Even though there is an all-you-can-eat dessert bar at 19 Metro Station, it doesn’t mean you have to pig out at every meal. For the health-conscious student, there are many ways to monitor eating habits and maintain a nutritious diet.

“Take advantage of the nutrition facts labels they put on everything now and look for foods low in sodium and high in proteins and complex carbohydrates because you will stay full longer,” nutrition junior Joella Oddi said.

Students who have special dietary restrictions are not out of luck. There are many allergen-free meal options at various restaurants on campus.

“There is a certified gluten-free kitchen in the main dining complex that prepares fresh gluten-free meals for 19 Metro Station,” Nishinaga said.

For other dietary needs, there is a registered dietitian available on campus for any student who wishes to receive nutrition education and support.

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