Wide-eyed and excited for my newfound independence, I entered my first year dining room and found myself enamoured by all of the food options: stir fries, burgers, burrito bar, the list goes on. You really get to eat whatever you want here, right? Wrong.
While you do technically have the freedom to choose whatever foods and drinks you want during your meals, it’s easy to get carried away. And what happens when you get carried away in the residence dining room? Your Dining Dollars begin to vanish, and you quickly realize you don’t have enough to last through the rest of the term.
Luckily, this situation is one that can be easily prevented. You can avoid burning through all of your Dining Dollars by planning out a budget before you even move into residence.
What is the Residence Meal Plan?
All first years living in first year residence have a required residence meal plan. Here’s a brief rundown on what you need to know:
- Your meal plan functions like a debit account. Dining Dollars are deducted whenever you make food purchases with your UBCcard.
- There are two types of Dining Dollars: Residence Dollars and Flex Dollars. Residence Dollars can be used at any of the three residence dining rooms (Feast, Gather, and Open Kitchen) and select retail locations. Flex Dollars can be used at UBC Food Services cafés, most AMS food locations, and select national franchises.
- Prices in residence dining rooms are reduced by 25% at the time of transaction, while all other meal plan locations are discounted by 5% at the time of transaction.
Looking to learn more about the residence meal plan? Get a more in-depth breakdown of the meal plan here.
Budgeting for Your Meal Plan
If you’re panicking about how you’re going to stretch your Dining Dollars for the entire school year, don’t worry. UBC Food Services has created a super convenient Meal Plan Budget Calculator that does all the work for you! Depending on the information you type in, it will give you a rough estimate of how many Dining Dollars you can spend each day. Crisis averted!
But what about the cost of meals? What exactly will you eat? And how much food?
You’re in luck! UBC Food Services has also outlined a Sample Menu Plan for each residence dining room so you can get an idea of how exactly you should spend your Residence and Flex Dollars each week. With proper planning, you can avoid being that person who burns through all of their Dining Dollars in the first two months.
Tips for Making Your Dining Dollars Last
1. Go for water
Spending money on drinks when you could get water for free is one of the easiest ways to drain your Dining Dollars. Instead of buying pop or juice, go to the water dispensers in your residence dining room instead. Not only does it save Dining Dollars, it’s also healthier for you! And don’t be afraid to fill up your bottle in your bathroom sink! Here in Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to have some of the cleanest tap water in the world!
2. Simplify your breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I know I’m guilty of skipping it throughout the week. Who wants to sacrifice that extra half hour of sleep to go down to the dining room to get full breakfast? Heading to Open Kitchen for a Breakfast Croissant with potatoes and eggs takes time, no matter how delicious it may be. While skipping breakfast did save me Dining Dollars, it left my stomach starving for food by 11am. The solution? Simplify your breakfast. Before you rush off to your 9am class, stop by the dining room to pick up fruit, yogurt, or a granola bar to eat on the way to class or in class…if your prof lets you.
3. Buy snacks in bulk
Let’s face it: snacks are a must to get you through those tough study sessions. But buying snacks individually at the residence dining rooms or other retail locations can add up. A great alternative to this is to put your Prime Student membership to use and buy snacks in bulk. You can also make a stop at Save-On-Foods in Wesbrook Village to pick up some groceries, though this will often be a more expensive option.
What if You Run Out of Dining Dollars?
If you find yourself scrambling with one month left in first term and no more Dining Dollars, don’t fret! You can always add more Flex Dollars to your account to tide you over until second term.
If you’re like me and have almost $700 Dining Dollars left at the end of second term, the balance will automatically transfer over to the Carryover Meal Plan. This means you can continue to spend your dollars in your second year!
Managing your Residence Dining Plan is one of the first opportunities you’ll get at UBC to embrace independence. It can be both exciting and intimidating. Remember that it may take a month of adjusting to fully figure everything out: how much you’ll eat per meal, the types of foods you’ll get, how many meals you’ll eat per day. Everyone has different needs, and you may not completely realize your own until you actually arrive. However, having a basic budget in mind can give you a good idea of your spending-limits and the amount of food you can eat each day.