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What I’ve Learned from Not Having a Dining Plan Anymore

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Oswego chapter.

This year was my first time without a dining hall plan during my time being an undergraduate. I’ve gone through three different colleges since 2020 from community college, to a large university, then to a small state school. So, I’ve experienced good and bad times with dining halls and their food. Though, this year I had the choice to not have one and decided this was my time to step into purchasing everything myself. With that came some pros and cons.

I’m going to be starting with the cons of not having a meal plan, because I rather this be a progressive flow. The only cons when it comes to not having a dining hall plan all really just resides in what you have access to and the time you have available. 

In terms of access, it really comes down to what you might be lacking in terms of ingredients or cooking utensils and equipment. Until you settle down to make something, whether it be looking through Pinterest or finding your grandma’s old recipe, you might not think twice about how many spices you have in your cabinet, or if you have a mixing bowl. Though once you start planning and looking through your kitchen, it can become prevalent fast at how much goes into what you’re making sometimes. Whereas if you are eating in a dining hall, the only thing you would have to worry about is making sure you get a tray and utensils to go into a serving line. 

As for the other con, the ability to set aside time can be hard sometimes. In college between classes, jobs, internships, clubs, and organizations, you might not have enough time to cook or prepare what you would like. As well as, even the clean up afterwards can be time consuming from taking care of the dishes to making sure everything is clean around. However, in the dining hall situation, the only cleaning might be making sure you clean your table before exiting the building and throwing excess trash out before placing dishes to the dishroom. 

Now that those two cons are covered though, I can tell you the pros of having no dining hall plan. The pros of no dining or meal plan range from saving money, gaining new skills, and just overall becoming better at being independent.

First, you are going to save money big time. A dining hall plan per semester at the institution I currently attend is around $3,000 a semester, whereas a semester of my groceries does not cost that much. So, if you are able to not use a dining hall plan, you are able to save more money and get and make meals you choose, rather than what is just offered on the menu that day. 

Then you can also gain new skills. Coming into this, I wasn’t a big cook, I pretty much just used to make basic meals or quick things I could slap together. However, now that I’ve been buying groceries for myself for a while, I’ve come to experiment with what I make. With doing so, it has also allowed me to learn new skills in what I can make as a whole. Especially recently, I’ve learned a lot regarding sauteing some foods such as onions and mushrooms. So, it has allowed me to grow as a cook, whereas before I was just getting food prepared for me from others.

Finally, not having a meal plan just allows you to be more independent. Going along with the last point of cooking, it teaches you new skills that you can take with you going forward. You know, as you graduate and move out on your own, you won’t have a dining hall just your kitchen. It also allows you to become more financially wise in what you spend your money on in terms of groceries. In dining halls, we could pick anything available and not think twice, but now with cooking for ourselves, we can allow ourselves to make our lists and look into what we actually should purchase compared to just a small craving. 

So, there might be a few cons to not having a dining hall plan, but with that also comes some great positives that can not only help you build your skills and save money but also prepare you for adulthood after college.

Hello, I am Leila LaJoie (she/her). I go by Leila, but sometimes people call me Laine. I am a 21-year-old in my final year of undergrad at SUNY Oswego. I double major in Journalism and English, so I have always had a love for writing in general. In my free time I enjoy writing, reading, dancing, listening to music and going on walks. As far as what I focus on while writing, I'm very open, it really depends on what I'm into at the moment as well as what is going on around my environment. I am grateful for the opportunity to start this journey on Her Campus, as it will allow for me to have a writing outlet that can kickstart and further me into my career. It also will allow me to hear more about others' stories and experiences. A stepping stool if you will to my future and connections to be made.