!2 Reasons You Should Be Appreciative Of Your Meal Plan

One of the staples of the college experience is putting up with dining hall food for at least one year. I know for me, I spent most of my first two years of college complaining about the dining hall food. It wasn't until this year when I gave up the meal plan and started cooking for myself that I truly began to appreciate all that I had when I had my meal plan. For me, the saying, "you don't know what you have until it's gone" is so beyond true when it comes to the dining hall. This one goes out to all of the upperclassmen who find themselves in the same boat that I am; missing the dining hall because this whole "adulting" thing is harder than we thought.

1. Not having to pay for food

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If I don't end up cooking for myself, that means I have to go out and spend money on a meal so I'm actually receiving the nutrients my body needs to survive. Not to mention, groceries aren't cheap. So even though I constantly found myself complaining about the food in the dining hall, it's always nice not having to spend money on food all the time.

2. The convenience of not having to cook

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Contrary to popular belief, college students don't just have ample time to just sit around doing absolutely nothing every single day. Most days I'm lucky if I have enough time in the morning to pack my lunch or squeeze in time to cook dinner, so having easy access to food where I can pop in and out in under 30 minutes is every college student's dream. Also, if you have afternoon or evening meetings it's so nice to have a way of getting food while you're on campus instead of having to pack both lunch and dinner in the morning, racing home in your 20-minute break to grab dinner, or not eating until nearly 10 p.m.

3. Having time to relax because you don't have to spend an hour cooking

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Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy cooking for myself. It allows me to be able to try out new recipes and get better at my cooking skills, but I don't always have time to make a decent meal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but most days I don't have an hour to give to cooking, not to mention then having to actually eat and clean dishes. So what could be a 30 minute ordeal at the dining hall becomes a two hour fiasco without a meal plan.

4. Not having to make sure that you have food in your fridge so that you don't starve

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I can't tell you the number of times I've been sitting in class trying to mentally go through my fridge deciding whether or not I have enough food to even make dinner with. When I had a meal plan, I never had to worry about all the ingredients it took to create a delicious dinner, but now I am reminded daily of how far a jar of Ragu, ground turkey, and noodles can go because that's all I have left in the fridge.

5. Not having to eat the same thing four times a week

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Meal prep, a great concept in theory, but at the end of the day, it becomes monotonous. Don't get me wrong, my quinoa, chicken, and veggies dish is delicious, but it gets tiring after you've had it four days in a row. Yes, I am well aware that most college students get the same thing every single time they go to the dining hall, but the fact that they have the option to eat other things is more or less what I've learned to appreciate.

6. Being able to eat as much as you want without having to worry about running out of food

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Refer back to number four on this one. I can't tell you the number of times that I have been incredibly hungry after a long day or a workout only to come home to realize that I have the smallest portion of spaghetti leftover to eat. The never-ending buffet style of the dining hall calls to me on those nights.

7. Being able to sneak out food for later so that you don't have to waste another swipe

Image: FAQ - Durham GreenToGo

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Multiple meals for the price of one is the college way! This is especially a wise tactic when you get low on swipes and are in need of food for later that night. This principle also applies to snacks and being able to go into the dining hall to grab snacks before you head over to the lib to study for finals or that midterm you have later that week.

8. The luxuries of being able to eat foods that you would never actually buy for yourself

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While I never actually ended up getting the sushi that the dining hall offered us, it's the idea that haunts me. When I go to the grocery store I am already spending enough money on the essential things I need, I am not going to spend more money on things like chocolate milk or cookies because those aren't substantial in the nutrients they provide nor are they worth the price you have to pay for them.

9. Not having to go to the grocery store every week

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Don't get me wrong, to a certain extent I quite enjoy grocery shopping. It's nice to see all of the different things that I could actually use to create an incredible meal, but it's also a frustrating process. Not only do I not have the time in my schedule to go to the grocery store on a regular basis, but it never fails that while I'm there I either forget something or I end up getting things that aren't on my list. Needless to say, what should be a thirty-minute trip ends up turning into an hour and a half without me even realizing it.

10. Not having to wash dishes

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Washing dishes sucks, I don't care who you are. Whether you have a dishwasher or you have to wash them by hand. They are tedious and they are nasty. That's all I have to say.

11. Easily being able to eat with your friends

Image: A Beginners Guide to Ordering at Med Deli

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I am an extrovert, so being able to eat dinner with my friends is something I always enjoy. When you are cooking for yourself you tend not to eat with your friends as much mostly because you have to save any extras for meals throughout the rest of the week and because you usually aren't going to have a ton of time to sit down and chat in the times that you are cooking. Having a dining hall to go to allows you to have your friends grab a plate and have an extended conversation over some delicious pasta.

12. The kind dining hall workers

Image: Carolina Dining Services - The Daily Tar Heel

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The dining hall workers are, arguably, the GREATEST part of the dining hall experience. They never fail to have a smile for you, and if you work hard enough at it you can build up a good rapport with them. They are there for you, so it's nice to show some appreciation for them every now and again. Not to mention, they're actually some pretty cool people!

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both having a meal plan and not having one. If you need the cons, here's your list in colorized form. Maybe I am saving a decent amount if you shake all things out and calculated out how much I spend on groceries versus what I would pay for a meal plan, but that doesn't change the fact that some days I miss the dining hall. If anyone ever wants to sneak me out some chili from the Top of Lenoir I wouldn't be mad about it, that's essentially what I'm saying here.

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