Economical eats: getting by on 10 meals per week

There are a lot of scary things I’ve had to encounter at the College in the past year: freshman screw dates, the eerie silence of third floor Sawyer,  the walk to anywhere on campus in the winter and checking grades on PeopleSoft.  I have a new item to add to the list – exchanging the 21-meal plan for the 10.

After spending a solid chunk of time reorganizing my weekly meal plan in my head then savoring each and every home-cooked meal in anticipation of emaciation on campus,  I eventually resigned myself to my choice.

Fast forward to now, a month into the school year. I have reached a beautiful stride, or what I like to call my “meal mojo.”  While I would love to attribute my “meal mojo” to my supreme and efficient cooking skills, that is just not the case. The key to my success on the 10-meal plan can be credited to the seemingly simple, underrated and (luckily) abundant dining hall “to-go” cups.

While the “to-go” cup’s original purpose is to aid rushed and under-caffeinated students, it can also be  transformed into a Tupperware-like container for solid foods.

First, though, it must be established that there is a fine line between thievery and utilizing resources wisely, and I would like to think that my parents raised an honest kid.

Thus when I leave Mission with seven to-go cups in tow, a few pieces of fruit and a water bottle full of milk, it’s not stealing; it’s simply bringing my leftovers home with me. Unlike over-ordering at a restaurant, however, there is a science to picking and choosing what your dining hall “leftovers” will be, which can be explained using my system of “stages.”

The majority of students have already conquered Stage One of utilizing dining hall resources: the classic cereal in the “to-go” cup.  This not-quite-rookie status can be elevated by completing Stage One, Part Two, using a substantially larger empty bread or rice cake bag to store cereal in. The completion of Stage One guarantees a midnight snack or a quick breakfast the next morning. While it is ideal for the 14-meal planners, Stage One is not quite enough to allow survival for the 10-meal planners. This is where Stage Two – fruit accumulation – comes in play.

Let’s face it, grocery store fruits do not make the budget cut of a college student. However, cutting fruit from the grocery list to afford, say, laundry for the week, does not mean fruit-deprivation, especially not when Mission’s fruit table is overflowing with apples and bananas! Grabbing fruit to-go opens up the options of smoothies, cereal additions, or just a quick, nutritious snack.

Moving on to Stage Three requires a bit more craftiness and discipline, involving the collection of miscellaneous yet resourceful foods including yogurts, peanut butter, milk, soda (really only necessary on Friday and Saturday nights), dried fruit, nuts, ice cream toppings, sandwich bread, rice cakes, and, my personal favorite, the fresh peppers and onions from the salad bar (morning omelet, anyone?). With constant restocking of Stage Three items, you arguably only need eggs, cheese and cold cuts in your fridge.

For prospective 10-meal planners, I would suggest sticking to the basics: choose your leftovers wisely, avoid Paresky at all costs and pray that the “to-go” cups will forever remain in abundance.

As for me, I am ready to take on the five-meal plan next semester.  Too aggressive? I think not.