A student dining at Mercante
January 23, 2018
2 mins read

How to stretch your meal plan dollars

It’s easy to get carried away in the caf. There’s a crazy amount of options, and when you’re hungry, it’s hard to resist delicious chicken strips and unlimited ice cream.

All of those options are great, but they also make it easy to forget those meal plan dollars are actual dollars. During second semester, it’s not uncommon for students in first-year Residence to suddenly realize they don’t have enough left on their meal plan to last them through the year.

Here are some tips to make your meal dollars go the distance:

Simple breakfasts

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated or expensive.

Instead of spending big on the hot breakfast every day, stick to simple options like fruit, yogurt, and granola bars. You can get them at the caf, or you can compare prices at the Grocery Checkout in the Nest, the Save On Foods in Wesbrook Village, or the new H Mart in the University Village.


Go veggie

The caf (and basically every other eatery on campus) offers a vegetarian main every day. These choices are just as filling and nutritious as the meat main, but usually don’t cost as much.

Picking the veg option (at the caf and in general) is often the easiest way to save some money with very little effort. Plus, you might find some new favourite foods!

Vegetarian main

Go all in on sides

One might say that a meal is more than the sum of its parts. This is definitely the case if you skip the hot mains and fill your plate with sides. It’s a good way to save money. Plus, you get to enjoy more variety!

Side dishes

Instant coffee

Students love coffee. UBC has almost twenty different coffee places. I blame my caffeine dependence on the Starbucks in Fred Kaiser, which was exactly halfway between Totem Park and my 9:00 am French class in first year.

One of the easiest ways to save meal plan dollars is to stop buying coffee. Invest in a $5 container of instant coffee (or start drinking black tea) and watch as your dollars suddenly start lasting a lot longer.

Instant coffee

Be resourceful

Use this opportunity to get creative with cooking. In the age of DIY, the internet is packed with ideas for whole (non-ramen) meals that you can make in the microwave or a toaster oven, both of which are probably available on your floor.

There’s also a whole culture around people who make food in rice cookers. They’re pretty cheap on Amazon and you can make basically anything in them with little-to-no effort!

Stock up on cheap ingredients that fit in your mini fridge and go crazy!

Try new places

Maybe the best, most cost-effective option for you isn’t even in the caf. UBC Food Services is now accepting meal plan dollars at 15 new locations on campus—get out of your dorm room and do some exploring!

If you use these tips, you’ll have a much easier time staying on top of your meal plan dollars as you finish up first year! For a more specific plan, check out the UBC Food Services Meal Plan Budget Calculator.