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Evaluating Meal Plan Costs

August 13, 2009

by The Forum
Evaluating Meal Plan Costs

I finally have the option of leaving the meal plan. Since I got to CMC, I've been on the 12 meals per week plan and it's been a great time. The biggest downside is that if I leave the meal plan, I might have to cook. Sure, most of the time I'm probably going to buy pre-made meals from Trader Joe's, go to Chipotle, or pretend to be Isayas to get into the dining halls for free, but that won't always work. I'll also get to see more of the beautiful Inland Empire, go to the Athenaeum for free food and free wine, eat my apartment mates' food, and grill steak and shrimp on our patio. Doesn't sound so bad. But here's the math just in case...

On the meal plan, you can choose from the 16, 12, or 8 meals per week options. The prices have risen ~4-5% per year in recent years, and in 2009-2010 the pricing schedule is as follows:

16 meal plan = $6055 12 meal plan = $5560 8 meal plan = $5185

Each plan comes with a little "flex money" that you can use at the school store on candy, snacks, soda, toothpaste, etc.  Let's count that as cash back because many students use it on stuff they would have otherwise spent cash on.

So we'll subtract flex money:

16 = $6055 - 160 = 5895 12 = $5560 - 120 = 5440 8 = $5185 - 80 = 5105

Based on these amounts and a 16 week semester, if you use all your meals (that's a big "if"), each meal would cost:

16 meal plan = $5895 / 16 meals / 32 weeks = $11.51 per meal 12 meal plan = $5440 / 12 meals / 32 weeks = $14.17 per meal 8 meal plan = $5105 / 8 meals / 32 weeks = $19.94 per meal

Keep in mind that nobody actually uses 16 meals a week except Sean Wasserman, the CMS Water Polo starting goalie, because he is "The Body." In fact, rumor has it that the dining hall discovered that almost nobody uses all 16 meals (those under that plan use 14 on average), which is why the price difference between the 16 and 12 plans is so low.

Alternatively, there's the option to pay per meal as an outsider every time you go to the dining hall.  Those prices are:

Breakfast: $7.50 Lunch: $10.50 Dinner: $13.50

Bottom Line: It's cheaper to just pay in cash (a la carte) every time you go to the dining halls than to get the 8 meal plan, 12 meal plan, or in some cases, any meal plan.

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