Eat More, Pay Less 

MOLLY GUMP // MARCH 9, 2018 

Art by Ava Zuschlag.

It goes without saying that the meal plans at this school are ridiculously expensive, and regardless of which one you choose you’re getting screwed over. However, if you’re deciding on a plan and meet the following “requirements for eligibility”—you became an Oberlin student before Fall 2017, you’re going to be living on-campus next semester, and you don’t want to join a Co-Op because you have strong feelings against either cooking or beans—then you should absolutely choose the 40 meals/month plan. While all of the meal plan options are designed to squeeze the maximum amount of cash out of you, you can beat the system by going with 40 meals per month, regardless of how many meals you actually eat.

The table above below shows each plan (for the people meeting those requirements), their costs, the costs per meal, and the Flex Points per semester included in each plan. The main takeaways are 1) eating at this school is fucking expensive, and 2) the cost per meal is more expensive than what you’d pay at most restaurants around campus. However, here’s the trick: if you pay for a meal swipe at any dining facility on campus, the cost is only $7.50, and you can use Student Charge, ObieDollars, or Flex Points to pay.


If you get the 40 meals/month plan, you’re going to save a ton of money because you can buy meals when you run out for less than you’d pay if they were included in your plan, even if you eat 19 meals per week. Here’s the proof: 19 meals per week equals 285 meals per semester, and 40 meals per month equals 200 meals per semester, an 85-meal difference. Even if you bought those 85 extra meals, each costing $7.50, you’re only spending $637.50. The cost difference between the 19 meals/week plan and the 40 meals/month plan is $779, meaning that even if you eat the same amount of meals, you’re still saving $141.50. Further, you’d also receive 160 more Flex Points than before, bringing your total savings to $301.50. That’s assuming you want the additional 85 meals per semester, but the odds are you probably won’t need that many, anyway.

Now, with the $779 you’re saving, you can buy meals at the dining halls, but you can also eat in town more. You can use your savings to buy 155 five-dollar bowls from Kim’s, 89 cheeseburgers from The Feve, 64 large cheese pizzas from Domino’s, or any combination you want. You can also buy your own groceries and snacks with the money you save. Because you can use your 40 meals per month any way you like, you can cook for one week, eat out the next, and eat at the dining hall for the last two. If you’re sick for a few days, you won’t be wasting your swipes because you can use up all the ones you have leftover at the end of the month.

If this was too much math to follow, I understand. Here’s what you need to know: get the 40 meals/month plan for next semester. Even if you end up eating the amount that the largest plan offers, you’re still saving almost $150, not including the extra Flex Points you’d get. You can spread out your meals over the course of the month any way you’d like, so no more dragging yourself to Fourth Meal on Sunday night because you don’t want to waste your swipes. Spend more time eating at the awesome restaurants in town and support local businesses. Buy groceries so that you can eat exactly what you want. Enjoy having more control over what you eat and when you eat. Most importantly, enjoy the fact that you didn’t fall into the trap of spending hundreds of dollars more than you need to on dining plans.

Contact contributing writer Molly Gump at

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