Tips for managing what’s left of your meal plan

There are two types of students: those who are about to run out of Meal Points at the end of each semester, and those who have so many Meal Points that they don’t know what to do with them.

Once you reach the end of the semester, you might find it difficult to manage your meal plan. Maybe you’re trying to savor those leftover dining dollars, or maybe you’re loaded with money and worried about wasting it all before the semester is out.

No matter where you land, we’ve got tips and options to help.

So you’re broke…

Beg your parents to top up your Lion Cash

Like a meal plan, LionCash allows you to make purchases in the common dining halls or at the HUB using your student card. LionCash is also accepted at dozens of restaurants downtown. If you are feeling hopeless and have generous parents, this is still a good option.

LionCash is a particularly attractive option since you can add any custom amount. So if you just need a little boost to get through finals week, you can adjust rather than overpay for the next level of meal plan.

Actually eat in the dining room


It’s plain and simple: when you use your meal plan in the dining room, you get 65% off. This $9 cheesesteak magically turns into a $3 sandwich with a simple swipe of your student ID.

If you’re short on cash, stop wasting your meal points in markets or downtown and try eating in the dining hall. You’d be surprised how much you can stretch your restaurant dollars if you use them, you know…to eat. Options like all-you-can-eat buffets should help fill you up if you’re hoping to get your money’s worth, you know?

Dropout Stories

In most dorm bathrooms, there is a flyer on the wall called “Stall Stories” that promotes upcoming events on each campus. Most of the time, these events will have ice cream from the creamery, pizza from the mess halls, faux mimosas, or even carnival food. You can’t beat free food. This is the cheapest option!

Follow a strict ramen diet

You can get ramen noodles just about anywhere, even in diner markets. Ramen is one of the cheapest food options you can get and usually costs less than $2. You might be bored, but you sure won’t be broke.

Rewards programs

Many downtown locations, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and Starbucks, offer rewards programs where you can earn points and coupons with every purchase. With the McDonald’s app, an order of 10 chicken nuggets is just $2 with the coupon voucher. With the Dunkin’ app, every 200 points spent, you get a free drink. You had the idea.

Use your friends

It’s safe to say that at least one of your friends is full of cash as the semester draws to a close. Yes you beg enough they are nice enough, you might be able to enjoy their meals and maybe get some free food.


So you have to blow those meal points

Stock up on creamery treats

It is obvious. If you’re heading home for the summer and you have a meal plan left that’s burning a hole in your pocket, you need to stop by the Creamery. Stock up on pints of ice cream, coffee, snacks and anything else you might need. Bring a cooler to keep everything cool and those dining dollars really count. You will thank yourself later.

Starbucks cups and mugs

At the HUB’s Starbucks, the shelves are stocked with seasonal frozen drink cups perfect for tailgating. They also have cups of different designs and sizes for hot drinks. They could even be used for a birthday or Mother’s Day gift. The best part? You can use your meal points and LionCash.

Oversized snacks

In almost every market there is a huge Rice Krispie Treat bar that can probably last a week or two. If you can’t take it all apart yourself, you can even get one to share with your friends. Either way, buy big to maximize the value and maybe share with your less fortunate fellow students. They will thank you later.

Buy food from your friends

Do you have a friend in need? Someone in desperate need of food because they ran out of points too soon? Share the wealth and buy them food from markets or Flipps.

Evan Halfen is a freshman here at Penn State from Newark, Delaware and is currently studying broadcast journalism. Evan loves all things Penn State, heeling, making noise, just about any beach, and his puppies, Butterscotch and Wentzy.

Follow the gram: @e.evan.halfen.n

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