(Brian Choquet/ Amherst Wire)

The struggles of being on one of the cheapest meal plan

February 20, 2019

Going from the unlimited meal plan to YCMP Off-Campus 65 wasn’t a simple decision for me — but with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s unlimited meal plan increasing from $2,978 to $3,067, I couldn’t afford to be on the meal plan anymore.

During my freshmen year and the fall semester of my sophomore year, I enjoyed the unlimited meal plan because I could go into the dining hall whenever I wanted to and didn’t need to eat so much at once.

UMass has the two most expensive meal plans than any four-year state university in Massachusetts — the two being the unlimited and unlimited+ meal plan. The unlimited plan costs at least $371 more than the other universities and includes unlimited access to all the dining commons, 15 guest swipes and 250 dining dollars to use at any retail dining location on campus. 

I wasn’t able to pay for this meal plan without the assistance of loans and now, although the increased price may not seem like much, it all adds up when I no longer rely on loans to help pay for my tuition.

While I was on this meal plan, I was active on campus, went to the gym, I was more engaged in class and could eat whenever I wanted without worrying about when I would eat again. Now, I feel tired, in a bad mood most of the time, I don’t want to interact with people as much anymore and, of course, hungry. Some nights I would sleep earlier because if I stayed up, I would get hungry. 

I am currently on the YCMP Off-Campus 65 even though I don’t live off campus. This plan costs $856 a semester and includes 65 meals at the dining commons in addition to 125 dining dollars. This is the second cheapest meal plan on campus after YCMP On the Go! which is $800 a semester and includes 800 dining dollars and only 5 meals at the dining commons. These were the only two meal plans I could afford paying without taking out loans.

It’s not easy for me to exercise on this meal plan. In January 2019, I tried to do the Insanity workout again, however, because the workouts are high-intensity interval training, I had to give up after a week of doing it every day because I didn’t have enough fuel to power through the workout. I also didn’t consume enough of my recommended calorie intake to recover after the workout.

During the fall semester, I was struggling because I didn’t have a concrete plan as to how I would pick which days to eat. The day before I was leaving campus for winter break, I actually realized that I could have eaten more than I did because I ended up having seven YCMPs left. The fear of losing my YCMPs consumed me so much that I ended up conserving more than I had to. Going into this semester, I made sure this wouldn’t happen but I’m afraid I’m not doing a good job because we’re one month into the semester and I’ve only used 17 YCMPs.

At the beginning of the spring semester, I used google calendar to plan out which days I can eat at the dining halls. I can go to the dining halls four or sometimes five times a week. Spacing out the days I can eat at the dining hall helps my meal plan last throughout the semester, alongside the help of my friends swiping me into the dining halls and attending events on campus that offer food.

On the days that I go to the dining hall, I bring tupperware to pack food for the following days lunch and dinner. I stuff three to four tupperware with food — making the days I don’t go to the dining hall the days I eat the most meals — which is two to three meals. I make sure to fit as must food as I can into my Tupperware as well as take at least five to six bananas for breakfast for that week.

When packing food, I pack a lot of vegetables as well as meat or fish. According to WebMD as well as other nutrition and health websites, vegetables are high in fiber and water making them “high volume foods” — meaning that they help fill up your stomach. 

This is something I go through because I have to pay tuition by myself and decided that after my sophomore year, I will no longer take out loans, including federal loans to help pay for my tuition. I also plan on going to graduate school abroad which means that I will have to rely on scholarships and a lot of out of pocket money to pay for my two years of graduate school. Thus, I’ve been saving up since the summer of my sophomore year for graduate school.

I would rather save money now for graduate school and not eat as much as I should be eating then take out loans again.

I wish I could say that I’m not struggling but I am.

Email Sifa Kasongo at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Sifa_kas

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