Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dining Plan 101: Managing Meal Swipes and Flex Dollars

Allyson Lough, Marketing Intern

After living on campus for two years as a student and resident advisor, I have discovered the art of using my dining plan to the fullest. Below, I’ve compiled some basic tips about the dining services at UK that will help you get the most out of your meal plan!

Selecting a meal plan is the first challenge. There are two types of dining plans: weekly plans and block plans. With a weekly meal plan, you are allotted a set number of meals to use from Sunday to Saturday.  If you are living on campus, you are required to have at least the minimum meal plan (seven meals per week). You won’t always be able to get to your car for a Kroger run, and cooking meals in your residence hall kitchen can be a hassle, so this makes seven meals a week hard to budget out.

I suggest one of the block plans, either the Wildcat or Champion plan. With these plans, meals reset at the end of the semester, rather each week. They roll over from week to week so you’re free to use them however is most convenient for you. Be sure to keep track so you don’t run out too early in the semester!

Understanding Meal Money
  • Meal Swipes get you an entire meal, either at the dining facility or to-go at Commons, Blazer, Ovid’s, Fusion and Intermezzo. These are the main dining facilities that accept swipes. Dining options in the Student Center accept swipes from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. on weeknights. (Here is more specific information on the hours swipes are accepted.) Unused meal swipes are not redeemable and do not carry into the next semester.
  •  Flex Dollars are dining dollars that students can use for a wider variety of food options on campus.  A certain amount is allotted with each dining plan. Flex dollars can be used at any dining facility, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Most of the time, I have too many swipes and not enough flex. Flex Dollars also carry from the fall semester to the spring semester so you won’t lose unused Flex Dollars from the previous semester. Flex Dollars reset after each academic year so use all of it before spring move-out!
  • Plus Account Money must be loaded separately from a dining plan and you must use that account to do laundry in your residence hall and print from campus libraries. You can also use it at some restaurants and businesses around town.
General things to know about dining at UK:
  • You can always check the remaining meal plan balance and load plus money into your account under the Financials tab on the myUK portal.
  • The hidden treasures of Quick Stop: There’s only so much Starbucks coffee and Panda Express a person can consume. The Quick Stops at Blazer, Commons and the Student Center are an underused treasure! They all have a selection of products similar to a small convenience store that students can purchase with Flex Dollars.
  • The longest lines are at the Student Center during lunchtime, around 11:50 a.m. Aim for before then and try to avoid directly after classes release, unless you are prepared to wait. Starbucks lines get long between classes so get there before class changes to avoid a lengthy wait.
  • Ovid’s has the best breakfast options during the week, so get there in the morning for an early study session or between classes. Ovid’s also allows you to get four side options, like fruit, yogurt or chips, for the equivalent of one meal swipe. I go in just to grab some fruit to store in my room fridge for quick breakfasts.
  • Ovid’s and the Starbucks in Ovid’s is open 24/7 during finals week for all the students studying for exams in the library. Make sure to have to flex dollars saved for that week!
  •  Dining Plan change deadlines:
    • You can downgrade your meal plan until September 13th
    • You can upgrade your meal plan at any time
    • You only get one upgrade and one downgrade per semester
    • All changes must be done at the Dining and Plus Account Office in the Student Center

After a semester on campus, managing your dining plan will take less effort and planning. If you’re finding you have too many swipes, take your friends to dinner! If you don’t have enough swipes during the week, find people who have big meal plans!

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