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What’s Up with the Meal Plans?

 Written by    January 2, 2018

As an incoming freshman arriving at a large university such as Ohio State, you will be confronted with a lot of options to choose from. Sometimes the abundance of options is a blessing and sometimes it is a curse. For me, choosing a meal plan was one of the hardest choices I had to make. I wasn’t really sure what the different plans meant and I really didn’t know what my eating habits would be like when I arrived at college. To some degree, finding the right plan is something like trial and error. For example, I started out with Scarlet 14, changed to Gray 10 about two weeks into the semester, and now am planning on switching to the unlimited option. It can be confusing, but here is a quick run down of what’s up with all these options…

1. Scarlet 14

At first I thought that this plan would be perfect for me. I never really ate breakfast in high school, so I thought that having fourteen meals would be exactly what I wanted. The problem was, though, that at the end of every week, I would be left with a bunch of extra swipes (you use one swipe every time you go to a dining hall) that I would have to use up by buying random food items at the C-Store (When you have extra swipes, you can redeem them in the form of food items at various locations on campus. Otherwise, your swipes reset each Monday at 1 a.m. and the money that the swipe was worth is lost.). After two weeks of stressful last minute runs to the C-Store to use up swipes, I was left with an abundance of food in my dorm that I wasn’t eating fast enough. In college, sometimes it can be hard to fit in as many meals as you would like in a day and thus you can end up eating less than you would expect at the dining halls. Instead, you might find yourself eating a granola bar and an apple for lunch as you run to class and then a real meal at the dining halls later. All in all you will still likely feel full at the end of the day since the Traditions dining halls are essentially buffet style. In addition, when I had this meal plan I felt like I could never eat out because I had a bunch of swipes that I still had to use.

2. Gray 10

For the rest of my first semester, I was using this meal plan. Gray 10 is similar similar to Scarlet 14 however instead of fourteen swipes a week, you are given ten. This meal plan was nice because it offered me some flexibility in terms of being able to eat out and being able to eat on campus. That being said, this was only really feasible because I live on north campus, so it is relatively easy for me to just walk out on High Street and grab a quick bite to eat at Donato’s or Noodles & Company. I will say that for me, this meal plan didn’t quite seem to work either. I began to feel like I needed a few more swipes than Gray 10 but less than Scarlet 14.

3. Unlimited

This is ultimately the plan that I expect to use for the next four years. The unlimited plan is actually surprisingly the cheapest dining option. This might seem counterintuitive but the catch is that with this plan, your swipes are only accepted at the Traditions locations on campus. What that means is that Scott, Kennedy Commons, Morrill are are three dining locations that your swipes apply to (Not the Union Market, Curl Market, etc.). For me, this is actually quite okay. Looking back on first semester, the majority of my meals were spent at the Traditions locations because these are the only locations that are buffet style and thus they felt like the best “bang for my buck.” In addition, a lot of times I would crave just a quick snack yet I wouldn’t want to waste one of my swipes on something as small as a plate of fries and an apple. The unlimited plan is likely the best option for people like me who enjoy snacking rather than taking huge meals.

4. Buck ID cash

Buck ID cash is also pretty useful around campus. Many of the dining plans have set amounts of this that you get per semester. This money gets put on your Buck ID like a debit card and can be used around campus at the campus book store or at the campus markets like Curl. In addition, some vendors on High Street, such as Wendy’s or Donato’s, accept this. Having Buck ID cash can be nice because sometimes you might leave or forget your card in your room but you are always going to (or should always) have your Buck ID on you.

5. Dining dollars

Dining dollars is similar to Buck ID cash in that it is usually obtained in addition to one of the three meal plans. This money is also similar in that it works like a debit card. The only difference is that this money can only be used on food items and only at on-campus locations.


If you’re wondering what the most common meal plan is, this is what I have noticed among my friends: the friends that who to snack really enjoy the unlimited plan, the friends wholike to eat out every once in awhile like Gray 10, and the ones who like to go “grocery shopping” at the C-Store for snacks every week like Scarlet 14.


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