Balancing Meals and Meal Points

Your stomach growls. It’s a rainy Monday and lunch is on your mind. You keep looking at the clock to check the time and then back at your professor. It has been an entire three minutes of class and it feels like it should surely be lunchtime by now. Your mind shifts to what you’re hungry for; you think about your options. Couch Restaurants sounds good, but you want something different, and you don’t want to spend your Meal Points this early in the semester.

My name is Gage Bauer and I am a senior studying advertising. Year after year, it appears that many students early in their freshman year are reluctant to use their Meal Points. I’ve heard so many stories since I have been at OU about freshmen having a lot of remaining Meal Points at the end of the year. I’d like to offer some advice to help students balance their Meals and Meal Points.

What are Meals and Meal Points?

Meals are used at Couch Restaurants, our all-you-care-to-eat restaurant, that is centrally located near the residence halls. Meals have a dollar value of $12.50 when used for lunch or dinner in Couch Restaurants. Meals reset every Sunday morning at 12:01 a.m., and unused meals do not roll over from week to week. Select restaurants across campus will allow students to “exchange” a meal for an $8.50 exchange value. Meal Points are a debit-card system loaded onto your Sooner Card that may be used at all campus dining locations. Each Meal Point equals $1. Each time you use the card, the amount of your purchase is deducted from your balance. Meal Points roll over from fall to spring semester, but not from spring to the next fall semester. Unused Meal Points will expire on the Friday of finals week of the spring semester.

So, how should students decide when to use Meals or Meal Points? Start by making a plan. From my experience, the easiest way to do this is to open up an Excel spreadsheet and set a number of Meal Points that you feel comfortable with spending each week. My recommendation would be to factor in your semester total and divide it by the number of weeks in the semester. Make sure these coincide with your weekly Meals, too. Meal plans are designed for students to have a good balance of Meals and Meal Points to ensure they don’t have to skip any meals. It’s important not to spend Meal Points like you have an unlimited supply, but strategically allotting an average amount of Meal Points per week was beneficial for me.

Ultimately, each student will identify a method that works best with their schedule. For some students, using two Meals and spending five or six points per day on a snack or small meal is the best way to grab food. For others, spending 10 Meal Points and using one Meal per day is best. Whatever it is, do what’s best for you and your schedule.

For more information about meal plans, visit our website: ou.edu/housingandfood/dining/meal_plan_details. If you have any tips you’d like to share with other students, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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