Before I can hit on my “top five” list, I need to explain the meal plan system so that you will understand what I’m talking about. So if you already know the difference between meals, points and meal exchanges, skip ahead. 🙂

First you have to understand the difference between meals and points. You will get so many meals each week, and they will expire every week on Sunday at midnight so you have to use them within that week or you will lose them. A meal can be used at Couch Restaurants (a.k.a the Caf). When used at the Caf, a meal has an all-you-can-eat value of $11. When you use one meal to get into the Caf, you get all-you-can-eat access to ALL of the FOURTEEN dining options inside this one building. I am a super picky eater, and trust me when I say there is something for everyone here. Don’t believe me? Check out the virtual tour.

Your points, on the other hand, will not expire until the end of the semester. The points operate just like dollars. One point is equal to one dollar, and the points can be used at any of our over 20 dining options across campus at any time. You can use these points to grab a Starbucks drink from the Union on your way to class, stock up on groceries at our convenience store, XCetera, or even use 11 points to cover the $11 admission to the Caf for dinner if you run out of meals for the week.

Now, to throw in a curveball, there is an exception to the “meals are used at the Caf” rule. You can actually use a meal exchange to get $7 worth of food from many of our other dining establishments. Therefore, if you are unable to use a meal at the Caf and you want to use it up before you lose it Sunday night, you do have the flexibility to use it up before it expires by turning it into a meal exchange at one of our other dining locations. There are different rules about when and where you can use a meal exchange, so you’ll want to check on that once you arrive but you generally want to think of the meals as being for the Caf and the points as being for everything else.

Now, the price of your meal plan is included in the cost of your dorm, and you have the choice between four options that range from giving you more meals per week and fewer points per semester, to giving you fewer meals per week and more points per semester. These four plans are all basically equal in value; the difference is whether that value is given to you more in meals or in points.

Thus, the available plans are:

6 meals per week / 600 points per semester

8 meals per week / 450 points per semester

10 meals per week / 300 points per semester

12 meals per week / 150 points per semester

The choice between more meals or more points is largely personal preference, and it depends on factors like your class schedule and your eating habits. I personally prefer more points because as an Art major, my classes are all on the top of the North Oval, so I’m not able to get to the Caf, located on the southern side of campus, as often as I would like to use up my meals. I also really love my morning Starbucks drink, which I use points to purchase. Don’t worry, you’ll figure out which plan is best for you. You will have the first four weeks of the fall semester to change your plan if you discover the one that you arbitrarily picked over the summer isn’t working. Just get on campus and give it a try for a week or two so you can gauge which plan is best suited for you.

All of this is to say that at the end of the semester, I had A LOT of points left over. Now, the points do usually roll over from fall to spring, but it is not guaranteed, and I made the decision to move off campus at the end of the semester after three and a half awesome years in the Towers. Such a bittersweet decision, but one major downside was that moving off campus meant I would lose my meal plan! So I had to use up about $150 worth of points in just a week. You might find yourself in a similar situation at the end of the academic year, so check out my top five ways to use your leftover points.

1) Stock up on non-perishables at XCetera, the convenience store. For me, this meant a whole lot of candy bars, but I also threw in some paper plates, soups and dish soap to use in my new condo. This should at least eliminate a few weeks of grocery bills.

2) Treat the family and friends that help you move to awesome cupcakes from Crossroads, our 24/7 restaurant. Such a sweet treat to say “thank you” and restore your energy after the exhausting moving process. And another tip: if you speak with the manager of the Caf, you can also purchase the awesome pies and cakes that the Caf features in its Sweet Shoppe. A few years, I’ve taken home the delicious french silk pie to pawn off as my own cooking contribution at holiday dinners. 😉

3) Grab some beautiful mugs and thermoses from Starbucks to begin your collection of dishes. So far, I have two stunning Starbucks mugs, a thermos, and paper plates (from XCetera). I may need more than that, but at least I was able to get a head start while using up the points that were going to expire anyway.

4) Start shopping for Christmas gifts. Our convenience store, XCetera, sets out tons of OU blankets, hats, scarves, etc. that you can buy with your meal points. They also put together cute gift baskets of assorted nuts and candies that you can give away as well. And what’s better for your coffee lover best friend than a nice thermos from Starbucks?

5) Donate! XCetera typically sets out donation boxes so that you can purchase non-perishables and then donate them right away to an awesome cause. It doesn’t get any easier than that! What a great way to give back to the community.

Any questions? Drop me a comment and I’d love to clarify any confusion, or also feel free to call the OU Housing & Food Office at 405.325.2511.

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One Response to “5 Ways to Use Your Leftover Meal Points”

  1. Breauna Cravens on September 6th, 2014 2:04 pm

    Can you use meal exchanges at Xcetera?

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