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student eating at Holmes Dining Hall

Choose Your Best Meal Plan

You have a lot of choices to make when you are planning your college journey. "What meal plan should I get?" is a question we get asked quite frequently. 

Your choice of meal plan is very personal, and it’s different for every student. You need to consider what your class schedule is like -- along with work and social time. 

Here are a few things to think about:

  • How many meals do you think you'll be able to go to during the week?

    Take a look at your class schedule to see where you have free time (we know that “free time” disappears quickly, so be sure to leave yourself time for meals too). The dining rooms have specific hours that they’re open… did you leave yourself enough time to make it to breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

    Dining Room Hours of Operation

  • How many meals will you be eating in the dining room versus using Dining Dollars at the Retail Dining locations?

    Now that you’ve looked at your class schedule, you should be able to tell which meals you’re going to be able to make it to. Most likely there will be a few times when you have a busy schedule, and you’ll need to find an alternative. We have two solutions for you!

    The first solution has to do with the Retail Dining locations here on campus. Your On Campus Meal Plan comes with Dining Dollars, and they’re super handy to have when you can’t make it to the dining room. You could go to the University Center and take advantage of Einstein Bros® Bagels, Subway®, Sushi with Gusto®, Munchy Mart (our little convenience store), and Bears Bistro. Pie Café is our newest location and is now open in Campus Commons (next to the UC).

    If you’re near Michener Library or Kepner Hall, you could stop by one of our Coffee Corner locations. And don’t forget, there are vending machines all over campus that accept Dining Dollars as well.

    Retail Dining Hours of Operation

    (Quick Side Note: Bears Bistro at the University Center has special hours… they’re open 10:30am-9:00pm Monday through Thursday and 10:30am-3:00pm on Friday. That means you could go there and use your meal plan… during non-dining room hours. And they accept both meal plans AND Dining Dollars!)

    Our second solution is all about to-go options in Holmes Dining Hall and Tobey-Kendel Dining Room. If you are in a hurry during lunch, you can stop by Holmes Dining Hall and get a "Gourmet To Go" instead of sitting down and eating in the dining room, available Monday through Friday during lunch.

    What happens if the dining room is serving your FAVORITE meal, and you don't have time to sit down and eat? Ask the cashier for a Bear On The Run container, and you can take your meal to go! We understand that sometimes you just want what's being served in the dining room... that's easy to do with Bear On The Run. This option is available at both Holmes Dining Hall and Tobey-Kendel Dining Room.

  • Do you have a job?

    If you don't have a job now, you probably will at some point.

    Sometimes students will have a job (usually off campus) that conflicts with our dining room hours of operation. Make sure you have figured “work time” into your calendar so you know when you’ll be able to take a break and eat.

  • Will you be eating in the dining rooms on the weekend?

    There are a lot of students who are super busy and will schedule their weekends full of fun activities and events… and sometimes that means they’re not around for meals.

  • Do you have guests you want to bring in using your meal plan?

     We understand that you want to bring in friends or family members on occasion, and we’ve made that possible with the addition of Bonus Meals to most of the On Campus Meal Plans. These Bonus Meals can also be used for yourself, if you run out of meals during the week, or you can save them to use when you bring in guests. If you run out of Bonus Meals, you’re welcome to purchase more online here. If you don’t want to use your Bonus Meals for your guests, they can always pay cash prices at the door.

  •  When do your meals reset?

     The On Campus Meal Plans are weekly meals… that means that your balance will reset every Sunday night. You will see a new meal balance every Monday morning at breakfast. And remember, your Bonus Meals are not weekly… they’re per semester. (Note: if you have the Any Meal / Any Time plan, your meals reset daily, so you'll see a new balance every morning.)

So What Now?

Hopefully these tips have given you some good things to think about. Choosing a meal plan can be challenging, but it’s not something you want to stress over too much.

If you don’t know the answer to any of the questions listed above, we recommend you choose the 19 Meals Per Week + 15 Bonus Meals + 150 Dining Dollars plan. Why? It's mainly because we serve 19 meals every week, and that would give you most (if not all) of your meals for the week.

If you live on campus, you should receive an email from Dining Services during the first or second week of August telling you about the meal plan you have, some upcoming dates, and some helpful information to help you be stress-free during the first couple of weeks. That email will be sent to your Bears email, so be sure to check it!

You can change your meal plan through the current semester's Drop Deadline (10th day of classes) -- so you're not completely locked in with your first choice. You have plenty of time to make your decision, but don’t forget about the deadline!

Helpful Resources

Need more information? Email or call us at 970-351-2652.

REMINDER: If you were given permission to live at home during your first year, you are eligible to have a meal plan too. Out of all the meal plans we offer, we recommend purchasing a Bear Plan and adding some Dining Dollars. You're going to be on campus a lot, and it's handy to have meals and Dining Dollars on your UNC card!