It’s that time of year again. The sun is coming out, leaves are starting to grow and I’ve been out of Meal Plan for close to 2 months now.
For those who don’t know what meal plan is, as a student in residence, I have a certain amount of money allotted to food on my Student card (the amount being based on my choice of plan). This money can be spent at any of the food services on either campus and is to ensure that students have access to food for the year.
« If it’s supposed to last you until the end of the year, how were you out by the end of January? »
Well, it’s a fixed amount of money that we receive and I usually take the smallest plan (around 2500$). The problem with this is that I eat a lot and I share A LOT. What, you thought thes 10 bags of chips I bought with my hamburger were for me? Nope, I might eat 2 of them, but the rest end up thrown in my friends’ faces when they say they’re hungry or they want a snack.
So how am I not dead of starvation yet? Simple. I access all of these:
1. Grocery Stores
Although they aren’t the cheapest option, if you know how to compare prices and follow deals, you can get a few weeks worth of food for cheap. Since I don’t have a fridge, I tend to buy a lot of canned foods (which also happen to be the cheapest) with each can representing a whole meal for me unless I’m making it with someone else. Protip: Always check if the food is microwaveable unless you have a crockpot or kitchen access.
If I want something that does require a fridge, I tend to ask my friends if I can borrow theirs. I mean, it would be silly of me to pay hundreds just to store a crate of fruit or a length of kielbasa. Just don’t forget about any fruit that rots because you start feeling a bit bad when you watch your friend cleaning rotten watermelon juice from the shelves of their fridge (sorry Gaby).
This is by far the most cost-effective of all of these in that it is absolutely free. The Glendon Women and Trans Centre is one of the organisations on campus with ressources of all sorts: an emergency room, sex ed ressources, lgbtq and feminist books, and most importantly (at least in this case) a food bank.
I admit, it took me a bit of time to actually use it since my ego seems to feel bad about taking things without giving something in return. However, there’s a decent variety of food (all the essentials and lots of non-perishables) and we already pay for some of it through tuition. For those who are worried about being « found out », as if you’ve gotten you’re hand caught in a cookie jar, don’t be. It’s a judgement free space and when you note that you’ve taken food, all that’s asked on the sheet is how many people, what age range and if you’ve used the food bank before.
3. Friends and family
This is by far the hardest for me. No matter how much food I buy for friends, having them reciprocate and buy food for me is again something my ego will not allow unless I pay them back. As for family, as someone who is trying to be a mature, responsible adult (insert laugh track), I find it to be a tough blow when I have to call home to tell my mother I might need money for groceries.
Of course, despite my reservations, these are the people who’ll be happy to help you out of a tight spot if you need it. The amount of times my friends ask me if I’ve eaten and offer to buy me food or do so without asking is astounding. Honestly, it’s like they’re afraid I’m going to starve (which can be a valid fear on days I forget to eat). In the meantime, whenever they pay for my food, I keep a tally of how much I owe them so that I can pay them back ASAP, but that’s just me.
Taking advantage of the previous, it’s no wonder I can stay well fed despite not having access to my Meal Plan anymore. Of course, they aren’t the only ways to get food and some of the options aren’t always the healthiest or the most appealing to the ego (mine can be a heck of a beast when it rears it’s head), but when you reach this point, it’s best to make sure you have food before checking on how good it is for you. Once you have you base, go wild with fruits, veggies and all the rest of that pyramid.