Friday, March 22, 2013

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: "Pros" of a meal plan while living off-campus

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Editor

I am 21-years-old. I live off campus. And I have a meal plan.

“You’re in the UC [Anderson University Center] a lot for a senior,” one of my friends said to me last week.

That is probably true, but it is only the result of having a meal plan.
   
When I first arrived on campus four years ago, my meal plan was one of my favorite things about college. I pulled my Lute card out of my wallet, handed it to an employee, and as far as I was concerned, ate as much as I liked. I don’t have an eating problem I promise.
   
Only adding fuel to my meal-plan-induced fire is the fact that I can’t cook — at all. My mother is a phenomenal cook, but I simply never picked up the skill.
   
My meal plan certainly didn’t motivate me to learn to cook either. I lived in Tingelstad my first two years at Pacific Lutheran, and the cooking amenities are limited. The small kitchen shared by two floors of residents has a fridge, a stove, a sink and a microwave.
I never introduced myself to the stove, so we didn’t get along. We still don’t. We were left with the awkward interactions in the kitchen, trying to avoid eye contact.
   
If I were hungry before class, I would swing by Old Main Market.
   
If I were hungry while studying in the library, I would swing by the Market.
   
If I were hungry hanging out with my friends in the dorms, I would swing by the Market — only before midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends though. Over my four years at Pacific Lutheran, I have memorized that schedule.
   
I loved that in my schedule, food preparation was not a concern. That is what I love most about having a meal plan now — as a senior.
   
In a schedule filled with three off-campus jobs, two on-campus jobs, playing on the baseball team and — oh yes — school, the last thing I want to worry about after coming home is cooking dinner. So instead, I simply duck into the Anderson University Center and grab a meal.
   
I don’t have to shop for the food. I don’t have to cook it. And I don’t have to do the dishes. What’s not to love?
   
Alright fine.
   
Admittedly the price tag isn’t exactly inviting. My meal plan, “The Mini,” cost $1,862 per semester this year according to the Dining and Culinary Services website.
   
If you don’t want to spend over $4,000 a year, including J-term, I can’t blame you. That is almost a year’s worth of rent for those living off campus.   

All I can say to that argument is, “thanks mom and dad. I love you.”
   
While I have loved living without worrying about when I need to go grocery shopping or what I have left in the fridge for dinner, there is a problem — a big one. I graduate in two months.
   
To those who can’t cook and have a meal plan, proceed with caution. Top Ramen may be in your future — a lot of it.
   
As far as I know, PLU doesn’t sell meal plans to alumni. So I better figure out some basic cooking skills soon. And no, I don’t have a girlfriend or wife to cook for me. Look out though, ladies.
   
I’m 21-years-old. I can’t cook. And I have to go because dinner stops being served in an hour.

Tweet Nathan recipes and cooking tips: @Nathan_Shoup