Eating off campus: making the tough transition


Say so long to the days of “points” and “blocks” and welcome the concept actual dollars to pay for food. Unfortunately my friends, this monetary system in which we use federal U.S. currency to eat our way through the academic year is here to stay. 

Many of you may have gone through some initial shock upon approaching the Davis Center’s New World Tortilla. You place your order and are asked to show real dollar bills, not a simple swipe of your handy CatCard. You are now $8 worse off with a physically thinner wallet. You see, the opportunity cost is authentic now. 

Before, that $8 could not have been allocated toward any other good or service but your Sodexo meal plan. Now, without a meal plan, that $8 has the potential to be spent on gas in your car or on your mother’s Christmas gift. Instead it is now invested inside that yummy Thai Chicken burrito and dammit, that burrito better be delicious. 

Here’s the good news, there are plenty of ways to live and eat off campus successfully. 

First thing’s first: You have to grocery shop. For many this means shopping at City Market because it is the only outlet for groceries in the immediate downtown area. 

If you have a vehicle, you may want to branch out to Price Chopper or Hannaford because they tend to have lower price points. My advice is to purchase your fresh produce from City Market. Their fruits and veggies are of prime quality and the majority come from local and organic Vermont farms. 

City Market also has a discount produce shelf, with slightly bruised or battered products offered at much lower prices. Take advantage of this. Those sad-looking tomatoes are perfect for a spaghetti sauce or salsa.

Next, purchase your cereals, grains, breads and dry and canned goods at the bigger supermarkets, which are concerned less with food miles and more with reduced prices for consumers. Mastering this careful balance is crucial for preventing food co-op bankruptcy halfway through the semester.

Another stellar way to get your weekly groceries is through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm share. As a household full of students, you all become “shareholders” of a farm through an upfront payment, and in return receive vegetables from the farm’s harvest throughout the growing season. 

This provides the farmer with a consistent market for his or her goods and helps develop and maintain a sustainable food system. Not only are you able to pick up your weekly produce, eggs and bread at the Davis Center, you also never know what that particular week’s share has in store, forcing you to get creative with your meals. 

Lastly, be prepared. If it’s finals week and you know you will be in the library from dusk till dawn, do yourself a favor and pack a snack, lunch, dinner, etc. It’s silly to be regularly shopping for food off campus as well as investing in Sodexo’s ever-so-scrumptious refreshments.