Bang For Your Buck: The Cheapest On-Campus Meals
It’s nearing the end of the semester, and you’ve almost exhausted your dining plan. You’re worried, and don’t want to stretch your parents’ budget any thinner; you need a cheap on-campus meal. Fortunately for you, we scoured the Penn State dining halls for solutions. So don’t worry, frugal meal point spenders, there are plenty of places on campus to help you survive the rest of the semester without having to fork out an extra penny.
Findlay Dining Commons — The Big Onion & Roxy’s
Since all freshmen are required to have a meal plan, it’s only fair East Halls is home to two of the best places to make your meal points last.
The Big Onion
Arguably the best part of East, the Big O offers good food for low prices. You can get basic meals like pizza, chicken tenders, fries, cheesesteaks, and pre-made wraps for lunch and dinner. For breakfast, there’s also a selection of bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and yogurt parfaits. Most of the foods are pretty quick once ordered, and the Big O is definitely one of the cheapest options to eat on campus. All of the food at The Big O is under $4.00, and what’s that? It’s open until 1 a.m.
Roxy’s has a solid mix of food from its breakfast options to dinner menu, all for an affordable price. For breakfast, students can choose from foods like pancakes, eggs, french toast sticks, burritos, and omelets. For lunch and dinner, Roxy’s offers diner-style food such as burgers, fries, chicken melts, and mac and cheese. Like The Big Onion, food is inexpensive for students with a meal plan as you can get pancakes and eggs, or a burger and fries, for under $4. Roxy’s also has nacho night every Tuesday and Thursday where you can make a plate of nachos for under $3.
A good tip for Roxy’s if you are trying to preserve meal points is to avoid Roxy’s Wing Night. The wings may seem tantalizing, but they will quickly drain your meal points if you go there often, as the food is relatively expensive even with a discount.
The West Wing
West Halls does not have a very large variety of food like East does, but it makes up for it with the West Wing. The options are very similar to The Big O, but better — with the addition of meals including paninis and hoagies. The food is good quality and a bargain with the meal plan.
Finger food like chicken tenders, fries, and mozzarella sticks take less than a minute to prepare, but if you are going to order a panini or cheesesteak you could be waiting for a while, especially during the mealtime rush. If you’re really in need of conserving meal points, you can get an order of curly fries for less than a dollar. Finger foods and sandwiches are a nice bargain as they are under $3, a price that should fit well into anyone’s budget.
Located in North halls, Bluespoon Market is the place to go when it comes to food for a bargain. Bluespoon offers a variety of deli foods like made-to-order sandwiches, salads, and sides as well. You can also get a grilled cheese sandwich — which is hard to come by at Penn State — for less than one dollar. As Bluespoon has its bargains, it also has its feature foods that change every day. While Bluespoon Market has its discounted food, it is also a convenience store, so be weary of the foods that may not be discounted as they can quickly drain meal points.
Pollock commons does not have a lot to choose from, so the only option for discounted food is The Mix. It’s a convenience store and kiosk food vendor hybrid — just like Bluespoon Market — with relatively low prices to help save meal points. Like most of the other places that offer largely discounted food, The Mix also offers treats like chicken tenders, fries, and mozzarella sticks, all under $2. It also offers meals for less than or around $3 like burgers, cheesesteaks, wraps and an assortment of different subs. Smoothies are also a specialty that are a nice sweet snack for cheap. Just don’t catch The Mix during a rush, or you could be there waiting for awhile watching people pick up their orders that you swear ordered after you.
South Food District
While Findlay commons has a good selection of foods to get the job done on a budget, South Food District at Redifer Commons definitely takes the cake. Where in East only a couple of spots offer cheap options, almost all of South’s eateries are meal-point friendly. The variety of South’s options is also uncanny; from sandwiches to sushi, Redifer can satisfy almost any craving. The best part is that most of the meals can be purchased for around or less than $3.
Each small vendor in Redifer is strong in taste and value. In-A-Pickle is a made-to-order shop that offers paninis and subs for about $3. Redifer City Grill offers breakfast foods like omelets and bagel sandwiches, and lunch and dinner options like burgers and cheese steaks. Fresco y Caliente allows customers to order burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and tacos. Hot Steel & Noodles serves Asian-style noodle dishes for a low price to help conserve your meal points. You get the point by now — there are plenty of great options.
Pro-tip: Don’t go to the HUB on an empty stomach, or at all if you’re easily tempted by Chik-Fil-A or a nice tall latee. It’s probably best to avoid the HUB at all costs if you don’t want to run out of points. There is no discount on food in the HUB so it’s easy to drop $7 to $10 on one meal.
No matter where you are on campus, there is always a place to go that offers food for a discount that will help students in meal point trouble. So you don’t have to starve; you can go to bed full while finding a good bargain in the dining commons that will fill you up without having to add money into your account.
Photos: Jacob Abrams