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When Dining Halls Fail You: Realistic Penn State Meals

The beginning of a new semester at Penn State is a beautiful thing. There is all the fun of syllabus week, the threat of exams is far away, and you have a full meal plan’s worth of dining hall swipes to curb all your hunger and a card full of LionCash to satisfy all your drunken cravings. But as the semester starts to roll by and the pressure of exams catches up to everybody, those precious swipes go by faster and faster. Soon, you find yourself bingeing on HUB Chick-fil-A and Chipotle to relieve some of your stress.

In the crazy world that is college, food is the one thing you are able to control, right? Wrong. While Penn State is rich with healthy and delicious food options, crazy and careless spending in the middle of the semester can leave you low on funds come finals week. For freshmen, consider this a mid-semester warning. Tread carefully, because sloppy spending could leave you like this:

The Costco Box Of Cup Noodles

A week without meal points or LionCash is pretty bleak. That means no lunch or no dinner during a finals week when you need to be eating brain food to get prepared. Fear not! Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club make it easy to overdose on processed carbohydrates with their deals on bulk Cup Noodles. You can be sure that the dehydrated vegetables can keep your diet balanced as well! Overall, it’s a win-win!number 1

But Wait…Don’t Forget The Classic Ramen

Another stereotypical college food. While it is much better tasting than Cup Noodles, the classic Top Ramen requires a bigger container to cook it. That complicated culinary process may not be entirely feasible in an East Hall microwave. Feeling adventurous? Mix the two together. Some folks swear the combination is comparable to the Panda Express Chow Mein.

number 2

The Granola Bar

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  Unfortunately, at this point in the semester, all your better breakfast foods are gone, leaving you only with this: the cheapest granola bar that can be found at Walmart that doesn’t taste like sawdust. Only 100 calories, too! That has to be better than the french toast sticks at Pollock, right?

number 3

Instant Coffee Made With Microwaved Tap Water

So you spent all your meal points on Starbucks. Don’t be afraid — all hope is not lost. If you can find some of these little gems, then you may not have to trudge to your 8 a.m. completely bereft of caffeine and motivation. Plus, you get to make your own home brew using your desired milk/sugar ratio. Those baristas at Starbucks didn’t make your pumpkin spice latte right anyway.

number 4

Snack Foods For Dinner. All. The. Time. 

Sometimes even Cup Noodles fail you. When all seems lost, turn to that bag of goodies in the depleted box underneath your bed. There may be a few Cheetos left in that bag. Bon appetit, that’s your dinner!

number 5

When You Can’t Afford West Cookies

You have $0.79 left in dining hall swipes? That’s just enough money to buy these cookie substitutes. If you close your eyes, plug your nose, and cover them in chocolate, they kind of taste like West cookies.

number 6

The Time Has Come To Ration

“What about Canyon?” you ask. You would think that $1.00 for a slice of pizza is as good as it can get for a broke college student. That’s where you’re wrong – one Pizza with Pepperoni Lunchable costs $1.58 at Walmart. Since each package contains three mini pizzas, that’s only $0.53 for each pizza! Added bonus: You can actually eat this pizza when you’re sober.

number 8

Only The Finest Quality Ingredients 

Make sure you’re buying the right things, because after all, a meal is only the sum of its parts. Not only are these Kraft singles, wrapped INDIVIDUALLY in plastic for your convenience, they also have that artificial taste that we millennials have come to know and love. Sure, when it begins to melt on your grilled cheese it smells faintly of rubber. That’s just the small price you pay for quality ingredients.

number 9

Listerine Is A Luxury

Mouthwash is expensive, breath spray is lame, and gum loses its flavor fast. Little did you know you actually don’t need any of these things to make sure that first kiss goes smoothly. This little pack of tic tacs for five cents is perfect! Romeo has nothing on you.

number 10

Sbarro Is For The Wealthy

This is a classic. If you haven’t heard about pizza rolls by this point, you’re definitely living under a rock. These little nuggets of joy can be purchased at your nearest Walmart, and are only 220 calories per serving. So step away from the rubbery cheese of Sbarro and go for the always-reliable pizza roll.

number 11

Chipotle Is For The Bill Gates Of The World

Are Chipotle burritos delicious? There’s no doubt about it. However, there is no way a college student can afford to go there on a regular basis, especially if you pay extra for the guacamole. Opt instead for this Bean & Cheese Burrito, seen at Louie’s for a bargain $2.29.

number 12

“I’ve Been Reusing This Plastic Fork For A Month”

If you don’t take a handful of forks and spoons every time you visit the dining hall, you’re a fool. When push comes to shove and you run out of those Great Value flimsy plastic forks, do what college students do best and take what’s free (FYI – the plastic knives in the dining halls are much stronger than the ones you bought at Walmart anyway).

number 7

Hopefully this has frightened enough of you freshman into conserving your swipes that you’ll avoid a stomach ulcer and a dad bod at the age of 18. While it’s always nice to treat yourself after a big exam, be cautious of doing this too often. While temporarily satisfying, buying too much Starbucks or Panda Express can leave you hurting at the end of the year.

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About the Author

Katie Klodowski

Katie is a senior from Pittsburgh, PA and a retired editor at Onward State. Currently, she works as a staff writer. True to her hometown, she is a fan of Steel City sports but also uses her ballet and music training to be a tough critic of all things artsy. The fastest ways to her heart are through pizza, sushi, and a solid taste in music (this means no Taylor Swift). To be constantly razzle-dazzled, follow her on all social media forms at @KatieKlodowski

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