Making the Most of Your Dining Plan

Oh The Ohio State Meal plan. Whether you have the Gray 10, Scarlet 14, or Unlimited, you need to know how to use it wisely. Here are my pro- tips for using your meal plan to its full potential!  


For the Gray 10 and Scarlet 14 folks, you should never let your swipes go to waste because they don’t roll over from week to week. (Dining Dollars and BuckId cash DO roll over from week to week) If you find yourself with multiple swipes left over on Sundays, you can spend them on campus. My favorite places to spend swipes are the Ohio Union Market, where swipes are worth $8, and the C-Stores, where swipes are worth $5. At the Union I love getting a panini or two because they hold up well in the refrigerator. Another great place to spend your swipes at the end of the week is Sloopy’s in the Union!

The three C-Stores, or convenience stores on campus are at Morrill, Scott, and Market Place. C-Stores sell frozen meals, snacks, essentials like bread and milk, and my personal favorite PINTS OF JENI’S ICE CREAM. Also, you can use your Swipes and Dining Dollars in combination at on campus locations other than Traditions. Again, swipes are worth $8 everywhere on campus except the C-Stores where they are worth $5.

Try something new! 

There are almost 30 places on campus to eat that offer a wide range of options. If you’re feelin’ pizza but also feelin’ lazy it’s okay because The PAD delivers! I’d also recommend Heirloom Café in the Wexner Center for the Arts. Don’t have time to sit and dine? No worries! At any Traditions location you can get a to-go box when you swipe in to grab food and go! It is still worth a swipe. For locations other than Traditions you can order your food ahead of time on the app Tapingo. The app alerts you when your food is ready; all you have to do is pick it up! If you have BuckId Cash, you can use it at restaurants in Columbus like Buffalo Wild Wings, Qdoba, Chop Shop, Bibibop, and more. BuckId cash can also be used on campus locations.  

The Unlimited Plan 

The beauty of the unlimited plan is that it’s just that, unlimited! You don’t have to eat a meal every time you swipe in; you can make it a grab and go! People may complain about having the unlimited plan because all they have to eat is Traditions. But, there are ways to get creative. My favorite dining hall creations are as follows:  

Milk Shakes= cup+ice cream+milk and stir 

Root beer floats= cup+ice cream+root beer and float 

Ice cream sandwich= cookie+ice cream+cookie and squish 

Hopefully now you’re feeling more like a pro at using you dining plan. Keep an eye out for a First Year Success Series (FYSS) session dedicated to nutrition on campus!

Go Bucks!

Food For Thought

Campus dining plans at Ohio State seemingly change every year, and this year is no exception. Though the new plan may be confusing to novice users, I am going to go through each component of our current plan and share with you what I think are the best possible ways to use it!

Weekly Traditional Visits

Ohio State has three “traditions” dining facilities on campus. On South Campus you have Kennedy Commons, on North Campus you have the brand new Scott Commons, and one on West Campus is Morrill Commons. These are buffet-style facilities where you can eat as much as you want for as long as you want!

You cannot take food out of these places. You must eat inside the building. This is where you can use your Traditional Visits that you are allotted each week! Your Traditions Visits reset every Sunday night at midnight.

Your Traditional Visits can also be used at the market places on campus! We have three market places: MarketPlace (South), Union Market (South), and Curl Market (North). At these market places you can trade a traditional visit for a “market meal exchange”, which gives you your choice of select sandwiches, salads, sides, and a fountain drink…a great option if you are looking for a quick grab-and-go meal. This will save you from having to do a “$5 Exchange”, which is not cost effective at any dining location with the word “Market” in its name.

$5 Exchange

Different meal plans are comprised of different amounts of Weekly Traditional Visits (5 to unlimited). If you find that you are not using them all in a particular week (before they reset), you have the ability to exchange one for a $5 purchase at any non-traditional dining location (like Mirror Lake Creamery).

Dining Dollars

Personally, I think Dining Dollars are super cool and I wish we had them when I still had a meal plan. Dining Dollars can be used at basically all of the dining facilities on campus. Places like Sloopy’s, Oxley’s, 12th Ave. Bread Company, accept Dining Dollars as a cost efficient way to pay for your food (you’ll receive a 10 percent discount for all food purchases made with Dining Dollars). The coolest part of Dining Dollars is that they stay on your BuckID card FOREVER…well, at least until you graduate. They keep rolling over! Unlike BuckID cash, however, Dining Dollars cannot be added. If you use all of them during the semester, you cannot get more until the next semester you have a meal plan.

BuckID Cash

BuckID cash is cash that is on your BuckID that you can use at off campus locations. You can use it like a gift card, but you can always add more money on to it. Most off campus locations accept BuckID cash like Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, and even the Kroger on High Street! Some clothing stores accept it also like Pitaya! (Ladies, go to Pitaya. It is great!)

Suggestions for maximizing your dining plan

Find the deals

In my first year on campus, Kennedy Commons would have chicken finger Fridays, and my friends and I–without fail–went to every chicken finger Friday. The Traditions facilities have great food! Take advantage of it!

Try every Campus Dining location

I lived on South campus and never ate anywhere on North. The first time I ever went to Oxley’s was my sophomore year and found out how amazing it was! I no longer had a meal plan so I was never able to eat there again unless I paid for it myself.

Appreciate your meal plan!

Speaking as a senior who has had to buy her own groceries and make her own food, I can personally tell you that meal plans are the best. There is such a wide variety of food on campus and you can truly find healthy options–take advantage of all of it!