You might go into college thinking you’ll shop at farmer’s markets or eat at the many restaurants on Court Street, but soon you’ll realize that lifestyle is much too pricey for a first-year at OU. Yep, folks: your meal plan will be you and your wallet’s hero. But which do you pick, and how exactly does it work? Take it from a Bobcat who’s been there.
Meal Plan Options
Most of this information can be found on OU’s Culinary Services’ website, but let’s simplify it further. While living on campus at OU, you have some pretty straightforward options from which to select. But the real question comes down to whether or not you choose Traditional or Flex.
- Works in any dining hall on campus (Shively, Nelson, Boyd, and soon to be Jeff), as well as Shively Grab and Go (this is where you get a sub, chips, and fruit for when you’re rushing to class)
- Any meals not used by Saturday evening disappear forever. How sad.
- Your meals can pay for guests. Bring your friends and family!
- The cheaper meal plan
- Also works in the dining halls and Shively Grab and Go
- Meals need to be used by Saturday evening
- $450 in flex points to use in cafes and Baker Center venues
- Meals can be used in university markets (Nelson, Boyd, Jeff). Each meal is worth $6.25 in the markets. That can buy you a ton of ramen.
- Meals can be used on guests
- More expensive of the dining options
Now that you know the differences between Flex and Traditional, you can choose the option that best suits your schedule and appetite. You can choose 20 meals per week (great if you’re an athlete who requires a high-calorie diet), or 14. When I was a freshman, I was afraid the 14 meals I chose wouldn’t be enough. Turns out, I was only able to go the dining hall once a day on average. I used the rest of my meal swipes in the markets, and it was more than enough to keep me satisfied.
If you’re commuting or living in an apartment or house off campus, the dining halls are still open to you!
Choices become slightly more complicated, though…
- $450 in Flex points (but you only pay $427). These points can be used at cafes and university venues, but they can’t be used in the markets, vending machines, or laundry machines.
- This plan does not include access to dining halls.
- You get 15 meals in the dining halls, at Shively Grab ‘N Go, and at Smooth Moves (the smoothie place in Boyd market).
- You can bring guests to the dining halls. Hooray!
- You get $150 in Bobcat Cash.
- These meals are valid throughout the semester and expire on the last day. Use them at your own pace!
- Unused Bobcat cash rolls over into the next semester or academic year.
- It’s one of the cheaper off-campus options ($285).
- You get a whopping 30 meals to use during the semester, which can be used at the dining halls, Smooth Moves, and Grab ‘N Go.
- You can bring guests to the dining halls.
- Meals expire the last day of the semester.
- This is a super cheap option: $263.
- 45 meals for the entire semester… wowza.
- You also get $150 in Flex points to use in cafes and dining venues.
- Your meal swipes can only be used in the dining halls. No markets for you!
- Meals and Flex points expire at the end of the semester.
- Guests are welcome.
- It costs $533 per semester.
- 44 meals can be used during the semester, and they expire on the last day.
- Guest can come along with you.
- You get no Flex points, so you also have no access to cafes and dining venues. You are limited to the dining halls, Shively Grab ‘N Go, and Smooth Moves.
- It costs $374 per semester.
- Just like the Traditional Plan for on-campus students, Traditional 10 allows access to dining halls, Grab ‘N Go, and Smooth Moves.
- Meals must be used by the end of the week. Nothing rolls over.
- No guests allowed!
- This plan is pricier ($1,854 per semester), but offers the most meals.
Now that you know all of the options and what they’re all about, let’s talk about where you can eat. Each place at OU has its own specialties and appeals, though. Not sure what I mean? Here’s another breakdown.
There are three dining halls here at OU. Each has their own perks. Here is everything you need to know about them.
Shively Dining Hall
- Shively is a homey place great for meals with friends or even solo meals. There are a ton of booths, big tables, long tables, small tables… Shively just has pretty good seating in general.
- The location suits people who are on East Green often. Located at the bottom of Morton Hill, it can be a hike to get there if you’re coming from other greens.
- Food options vary. Most of it, though, is what many consider comfort food or not so healthy options (although they do have a vegetarian section right by the soups). Chicken tenders, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, pasta, french fries, mac and cheese, taco salad, and burritos can be found in this food court. Sounding like a heart attack waiting to happen? Well, balance out the bad stuff with the good stuff. There’s a decked out salad bar, a soup section, and a home cooking line filled with rice, potatoes, green beans, and various proteins.
- Shively Grab ‘N Go is here! If you’re dining in, though, you can still access the sub line and make yourself a hefty sandwich.
- Shively also has an ice cream bar and dessert section. Their cheesecake is amazing.
Nelson Dining Hall
- Nelson resembles a mall food court. It has a ton of room for seating, but it very much so has a cafeteria vibe.
- Nelson has a hodge podge of eating options. You have a breakfast bar (which is open all day), a salad bar, and Asian cuisine bar, a Mediterranean bar, and a grill line packed with protein. What I love about Nelson is that there is a station where cafeteria workers can make you custom eggs or pancakes. Super good.
- Nelson is often very busy, and lines can get really long at the stations you likely want to select from.
- Frozen yogurt, anyone?
- Nelson Dining Hall is also home to Nelson Market and South Side Espresso Bar. Grab a coffee after your use your extra meal swipes at the market!
Boyd Dining Hall
- Boyd is the dining hall of the health nut at OU. There are a ton of veggie and lean protein options, as well as the best sandwich bar you could ever imagine (complete with a fancy touch screen to select your bread, meats, cheeses, veggies, and dressings).
- Gluten-free diets get a little love in Boyd. The back corner of the dining hall offers food substitutes for the gluten intolerant.
- Boyd market and Smooth Moves are attached to the dining hall portion of Boyd Court (which is also called The District of West Green. How fancy). At Smooth Moves, you use your meal swipes (the best deal is the $6.25 combo, which includes a smoothie, a piece of fruit, and a muffin or granola bar. Anything else wastes your swipe). Boyd market has a ton of healthy options, but also a few sections filled with chips and soda and snack cakes for when you’re stuck in the library late at night.
- Boyd is the outcast of dining halls, in a way. Shively and Nelson are on the same stretch of Morton, but Boyd is on the other side of campus. It must get lonely.
You can read more about Ohio University’s dining halls here. Now, on to your other options!
Other venues and cafes
- Location: Baker University Center
- Flex points are used here.
- Casual dining, cafeteria setup
The Front Room Coffeehouse
- Location: Baker University Center
- Flex points and Bobcat Cash are used here.
- Starbuck’s blends served here.
- Location: Baker University Center
- Flex points and Bobcat Cash used here.
- Fancier dining, sit down atmosphere, pricier
Hungry Cat Food Truck
- Location: Varies
- Flex points used here.
- Great for when you’re in a rush.
- Location: Alden Library 2nd Floor
- Flex points and Bobcat cash used here
- Seattle’s Best blends served here.
Steam Station Cafe
- Location: West Union Street Office Center (basically off-campus)
- Accepts Flex and Bobcat
OU-HCOM SAF Cafe
- Location: The ARC (Academic and Research Center) on West Green
- Accepts Bobcat Cash and Flex points
- Location: Bottom of Jeff Hill, attached to Jefferson Hall
- Meal swipes used here.
- The food options aren’t as diverse. There are a lot of snack foods and microwavable dinners you can buy here. This is a great place to get soda, too.
A Quick Summary and Hacks
- Meal swipes are used in dining halls, but if you have a Flex plan, they can be used in markets.
- Flex points and meal swipes are stored on your OU student ID. You can check how many Flex points and how much Bobcat cash you have by visiting the One Card Office site.
- The meal swipes of Traditional and Flex plans go away Saturday evening. Block plans have meal swipes that don’t expire until the end of the semester.
- Flex points are used in cafes and dining venues like West 82 and Latitude 39. You can also use Bobcat cash with these places, though.
- Bring bottles with you to dining halls to fill up on juice, milk, flavored water, or soda.
- Don’t have a ton of time to sit down and eat? Get your dinner to go.
- For off-campus students, the to-go option may very well be your savior: fill a box with just proteins and take it home to spread out into meals for the week.
- If you work at a dining hall, you might get to eat free (rules for that change all the time and it really depends on your manager).
- Check the OU Culinary Services’ site to see what’s on the menu for each dining hall or food place.
Any other tips or Ohio University dining facts? Comment below and share the article!
Featured photo source: kaylahanley.wordpress.com
Sydney Dawes is an Ohio University student studying journalism. Her passions include writing, social media, Netflix, Pokemon, the color yellow, and betta fish. After earning her degree, Sydney plans on becoming a foreign correspondent for Middle Eastern affairs. Or going to law school. She really doesn’t know. Twitter: @sydneydawes_95, Instagram: @syd_the_kid1995