January 22, 2023, by Cole Fuerth

As a university student, juggling classes, assignments, and extracurricular activities can be challenging enough, but adding meal planning and budgeting to the mix can make it absolutely overwhelming. At Western, students in residence must* purchase a meal plan, which can make things a bit easier, but it's still important to make the most of your plan and ensure you're eating healthy, nutritious meals without breaking the bank. In this blog post, we'll explore some tips and tricks for effectively using your meal plan and staying on budget while you're at Western.

*Meal plans are mandatory for all first-year students, except for those living in Lambton Hall and Bayfield Hall.

Meal Plan Overview

The Meal Plan at Western consists of Meal Plan Overhead (non-refundable) and Food Credit (refundable). The overhead fee is approximately $3,500, and cannot be spent towards food, instead being allocated towards maintaining and operating the dining halls. The food credit, on the other hand, acts as a gift card of sorts with a declining balance. It consists of two parts, Residence Dollars, and Flex Dollars.

The Western Residence Viewbook describes them as the following:

  • Residence Dollars are used at residence dining halls and on-campus eateries. The cost of food purchased in the residence dining halls is reduced and tax-exempt to reflect that the overhead has been paid. When purchasing at on-campus eateries, you will pay full retail price but tax- exemption still applies.
  • Flex Dollars can be used for on-campus confection purchases (such as at vending machines) and at our meal plan partner restaurants found both on and off campus. Many take-out/delivery options are available. Off-campus flex purchases are subject to full retail price plus applicable taxes.

Your total Meal Plan cost is $6,450, with $2,250 in Residence Dollars and $700 in Flex Dollars.

Food Options & Pricing

Menu Cycles are available through the residence dining website for the current and next week for students who are looking to plan out their meals. All the nutritional facts of food offered throughout the year can also be found on the residence dining website.


  • Check your meal plan regularly! Checking your balance regularly will allow you to reflect on your purchasing decisions while also gauging how much money you have to stretch out over the rest of the semester. This can also help you avoid running out of meal plan credit unexpectedly at the register of a dining hall.
  • Avoid using flex dollars. Flex dollars are most effectively used when converted to Residence Dollars (upon you running out of residence dollars) and in dining halls for the reduced and tax-exempt pricing. Flex dollars can also be used at on-campus eateries while still taking advantage of tax-exemptions. At off-campus eateries where flex purchases are subject to full price plus taxes you are better off using real money.
  • Avoid waste. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. It is not a crime to save dining hall food in your fridge for a later date or to take less than you anticipate eating and going back to get more food if you are still hungry.


“If you run out of funds before the end of the year, you can reload your card online, at any time. Please note that this online process allows you to add flex dollars only; however, flex dollars are transferred automatically in $50 increments once your residence dollars are depleted.” (

“Flex dollars are used on campus when you are making purchases that do not include prepared food. So, if you are purchasing a single beverage or confectionary items such as chips or chocolate bars, these sales will be deducted from your Flex account.”

In conclusion, as a university student, balancing meal planning and budgeting can be a daunting task. The Western meal plan is mandatory for most students but can be effectively utilised with the right tips and tricks. Understanding the different types of meal plan dollars, such as Residence and Flex dollars, and utilising resources like menu cycles and nutrition information can help students make the most of their plan. Additionally, regularly checking your meal plan balance and avoiding using flex dollars at off-campus locations can help students stay on budget while still enjoying healthy, nutritious meals. By following these recommendations, students can make the most of their meal plan while at Western.

Residence Cafeterias Ranked

The Top Three Residence Dining Halls according to an informal poll on the PBSN Instagram story (@pbsnuwo) details the following:
1. Ontario Hall
2. Saugeen
2. Delaware
3. Perth

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