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Eating regularly at the Marketplace doesn’t add up

We did the math, and a semester of eating only in the New Union is a dangerous idea

Now that both the excitement and long lines of the Marketplace have died down, Binghamton University students have the opportunity to really enjoy it as another on-campus dining option. And while having variety is great, having to refill your meal plan three weeks before finals is not. So to save you the shame and exhaustion of adding an extra $100 in April, we here at Release have done the Marketplace Math. Hold on to your ID cards because the results aren’t pretty.

Duncan Mcinnes / Contributing Photographer

This is a rough estimate, calculated to make a point. Not all meals are priced the same, and not everyone will order the same food, or the same amount of food. In addition, it’s highly unlikely that anyone in their right mind (or within the average tax bracket) would actually eat every meal at retail dining stations. Yet to show what a difference paying a few dollars extra can make, we have figured out how drastically and quickly your meal plan will disappear if, every day, you choose to eat both lunch and dinner from Mein Bowl, Pandini’s, Cafe Spice, regular Cafe or one of the other Marketplace options.

The average cost of every food option in the dining hall is about $6.66, based on our calculations. Factor in one soda ($1.59), and that brings your total lunch or dinner cost to $8.25 (plus tax if you don’t have a meal plan). We estimate a dining hall breakfast costs about $2.50, so if you’re eating in the Marketplace for two meals a day, your average cost per day is roughly $19. If you began eating this way at the beginning of the semester, you will have spent a total of $2,128. If you get the default dining option, you start with $896 at the beginning of the semester. At that rate, you’d need an extra $1,232 just to make it until May 16.

But just because you can’t live off the Marketplace doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. There are plenty of ways to go eat without breaking the bank. The first way to save money is to just drink more water. Eight different flavors of Coca-Cola seem appealing, but also expensive. If you invest in the refillable mug, then go forth and chug, but otherwise, $1.59 per cup starts to add up. Also, water is just plain healthier.

The second tip would be to choose smaller portions. The American Dream of “bigger is better” doesn’t always have to apply. Each $7.99 option in the dining hall has its $5.99 counterpart, so get chicken, not shrimp. Get one side, not two. Tofu is a great alternative that is healthier and usually inexpensive. Also, limit the extras. Red Mango is great, but a smoothie a day will diminish your meal plan faster than they can turn on the blender. Frozen yogurt and extra danishes are awesome, but they’re not an everyday necessity. Cutting back on smaller items could be the difference of a few days’ worth of meals at the end of the semester.

Melissa Wickes, an undeclared freshman, already foresees cutbacks to her Marketplace diet in the near future.

“I go to the Marketplace at least three times a week, which is probably too many times because I spend on average $7 a meal versus the three I would spend in the dining hall,” Wickes said. “My meal plan is still really high because it’s the beginning of the semester, but it is definitely decreasing much faster and soon enough, I’m going to have to start going less often.”

Teri McGuire, a senior majoring in Judaic studies, already sees through the Marketplace’s appeal.

“The Marketplace in my opinion is completely overpriced,” McGuire said. “You get basically the same thing you could get in the dining hall for twice, sometimes triple the price. I don’t think you could justify going there more than two to three times a week.”

If you look at the Marketplace like a restaurant, and not a dining hall, then it makes sense to cut back. You wouldn’t go out to eat every day for almost every meal, just like you probably shouldn’t get all of your food from Wholly Habaneros. Eating dining hall food seems unappealing when there are better options, but if nothing else, imagine how much more money you’ll have to spend at the Night Owl when you stumble back drunkenly two weeks before finals.