“Chinese or pizza? What about Mexican?”
Chances are that a majority of college students can acknowledge having asked these questions at one point or another.
And, of course, they give way to the long decision making process that follows. More and more, college students in particular find themselves spending money for off-campus dining.
“Eating out can become a dangerous habit,” Randolph-Macon junior Abigail Spitz warns, “It adds up and becomes quite costly.”
But why do so many college students, young women especially, choose to spend their (hard earned) money on food when campus dining is provided and already paid for in their tuition?
The unfortunate truth is that no matter how decent or tolerable campus food may be, it gets old. Eating essentially the same thing three times a day, seven days a week, gets real old real quick. And that’s assuming the food is tolerable. Now factor in poor quality food and it only worsens the situation.
We live in a society that has gradually transformed meal times into a social scene. Eating has now become an essential way to catch up and socialize. It makes perfect sense, when you think about it: everyone (obviously) has to eat—why not eat together?
The problem is that there tends to be automatic assumption that, “Hey, wanna go grab dinner?” means that you will be venturing off campus to eat. Birthday dinners, celebrations, and girl’s nights just wouldn’t have the same effect at the campus dining hall.
“It’s gotten to the point where when I know a friend’s birthday is coming up, I automatically start putting money aside for the dinner I know we will all go to. What’s real tough is when you have three friends who share the same birthday month!” laughs Randolph-Macon student Kathleen Lampe.
Students may struggle trying to decide between going to socialize with their friends and staying in and saving money.
College junior Emily Moore believes she has found a balance, and a way to get the best of both worlds: “If my friends are going out to eat and I do not feel like spending the money, I go with them and just sit and chat. This way, we are all still spending time together, but for free!”
Okay, so you want to eat out on special occasions with your friends—completely understandable. But what happens if you literally have no choice but to eat out, say for the sake of sanity?
“Flip-flopping between the same two places on campus gets really old,” student Abbie Spitz explains, “There is no variety. It can make you crazy!”
Eleanor Campbell, a waitress at a small sushi restaurant in a college town, has noticed that college students make up a majority of her customers: “Because we are reasonably priced and close in distance to the school, we do serve quite a bit of college students. I am constantly serving classmates and people who I recognize.”
Lack of dining options is a problem that many college students face. Students are paying a large amount of money to be in school, only to be given limited food choices.
So now, on top of the steep tuition, they also have to pay for food that is not available.
College campuses also struggle to provide healthy options for weight-conscious students.
“I am not on a diet or anything,” Lampe tells, “but I definitely wish there were healthier options. A lot of times when I eat off campus, it is because I can eat healthier with a wider array of food options.”
When you’re in a rush and only have time to grab something quick, would you choose to grab a burger from the school’s ‘to-go’ dining option, or would you opt to run by the store and pick a healthier option? Like many college-aged girls, chances are you’ll choose the grocery store.
The truth is, no matter how many on- campus dining options are provided for students, eating out is still going to be use as the infamous means of stress relief. Let’s say you have a huge term paper due at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
It’s currently 9:30 the night before. Are you going to go grab the same sandwich that you’ve probably eaten three other times this week from the campus coffee shop? Let’s be realistic—you’re already on your way to Sheetz to grab some of those Mac and Cheese bites and pizza.
Getting off campus, even for those short fifteen minutes, can really make a difference sometimes.
A change in scenery, being around different people, and not seeing anyone you know can be oddly comforting. “I am very guilty of going out to eat when I’m stressed,” Violet Hahn admits, “I think almost every college student is.”
No matter the reason behind eating out, college students are all guilty of it, and most of them are not afraid to admit it. Realistically, the habit of eating out can’t be easily broken without students
acknowledging the issue and really working to address it.
Ideally, the goal would be for students to cut down on the (sometimes) unnecessary food expense and limit the number of times they eat out in a week.
Setting a limit for themselves for the week would provide a challenge and make them more mentally aware of the spending habits.
Mindless spending can have a big role in this issue of constant eating out. If setting a limit seems like too much work and hassle, even simply thinking about it and being aware of how much they eat out would inevitably help them to eat out less. With all that being said, who’s hungry?
Ways you Can Avoid Eating Out:
Find a new way to socialize: Socialize over a workout instead of spending money to eat—kill two birds with one stone!
Create a routine to avoid grabbing fast food while out : Sometimes we grab fast food simply out of convenience—make sure you plan your day around meals to avoid paying to eat out.
Stock up on groceries that will last more than one meal: Yes, groceries still cost money. But loading up on some healthy snacks is more beneficial and will last longer than the $10 meal you just had for lunch.
Give yourself one night a week to eat out: This still allows for your girl’s night, but can eliminate other excessive spending.
Work with your friends to limit expenses: Anything is easier with the help and support of your friends! Make a pact to all cut down the number of times you eat out—do it together!
-Peyton Lucas ’16, Contributing Writer