Meal Plan....Worth it or not? Watch

Knindza
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Stuck whether to go for meal plan or not...
Firstly Its very important to me whether the food is of any actual quality...
Also very important is...does it pay of financially to get it or not?

ps. Can you also get teh meal plan card even if you are self catered.


Anyone with any experience or opinions....Would be GREATLY appreciated!
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jelly1000
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(Original post by Knindza)
Stuck whether to go for meal plan or not...
Firstly Its very important to me whether the food is of any actual quality...
Also very important is...does it pay of financially to get it or not?
ps. Can you also get teh meal plan card even if you are self catered.


Anyone with any experience or opinions....Would be GREATLY appreciated!
From what I've gathered from TSR posts, its usually pretty expensive for meal plan, and it doesnt even cover all meals every day. It would work out cheaper buying your own food and cooking it yourself/with flatmates.
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Knindza
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(Original post by jelly1000)
From what I've gathered from TSR posts, its usually pretty expensive for meal plan, and it doesnt even cover all meals every day. It would work out cheaper buying your own food and cooking it yourself/with flatmates.
Yh thats what I saw in few posts as well....Thanks
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DuncanMono
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Honestly, the food is likely to be cooked en-masse and ingredients are likely to be sourced from large suppliers with the emphasis on cost alone. If you cook for yourself you can ensure the quality of your ingredients and you can cook whatever you chose; a not be forced to choose whatever is put on offer. Likewise, food may be available only at certain times or if you were only able to eat later, for example, it could be that your choices are limited by availability.

Ultimately, if you have any specific dietary requirements it might be quite difficult for you to access the kind of foods that you want or the 'menu' offered is very limited.
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thegaffer91
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As a birmingham student who uses the meal plan, here are my thoughts and comments

1) the meal plan card can cover all of your meals in a week. If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, normal lunch and normal dinner it will normally just above cover it

2) if you are not on the meal plan then you cannot have a meal plan card. However, you can still go and buy stuff that is on the meal plan with cash

3) Most people don't have all their meals down there anyway. I normally have all my lunches and dinners on meal plan, even if sometimes lunch is a sandwich i bought from there, but i hardly ever have breakfast there, only if i have a 9/10am lecture and i am meeting someone there before hand. Therefore, it easily covers the week, normally with a little bit left over

4) Quality: Breakfasts are pretty good. you can get fried breakfast, the quality of which often depends on when you get there and how fresh the food is. you can also have cereal, toast, croissants and all other kinds of things.
Lunches are, on the whole, fantastic.
Monday is burger day, which is good unless the bread has gone stale.
Tuesdays is normally pasta and pizza day, and the lasagne is fantastic.
Wednesdays is the legendary chicken joes, which is a chicken wrap in all different flavours.
Thursdays is roast bap day, so you can get a turkey, beef or pork roll with stuffing and gravy and everything.
Friday is chicken nugget day, another one to look forward to

The evening meals are normally pretty good, although the potatoes and veg is sometimes a bit dodgy. there are normally about 4 or 5 options too
Plus, if you don't like the fusion food, you can always go to rios and get a panini or something from the deli counter.

Is it worth it? on its own, unless you can cook well already, i say it is. You dont have to worry about cooking or washing up, or always having enough food to cook.
You have also got to consider which halls to live in. For example if you live in Shackleton (the best hall, no bias (honest!)), you have to be on the meal plan, and it is quite expensive (6.5k p/a). however, you dont have to move your stuff out over the holidays, your contract runs into july in the summer (which is great for moving house as most 2nd year housing contracts start on july 1st) and you can stay in birmingham over the holidays. Plus, you have Fusion, Rios, Bar One, the laundrette and costcutter within a 2 minute walk from your flat

One more thing to add. Coming back from 5pm lectures/12/1pm lectures, it is a god-send to be able to go straight into lunch or dinner without having to cook first
I hope this information is useful to you, if you have any more questions, just quote me, and ill be happy to help
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Knindza
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(Original post by thegaffer91)
As a birmingham student who uses the meal plan, here are my thoughts and comments

1) the meal plan card can cover all of your meals in a week. If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, normal lunch and normal dinner it will normally just above cover it

2) if you are not on the meal plan then you cannot have a meal plan card. However, you can still go and buy stuff that is on the meal plan with cash

3) Most people don't have all their meals down there anyway. I normally have all my lunches and dinners on meal plan, Therefore, it easily covers the week, normally with a little bit left over
Firstly Id like to say that I am very grateful for your detailed response!
It really does help and will probably help others.

I have a few questions....For example as you say you dont have breakfast there and sometimes you will miss meals so Im thinking is it worth paying that extra grand or so...like as in you'll have money left over that you cant carry in to the next week.

Also as you say you can still buy whats on the meal plan with cash...is that much more expensive than not being on the meal plan...Im thinking I may do this as I like having stuff ready sometimes but I do like having more choice here and there.

And its monday to friday right?

ps not related to food.... could you maybe also give me you opinions of other hall bar shackleton as I wont be able to afford that unfortunately :/ (perhaps aitken, maple bank, tennis and is Vale much better than Pritcharts Park)

Once more thanks mate!
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thegaffer91
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(Original post by Knindza)
Firstly Id like to say that I am very grateful for your detailed response!
It really does help and will probably help others.

I have a few questions....For example as you say you dont have breakfast there and sometimes you will miss meals so Im thinking is it worth paying that extra grand or so...like as in you'll have money left over that you cant carry in to the next week.
I do often have a little bit of money left on my card at the end of the week. Technically, you cannot take it over into the next week. However, there are several things on offer that you can spend that money on. There are sandwiches, milk, soup, pasta pots, snacks (shortbread, flapjacks, muffins, cookies etc.), fruit and even take away meals (curry, bangers and mash, lasagne, etc.). This means i hardly ever have more than 50p left on my card at the end of the week.

(Original post by Knindza)
Also as you say you can still buy whats on the meal plan with cash...is that much more expensive than not being on the meal plan...Im thinking I may do this as I like having stuff ready sometimes but I do like having more choice here and there.
Its only a few pence more expensive, a couple of pence more expensive for individual items (50p rather than 48p etc.), and about 5-10p more expensive for meals

(Original post by Knindza)
And its monday to friday right?
Correct

(Original post by Knindza)
ps not related to food.... could you maybe also give me you opinions of other hall bar shackleton as I wont be able to afford that unfortunately :/ (perhaps aitken, maple bank, tennis and is Vale much better than Pritcharts Park)

Once more thanks mate!
Firstly, the Vale is where you want to be. It is where almost everyone is at and has fantastic facilities. You will meet so many people and have so much fun

Tennis courts is nice, I have a few friends over there and the flats are nice, and the kitchens are really nice compared to those of shackleton and mason. However, it is about a 5-10 min walk to the hub, so if it is miserable you might just not fancy walking it for dinner/lunch, and defo breakfast.

Maple Bank is also quite nice, it is very close to the hub and the flats are quite nice

Ive never been to Aitkin. However, I would advise that you don't go there. for next year it has been split into undergrad and postgrad accommodation, so it isnt the best situation

any more questions, i would be happy to answer
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Knindza
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(Original post by thegaffer91)
Firstly, the Vale is where you want to be. It is where almost everyone is at and has fantastic facilities. You will meet so many people and have so much fun

Tennis courts is nice, I have a few friends over there and the flats are nice, and the kitchens are really nice compared to those of shackleton and mason. However, it is about a 5-10 min walk to the hub, so if it is miserable you might just not fancy walking it for dinner/lunch, and defo breakfast.

Maple Bank is also quite nice, it is very close to the hub and the flats are quite nice
I think im sorted on teh food issue...Thanks on the guidance..

I have a few questions....about general room size in like Maple/Tennis/Mason/Elgar

Like Ive seen a few photos of teh Maple bank rooms and they look rather small which is offputting...how are they compared to Elgar/mason....are mason and elgar worth it for the en suites and refurbished rooms?

thanks.
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nnnomi
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I've eaten a couple of times at Shackleton (I don't live on the Vale and I'm self-catered) and I thought the meals were not great in any way. And I'm not a fussy eater at all...
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thegaffer91
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(Original post by Knindza)
I think im sorted on teh food issue...Thanks on the guidance..

I have a few questions....about general room size in like Maple/Tennis/Mason/Elgar

Like Ive seen a few photos of teh Maple bank rooms and they look rather small which is offputting...how are they compared to Elgar/mason....are mason and elgar worth it for the en suites and refurbished rooms?

thanks.
Sorry about the delay, had an exam yesterday so ive been busy with that.

Im afraid I can't help you a whole lot more, as ive never actually been to elgar (although I am living with someone from there next year, and he seems to like it).

Tennis courts is pretty nice, the kitchens for the non-catered blocks are amazing, and the rooms are pretty standard.

The Maple rooms aren't the biggest, but in most places the room size is a little bit random. For example, the biggest rooms in shackleton are about twice the size of the smallest, it all depends on where you are in the flat and if you have a disabled room in your flat.

The Mason flats are lovely. They are more expensive (more than Shack if you go catered) and they are a bit exposed, but the insides are nice. The only bad thing is that their 'ensuite' is just a wet room, rather than a proper shower

About en-suites - I like the fact I have an ensuite, but I dont think it would be such a bad thing if i didnt. I would suggest putting it as a positive rather than a deal breaker
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melting_snow
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(Original post by Knindza)
I think im sorted on teh food issue...Thanks on the guidance..

I have a few questions....about general room size in like Maple/Tennis/Mason/Elgar

Like Ive seen a few photos of teh Maple bank rooms and they look rather small which is offputting...how are they compared to Elgar/mason....are mason and elgar worth it for the en suites and refurbished rooms?

thanks.

the rooms are small, but big enough to do everything you need to do in it. the desks are fairly large and in the room you have a bed, wardrobe, desk w/ 3 generously sized drawers.

i like living here. i'd say if you chose to go self-catered in maple bank, you might find it difficult trying to cook with 4 other people in the flat.

however, if i was to do this whole accom. thing again, i wouldnt go catered. i dont think the food is too good, the veg is often hard. got to suck it up and deal with it though :-p if you're not a fussy eater, definately go for meal plan. its such a convenience
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stattotheblade
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DO NOT go meal plan. In terms of the credit they give you to spend, it generally isn't a problem, a lunch and cooked meal everyday. There's many really bad things about it though

- Credit left over doesn't rollover
- Can only use in The Vale canteens, not even Costcutter
- Can't use it on campus, not this year anyway.
- Food is rank more often than not.

I've got friends in Maple Bank and sometimes my mate has credit left over and I get a meal out of it otherwise the money goes to waste. During the first term this year the food was quite good but after Christmas it's been quite bad the times I've had a couple of meals on a Friday night and everyone I know on meal plan wouldn't recommend it. Really bad value for money.

I do a weekly shop every week and cook every night on a common week and I never spend more than 15-20 quid in Tesco a week. And it's not like I eat Pot Noodle every night.

As for the halls you've listed, here are my findings.

Maple Bank - Best hall in the Vale, great atmosphere, you'll make friends instantly as all the down to earth people end up there. The rooms are the smallest but they do the job, what do you the Ritz hotel!

Tennis Courts - Got friends in TC and been in a few times, I would have really liked ending up there. Similar to Maple Bank in terms of community and the rooms and kitchen are better. People from TC tend to be pretty sound as well.

Mason - I have to say I think Mason is poor for many reason. A) numpties are in Mason, now not everyone in Mason is an idiot, I've got many friends from Mason. But anyone who is an idiot and a bit annoying, you know the type every course has them, chances are they'll be in Mason. There's very much a persona of 'I'm better than you because daddy's paying for my wonderfully better than yours life'. Apart from that in terms of value it's very poor. It's way too expensive for what I see is a slightly shiny kitchen, it's not ensuite and the storage space you get in the rooms is pathetic. I always compare it to the private hall IQ5 which I've been in this year, over the year it's 2,500 approx cheaper and I get a similar sized room but it's better layed out giving me plenty of storage space. The kitchen is smaller but once again much more practical. Really, don't go Mason unless you have to.

Elgar - Don't know anyone in there so I wouldn't be able to say fairly, sorry.

In addition

Queen's Hospital Close - Practically the same as IQ5, large rooms, ensuite, cheaper as it's not owned by the Uni directly. Train to uni nearby but if you have a bike you can get to uni in 15 minutes and it keeps you fit. Kitchen is spacous and overall you can't go wrong if you end up there.
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Flamin Nora
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Well if you love your food bland and intensively farmed then I'd reccommend it.
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ShortGeek
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(Original post by thegaffer91)
As a birmingham student who uses the meal plan, here are my thoughts and comments

4) Quality: Breakfasts are pretty good. you can get fried breakfast, the quality of which often depends on when you get there and how fresh the food is. you can also have cereal, toast, croissants and all other kinds of things.
Lunches are, on the whole, fantastic.
Monday is burger day, which is good unless the bread has gone stale.
Tuesdays is normally pasta and pizza day, and the lasagne is fantastic.
Wednesdays is the legendary chicken joes, which is a chicken wrap in all different flavours.
Thursdays is roast bap day, so you can get a turkey, beef or pork roll with stuffing and gravy and everything.
Friday is chicken nugget day, another one to look forward to

The evening meals are normally pretty good, although the potatoes and veg is sometimes a bit dodgy. there are normally about 4 or 5 options too
Plus, if you don't like the fusion food, you can always go to rios and get a panini or something from the deli counter.

Is it worth it? on its own, unless you can cook well already, i say it is. You dont have to worry about cooking or washing up, or always having enough food to cook.
You have also got to consider which halls to live in. For example if you live in Shackleton (the best hall, no bias (honest!)), you have to be on the meal plan, and it is quite expensive (6.5k p/a). however, you dont have to move your stuff out over the holidays, your contract runs into july in the summer (which is great for moving house as most 2nd year housing contracts start on july 1st) and you can stay in birmingham over the holidays. Plus, you have Fusion, Rios, Bar One, the laundrette and costcutter within a 2 minute walk from your flat

p
what you have described is not healthy. it sounds disgusting and i hope to god they offer me something different. eugh
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Dohere
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(Original post by thegaffer91)
I hope this information is useful to you, if you have any more questions, just quote me, and ill be happy to help
Thank you very much for the information ^.^

I have a few inquiries. I'm a EU international and I'm not sure of some things, so some of these questions may sound pretty stupid TT.TT

1. Right now the university site states that "The balance runs from Monday to Sunday"(http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergra.../mealplan.aspx). Maybe thay changed their policy of accepting the card payment during the weekend?

2. If I choose meal-plan, will I also get flatmates that went with a meal-plan or not necessarily?

3. Are the other catering outlets on campus that accept meal-plan credit too far to even be considered? How is the food there?


These ones are kind of off topic....Will my flatmates also be first years? Also, I'm not racist or anything, but I'm curious if there'll be a chance my flatmates are EU too or from UK.
If I get good grades on my first term, is there a chance I'll get some kind of scholarship or bursary?
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thegaffer91
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(Original post by Dohere)
Thank you very much for the information ^.^

I have a few inquiries. I'm a EU international and I'm not sure of some things, so some of these questions may sound pretty stupid TT.TT

1. Right now the university site states that "The balance runs from Monday to Sunday"(http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergra.../mealplan.aspx). Maybe thay changed their policy of accepting the card payment during the weekend?

2. If I choose meal-plan, will I also get flatmates that went with a meal-plan or not necessarily?

3. Are the other catering outlets on campus that accept meal-plan credit too far to even be considered? How is the food there?


These ones are kind of off topic....Will my flatmates also be first years? Also, I'm not racist or anything, but I'm curious if there'll be a chance my flatmates are EU too or from UK.
If I get good grades on my first term, is there a chance I'll get some kind of scholarship or bursary?
Before I answer, I should just note that I started at Bham 5 years ago, so there is a quite a good chance that my knowledge is horrifically out of date.

In regards to your questions:
1) quite possibly. Alternatively it could be referring to the other places (outside of the main restaurant) where you can use your meal plan that may be open at the weekend.

2) Yes, the other people will be on meal plan. There are different flats which are designated meal plan vs no meal plan (things like sizes of kitchen are important for the two).

3) Food on campus is fine - I used to eat there regularly if I was on campus already, but I don't think it is worth going into campus just to eat at one of the on-campus sites.

On your other questions.

1) Flatmates will be almost exclusively first year. There may be the odd final year/PG students floating around, but I would say 97% first years.

2) Your flatmates could be UK, EU, Non-EU, anything really.

3) There wasn't anything like that when I was there.

Let me know if you have any more q's
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BlueSheep32
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(Original post by Dohere)
Thank you very much for the information ^.^

I have a few inquiries. I'm a EU international and I'm not sure of some things, so some of these questions may sound pretty stupid TT.TT

1. Right now the university site states that "The balance runs from Monday to Sunday"(http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergra.../mealplan.aspx). Maybe thay changed their policy of accepting the card payment during the weekend?

2. If I choose meal-plan, will I also get flatmates that went with a meal-plan or not necessarily?

3. Are the other catering outlets on campus that accept meal-plan credit too far to even be considered? How is the food there?


These ones are kind of off topic....Will my flatmates also be first years? Also, I'm not racist or anything, but I'm curious if there'll be a chance my flatmates are EU too or from UK.
If I get good grades on my first term, is there a chance I'll get some kind of scholarship or bursary?
I was on meal plan living in Maple Bank in the 2011-12 academic year, and even though I wanted to be self-catered, I was really glad I ended up on it. It was so convenient, particularly when you were on campus all day, because you never had to worry about where you lunch was coming from or mess about with packed lunches. These are only open during the day but you can use it anywhere on campus apart from in the Guild. I think that was the first year they expanded meal plan to include the cafes on campus too. Also about halfway through the year they started to try out serving food at weekends too, which I presume was successful enough for them to carry on with.

It was also nice not to have to worry about your evening meal, but myself and others thought the quality of the food decreased over the course of the year and it felt like they weren't putting that much effort into making different things. Having said that, they've since refurbished all of The Hub so the food could be nicer now. Don't let that put you off though - it wasn't *that* bad, it was liveable with anyway, and if you're not a particularly confident cook it's a nice stepping stone between living at home and living completely independently, and you still get the same kitchen facilities as those who are self-catered so if you don't like the food you can cook for yourself if you want to.

If you choose to be on Meal Plan I think you will end up in a flat or even a whole block with other people on Meal Plan, but that's great because it means there's usually always someone to eat with in the evening and going down to The Hub for dinner is a good socialising opportunity. Be careful where you apply to live though - Maple Bank, Shackleton and the Mason flats nearer to Shackleton are close to The Hub but Tennis Courts and the Mason flats nearer to there are a bit more of a walk away.

I can't answer your question about the scholarships/bursaries sorry I hope this info on Meal Plan has been useful though!
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Dohere
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(Original post by BlueSheep32)
I was on meal plan living in Maple...
(Original post by thegaffer91)
Before I answer, I should just note...

Thank you both very much for your help ^.^
I found the information very useful, especially since I've received an offer from Maple Bank with meal plan. I'm going to go with that one >.< so thank you.
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nikkinak
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(Original post by Dohere)
Thank you very much for the information ^.^

I have a few inquiries. I'm a EU international and I'm not sure of some things, so some of these questions may sound pretty stupid TT.TT

1. Right now the university site states that "The balance runs from Monday to Sunday"(http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergra.../mealplan.aspx). Maybe thay changed their policy of accepting the card payment during the weekend?

2. If I choose meal-plan, will I also get flatmates that went with a meal-plan or not necessarily?

3. Are the other catering outlets on campus that accept meal-plan credit too far to even be considered? How is the food there?


These ones are kind of off topic....Will my flatmates also be first years? Also, I'm not racist or anything, but I'm curious if there'll be a chance my flatmates are EU too or from UK.
If I get good grades on my first term, is there a chance I'll get some kind of scholarship or bursary?

I'm going into second year and I was in Mason Halls on Meal Plan last year. Just to give you a bit more of an idea about Meal Plan...

We got around £45 per week to spend on food. Your money ran from Saturday morning (when your card was topped up) to Friday night, when any remaining balance would be cleared and you had a fresh £45 for the next week. Your flatmates will also be on Meal Plan, but your block will probably be mixed.

At Shackleton, you could spend your money on Infusion restaurant in the evenings, or at the Deli at lunchtimes for a panini or sandwich. Also this year they launched Pizza Shack for the evenings too, where a margherita pizza for example only cost £6.95. Great if you have friends round, and my friend and I sometimes shared a pizza one night where I paid, then she would buy dinner for me another night. There is a Costcutter in Shackleton and in the university centre, but unfortunately neither accept Meal Plan.

At the weekends, things were a little different. You could go at lunchtime to get a sandwich or panini etc, but Infusion didn't open in the evenings, so you could either get a pizza from Pizza Shack or cook for yourself. I usually bought a panini or baguette for the evening at the weekends.

On campus, you can spend your Meal Plan money at every university outlet. This includes med school, the cafe in the learning centre and the food court in the university centre. Being a medic, I didn't really try much food outside of med school, but apparently the food court was very popular (if a little expensive if you weren't on meal plan). I'd say generally food on campus is overpriced for what it is. In the students union building, there's a little restaurant and a Subway, neither of which accept meal plan though.

The great thing about Meal Plan was that it really took the stress of cooking away. I'd recommend it for first year, just because you're going to be trying to adjust to living alone away from family, and you want to focus on settling in and getting used to university life, rather than worrying about feeding yourself and ensuring you have enough food to last you. Although it is quite expensive (none of my self catered friends ever spent £45 a week on food!!) it's really just about convenience. For first year I'd say it's useful. Also, if you had any money left over, Infusion also stocked things like milk, bread, fruit, yoghurt, cereal, porridge etc throughout the week, so you could use your meal plan money to get essentials like that.

But just be aware, even if you're on Meal Plan, you will have to cook at some points. Eg. if you're too tired to go down for dinner (bit of a trek from Mason and Maple Bank), or at the weekends. Need to be careful with budgeting too - since you get your money at the weekend, you have to try and ensure you make it last till Friday, or cook instead.

Hope that gives you a bit more insight into Meal Plan
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Dohere
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(Original post by nikkinak)
I'm going into second year and I was in Mason Halls on Meal Plan last year. Just to give you a bit more of an idea about Meal Plan...
Thank you very much for the insight ^^. It's always grat to find out new things and it seems like it was a good decision to choose meal plan
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