The meal plan is the saving grace of college students across the nation: Dorm kitchens are inhospitable, groceries are excessively expensive but the pre-paid meal plan is, well, there. While our campus has other dining selections, including flex points at the Marketplace, drinks and snacks at the Dovecote and meal service at the Trailroom, Fields Dining Hall, colloquially known as the Bon, is our steadfast, reliable source for all things dining, open seven days a week.
College dining is no picnic, but we are here to help you improve your experience and make the most of your expensive meal plan. Here are The Mossy Log’s Bon hacks!
Go early, go often
The Bon opens at 5 p.m. for dinner. Though for some, myself included, 5 p.m. constitutes more of a late lunch than an appropriate dinner time, many of my fellow Bon-goers find this a perfectly acceptable mealtime.
The Bon is a Hobbesian battlefield. Your classmates, roommates and former hookups are your direct competition. If you are not there to take the last chocolate chip cookie, someone else will.
Even if your appetite is still satiated at this time, take the opportunity to grab an after school snack of sorts in the form of a bagel, fruit or pastry while loading up an Eco Container to-go box with your real dinner to eat at a more reasonable, European-inspired 7:30 p.m.
Additionally, use up those meal swipes! Skipping one or two a week feels inevitable to some, but think of all the benefits you are missing out on. Coffee from a plastic mug is still better than nothing when you have used up all your flex points on lavender oat milk lattes just because it makes you laugh to see LOL on the cup.
The Bon is your grocery store
We at the Mossy Log do not condone stealing, but acknowledge that this line is blurred in a serve-yourself cafeteria setting. Dishware, furniture and appliances belong to the dining hall (please do not Tragedy of the Commons us. I hate plastic forks), but self-serve ingredients are totally fair game.
I get tons of my perishables at the Bon. Not once have I paid for milk, cream cheese or leafy greens since I started at LC, and neither should you!
A Bon inspired recipe: Elevated boxed mac ‘n’ cheese
A personal favorite hack of mine is taking this classic to new heights. Boxed mac ‘n’ cheese is easy, predictable and a comforting college staple. Try adding in milk from the cereal bar, cheese from the deli bar and some veggies from the salad bar. Broccoli is a favorite of mine for flavor and color, and carrots add a nice crunch. Throwing in some spinach also does not hurt, and I know my mom is proud of me every time I do.
Salad bar creativity
One of my favorite sections of the Bon and one that can be greatly taken advantage of is the salad bar. During mornings, yogurt, fruit and granola can be combined to create a wonderfully light parfait or to add a fresh fruit component alongside the bagels that you eat six times a week.
As a vegetarian, I often find it difficult to find good boosts of protein when I get tired of the endless tofu and soy curls, but the toasted sunflower seeds add a deliciously healthy and salty crunch to every salad I make. The black olives, artichoke hearts and edamame beans all together on top of your lettuce of choice, tied in with a fruity vinaigrette is a consistent, reliable and enjoyable way to get your veggies in.
Bon bagel sandwiches are a revolutionary way to make the most of the toast bar and the salad section. With the recent addition of hummus, I have gotten really creative with how much I can stuff into a toasted everything bagel, piling it with lettuce, cheese, red onion and scrambled eggs and some for a filling, satisfactory weekend brunch. Alongside Gatorade, it makes for the best Saturday morning recovery meal.
Not a Dessert Desert
There are many ways to end one’s bon meal with a satisfying sweet treat, even when it’s 7:45 p.m. and the delicious carrot cake has long been gobbled up. One of my favorite ways to mimic my favorite desserts from home is to get creative with what is offered.
With a to-go cup full of ice cream, I take the walk of shame to the milk dispenser and fill up the remaining space with 2%. Hurriedly leaving the Bon, I mix the ice cream and milk together to create either soft serve or a milkshake, depending on the ratio. If you are feeling extra creative, you can top off your creation with pieces of cookie or cereal to add a nice crunch to your cold treat.
When the Bon offers apple pie bars or berry bars, two of the best options available, you can make them into more of a desert by mixing them with vanilla ice cream, emulating a slice of homemade pie a la mode, with the convenience of the dining hall.
Not just what the Bon can do for you…
The ever-controversial Bon is, after all, our one and only full-service dining hall. Whether the day’s menu holds your all-time favorite dish (the chocolate mousse, anyone?) or something you are less than excited about, give back to the Bon.
Clean up after yourself, avoid cross-contaminating foods, be kind to workers, use the toaster properly to not set off the fire alarm, you know the drill. Care for the Bon, and it, in its own way, will care for you.