Making the Most of Your Meal Plan

When I lived in University Housing during my first year, I definitely did not take advantage of all that Dining Services had to offer. I routinely ate in the same few dining halls and only ate once on most weekdays. Naturally, I was complaining that I was hungry all the time, and it was my own fault! There are nine dining locations across campus, so don’t make the same mistake. Instead, explore all your dining options within University Housing!

Dining Locations and Hours

It is important to work dining times into your everyday routine. To start, check dining hall hours on the Illinois app and see how they align with your class schedule. I liked to plan my meal swipes and allocate them evenly, making sure I didn’t run out too soon. Checking the dining menus on the University Housing website or the Illinois app can help with your planning as well, since you can go to the hall serving your favorite food that day!

Four students with plates full of food pose for a photo in a University Housing dining hall.

Sometimes, you miss dining hall hours, you use all your meal swipes or you simply aren’t feeling the dining hall that day. Luckily, University Housing has several retail locations where you can use Dining Dollars to order meals prepared and ready to go! There is 57 North at Ikenberry Commons, TerraByte in ISR and Urbana South Market in PAR (I called it the “PARket”).  

They have so many food options including pizza, chicken wings, quesadillas and even breakfast sandwiches. They are open from morning until late at night, catering to your schedule. You can even order ahead at 57 North and TerraByte through the Illinois app! The retail locations are spread across campus, so you should always be near one. It’s so easy to stop by in between classes or after dining hall hours.

Speaking of on-the-go options, the Good2Go Carry-Out Program provides a sustainable solution. Pay a one-time $5 fee at any dining hall check-in station and use the Good2Go containers to take your meals anywhere! The next time you go to the dining hall, return your used container and pick up a new one. View the “How It Works” video for more information.

A University Housing employee smiles as he holds and displays a Good2Go container at a dining hall.

Additionally, you can use your Dining Dollars to purchase an additional classic meal swipe if you prefer the dining hall. University Housing retail locations also sell microwaveable meals and snacks to take back to your residence hall.


All four dining hall locations are “all-you-care-to-eat,” so make the most of it! Most dining halls have different stations with a different array of food to choose from, such as a salad bar, grill station, international foods, desserts and more meals that change daily. Feel free to try something from each station! Maybe have a salad as an appetizer before your pizza, or even put grilled chicken from one station into your pasta from another! My pro-tips are to use ranch dressing from the salad bar to dip chicken or fries in, and combine protein from the grill with the sandwich station for more of an enhanced deli.

Retail Cafés 

I am not proud of it, but I need a coffee to get through my day. University Housing has three retail cafés where you can use Dining Dollars to order several different coffees, teas, lattes and even baked goods. They are The Caffeinator in Ikenberry Commons, InfiniTea in ISR and Urbana South Market in PAR. All three locations are open from the early morning to night, for when you need a morning boost or a late-night study session! If caffeine isn’t your thing, I’ve heard great things about the smoothies; however, if you are caffeine-addicted like me, take advantage of these three locations.

The photo shows someone swiping their i-card as they enter the University Housing dining hall.

Changing Your Meal Plan 

If, at the beginning of the semester you decide you want to change your meal plan, you have some time to consider your options! About a month into each semester, there is a deadline to change your meal plan to something that works better for you.  

Your Unique Dining Experience  

There are so many daily dining options, so you just have to find which options work best for you, or try all of them! Remember that keeping your body fueled is important for completing your schoolwork, staying motivated and staying healthy. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and make sure to explore all that University Housing has to offer!