Two 〈Foo〉s Walk into a 〈Bar〉: Featuring the Highest Angle Bracket–to–Word Ratio Among Site Titles

Meal Plan Analysis


With the introduction of a new meal‐plan system for the 2007–2008 school year, this chart has become outdated. I'd imagine the general principle of "don't get a meal plan if you don't have to" still holds true, but I haven't run any numbers to confirm that, in part because I've graduated.


This page exists to explain why you should probably not buy a meal plan at Pitt unless you have to (and which meal plan you should buy if you are forced to choose one).

Excel Sheet

Here is an Excel sheet with calculations on the meal plans. The information is the same as that available below, but you can adjust the numbers (e.g., if my rough estimate of 16 weeks/semester doesn't sound right to you).

HTML Table

Meal Plan Analysis
Meal Plan Per–Week Blocks Per–Semester Blocks Total Blocks Dining Dollars Value Price Loss Cost of One Block
Hungry Panther 19 304 $160.00 $1,801.60 $1,920.00 $118.40 $5.79
Panther Premier Plus 13 208 $185.00 $1,308.20 $1,505.00 $196.80 $6.35
Panther Premier 11 176 $155.00 $1,105.40 $1,360.00 $254.60 $6.85
Panther Club Plus 8 128 $255.00 $946.20 $1,315.00 $368.80 $8.28
Panther Club 8 128 $160.00 $851.20 $1,215.00 $363.80 $8.24
Panther Lite 6 96 $275.00 $793.40 $1,080.00 $286.60 $8.39
Panther Paws I 15 15 $155.00 $236.00 $300.00 $64.00 $9.67
Panther Paws II 30 30 $300.00 $462.00 $580.00 $118.00 $9.33

Based on 16 weeks per semester.

Generated with the aid of Gnumeric.

Basic Suggestions

If you live off campus or in university apartment–style housing, don't buy a meal plan. Instead, load some Panther Funds at Panther Central, and use them for your meals. (They can also be used at some additional locations, both on and off campus.) There may be some places on campus that do not accept Panther Funds, but in two years of buying meals, I've never had a problem.

If you must buy a meal plan, first of all, do not buy either of the eight–blocks–per–week plans. If you plan to use less than about 13 meal blocks per week, buy the six–blocks–per–week plan and some extra dining dollars (or, better yet, Panther Funds). If you do expect to use 13 or more blocks per week, then you probably want the largest available meal plan that will not give you too many blocks. Keep in mind that the number of dining dollars for the three largest plans comes out to about an extra two blocks a week. Thus, if you expect to spend 15 blocks per week, your best choice is likely the 13–blocks–per–week plan.

Other Notes About Using Panther Funds Instead of a Meal Plan

Panther Funds do not disappear at the end of the week like blocks, at the end of the semester like dining dollars, or even at the end of the year.

They can also be used to do laundry for $1.00 instead of the $1.25 required when using quarters.

Pitt claims that students without meal plans will be charged more than the value of a block for Marketplace admission (see "Consider the Benefits of Letting Us do the Cooking"). This is not true. (At least, it is not true at the time of this writing.) I have been eating at the Marketplace several times a week for the past two years, I have always paid with Panther Funds (having no meal plan), and I have never been charged extra. In fact, for the first month of the 2005–2006 school year, I was not only not being charged $5.75, $6.25, etc. to eat at the Marketplace, I was not even being charged the new $5.40 block price. Meals were $5.25. Around the beginning of October, however, they began to charge $5.40.