Being a student is expensive. The tuition, the fees, the books, it all ads up quickly. And that’s not even counting living expenses — like food. Some people are really good at not spending money on food. They can watch commercials for pizza and burgers and not want feel the urge to stuff their face immediately. Others aren’t. It’s really tough to walk by Subway eight times a day and not want to pound back a footlong sub — even if you don’t like Subway that much. Just sitting around and watching other people eat makes you want to eat. But like I said, eating out every day for a semester is a huge money drain, especially when you have tuition and living expenses on top of it. What would you rather have? A textbook for your class, or Edo Japan 15 times over the span of three months? That’s a more difficult question to answer than you’d expect.

I’ll start off with the cheap options for eating on campus. This really varies from person to person depending on their living situation. If you’re living on campus, chances are you’ll be using most of your food budget on groceries. If you just need to grab eggs after class, there’s a Sobeys on campus right across from the University Hospital on 112th Street. A little bit further away, you’ll find a Safeway, which is quite a bit bigger with more options available.

Of course, if you’re living in residence, you can apply for the U of A meal plan, which allows you to load money on to your OneCard that can be used in residence cafeterias or at the different vendors on campus. The residence rooms aren’t exactly set up for elaborate cooking, so this is probably the best option.

What about the different vendors on campus? There are three main areas around campus to grab food: SUB, HUB, and CAB. HUB has the best variety of options, but it’s nearly impossible to find anywhere to sit down during peak hours. SUB, on the other hand, has a lot more open space, but the options aren’t as great.CAB is dominated by the smell of Panda Hut Express, so no matter what you’re getting, it’ll feel like you’re having mediocre Chinese food.

There are two Subways located on campus — one in HUB and one in SUB — and there’s one slightly off campus on 112th street. The ones in HUB and SUB are both in high demand all the time. At lunch time, the line can take almost half an hour to get through, so more often than not, unless you are the type to wait for Subway, you’ll have to get something else for lunch. Of course, you can make the trek to the other Subway on 112th street, which is almost never busy (and they let you refill your drinks there for free).

In terms of the best value, Burrito Libre is a great bang for your buck. It’s filling, it’s good, and it isn’t very expensive. They use fresh ingredients, so you don’t feel like complete trash afterwards, which is ideal when you’re trying to get through a three hour night class. The best thing about Burrito Libre is that it’s basically Subway, but with a really good, thick burrito. You pick three of the four base options (beans, rice, potatoes, or vegetables), one of the meats (regular chicken, spicy chicken, beef, or pork) and then a variety of different vegetables, salsas, and sauces. They also have burrito bowls and quesadillas that are put together in the same fashion. The tortilla chips are terrible though, so don’t bother getting a combo.

Ordering a pizza to campus is a great way to feed a large group of people, or one really hungry person that enjoys pizza. The value in the realm of pizza is easily Domino’s because of the student discount. When ordering online, all you have to do is get to the checkout screen and an option will come up that says “Enter Code.” Just type in “uni” and you’ll get 50 per cent off most of your oder. They won’t give you the discount on drinks or some other specialty things on their menu, but it’s a pizza place for a reason. You really should only be ordering pizza. Domino’s is also great because the website is super easy to use. The checkout screen gives you an option for delivery where you can actually select the University of Alberta and find your building and room number. After that, they give you a tracker to follow that says exactly how far along your pizza is and who’s tossing it in the oven.

If you want to try a healthier option, check out Filistix in the CAB basement. They make delicious, filling filipino fusion food that fills you up since it’s so dense. With new specials every day, it never gets old. Another option for those hunting for a less greasy lunch is Chopped Leaf. A new addition to the PAW Centre, you can buy salads and sandwiches right after your workout.

You’re eventually going to get sick of having Panda Hut, Edo, and Subway every single day, so it’s a good idea to go on an adventure for some unique cuisine. Of course, you can always use Yelp or Urbanspoon to find good places to eat around Whyte Ave and the university area, but I have a few personal recommendations to mix it up. There’s a burger joint on 112th street called Rodeo Burger with arguably the best burgers and fries in the city. They do a great make your own burger option with a wide array of different sauces you can use. If you don’t go there once during your time at the U of A, you’re missing out.

Image courtesy of Christina Varvis
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