I've analyzed the relative merits of the various meal plan options at Brown. As usual, I've come to the conclusion that based on money alone, nobody should be on meal plan. I originally switched because I hated Ratty food, and that's still a valid reason! Your last reason might be "convenience", but I'm discovering that eating on Thayer once a day and going to the grocery store once a month is almost as convenient, and the other benefits outweigh convenience. (And you have to eat dinner before 7:30pm each day, which to me is not convenient at all.) Numbers and statement on my page.

I always knew it was more price efficient from back-of-the-envelope calculations, but the new Flex Plans prompted me to break out OpenOffice and have a crack at it. I made a few assumptions. One thing I did was subtract off the flex point value of the individual plans to get "dollar value of meals" for the year. So the $/meal figure is for meals you eat at the Ratty/VW. Another assumption was that "20 meals per week" meant "20.0/7 meals per day" (which I think is a good approximation). I actually counted the days in each semester and subtracted the vacation days; let me know if you disagree with the numbers I came up with.

One interesting value I came up with was the "cost of flex point conversion." What that means is, "How much does it cost me to spend a meal credit at Jo's rather than the Ratty?" If you assume that Jo's has fair dollar-value prices (which for the most part it does), then you can subtract the cost per meal from the $4.45 value at Jo's to get the amount of money you waste by doing this conversion. Basically, if you have a seven meal per week plan, you should NEVER do this because it costs you eight dollars each time! Then again, you're retarded if you get the seven meals per week, because you're spending $12.58 on each meal, which is (I think) more expensive than paying CASH at the Ratty once a day. (!!) (I'd have to check the cash price for dinner at the Ratty, though.)

Other notes: I counted guest credits in with meals/yr to determine $/meal. The "used as flex" column is how many meals in the year you convert to flex points (based on the 35% figure at the bottom); that entails the "used as flex", "extra flex $" and "adjusted flex $" figures. The second $/meal figure (after all the flex related figures) is the average cost per meal at the Ratty/VW after taking into account the 35% or whatever rate of flex conversion that you want. I recommend experimenting with this number -- if you take less than 20 meals per week plan, you'll probably convert less than 35%.