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A 0.5 of a dining room in The Class of 1953 Commons at night. Many students are dining and chatting with each other.

I've always been a bit of a foodie. I was only allowed to watch Food Network on TV which inspired a great deal of experimentation in the kitchen and love for all things delicious. When I was awaiting my Dartmouth admissions decision, I made a lot of family dinners as a distraction from my anxiety.

I knew that no matter where I ended up, the food situation wasn't exactly going to be the same as at home. However, after a term of trial and error with Dartmouth dining, I'm ready to share all of my favorite ways to make Lone Pine food shine.

Tip #1: Use Dining Dollars effectively

All first-years are placed on an unlimited dining plan, which means you have a swipe for every meal period to use at The Class of 1953 Commons ("Foco"). You can also choose to use your swipe for a meal equivalency at other dining locations, though the equivalent amount of money is relatively low. This means that while you can get an entire breakfast (coffee, pastry, hot bar food) at Foco, you can only get a drink during the breakfast swipe period at another dining location. However, you have 250 Dining Dollars per term which you can use to pay any additional costs that the swipe doesn't cover. Some people also will buy food or drinks with only Dining Dollars. My main approach is simply to use Dining Dollars to the best of their abilities. For instance, I never purchased a coffee from Novack Cafe because I knew that I could grab a coffee from Foco. Instead, I tended to use a swipe paired with Dining Dollars to cover something like a smoothie from Collis Cafe loaded with fruits and veggies that I can't get anywhere else.

A picture of a Granny Smith apple on a plate with Nutella and a knife on the side.
One of my favorite ways to maximize my swipes is by crashing Foco for an afternoon snack! I'll take out my laptop and get some work done over an easy bite like this one.

Tip #2: Use all of your swipes

To be perfectly honest, I'm still getting the hang of this skill but many of my friends are very good at this. On the unlimited plan, we have swipes for every meal period during the entirety of the term (no surprise there). And, as a result, it is the most savvy to use every one of your swipes every day. For instance, many of my friends use their late night swipe (9:30pm-1:30am) on food and drinks for the next morning's breakfast. Next term, I really want to be more intentional in this realm because (using some "Julia math") it's basically free food.

Tip #3: Give your Foco food some *spice*

I'm not the first one to find that Foco meals can lean a bit bland because of the wide variety of taste buds that the food needs to satisfy. As a result, I'm a huge fan of the spice racks at Foco! They have all of the seasonings you could ever want–from curry powder to lime seasoning and more. 

Tip #4: Don't sleep on the soup station

This doesn't need much explanation: the soups at Foco are simply fantastic. I probably would have written my "Why Dartmouth" on them if I had known about how delicious they were (especially the Moroccan lentil). There is also a secret stash of scrumptious, artisan bakery-level bread at the soup station. It's all simply fantastic.

While dining hall food came as an adjustment, it's all-in-all a perfectly manageable landscape. And hey, some creativity always keeps things interesting.

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