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Fend for Yourself! Independent Cooking

By Paul Smith [Trinity Visiting Student Blogger]

I have some bad news. In case you haven’t heard, you’re probably going to have to feed yourself while you’re abroad. But don’t panic! It is absolutely possible to cook for yourself in Dublin. Home-cooking is much cheaper than eating out and is definitely better than frozen food. Below you’ll find some of the things I’ve learned while fending for myself.

Groceries

  • There are lots of places to get cheap groceries in the city: Lidl, Tesco, Centra, and Aldi are all good stores. However, most of them are small and may not always have everything you want if you’re making something specific. Luckily, the Jervis Center and the ILAC have several larger grocery stores for all your shopping needs.
  • Buying something you know you’ll eat regularly? Go for bulk purchases. For example, if you like yogurt-and-granola cups for breakfast, try getting a tub of yogurt and a bag of granola (muesli) instead. It’s cheaper and you can customize it, adding extra toppings to your liking.
  • Find a balance of quality and price. Some things are cheap for a reason, and some things are expensive for no reason.
  • Plan your meals and make a list before going shopping. I never do, and I always regret it.

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Above: Caption: Tomato and Cheese Hash Browns with an egg

Meal Planning

  • Don’t feel pressured to find recipes for every meal. I’ll often make one large meal on a free evening, and save it for the next day’s lunch (and the next day’s…)
  • Be sure that your meals are well-rounded. Aim to get carbs, vegetables, fruit, and protein every day.
  • Complete proteins can be meat, but yogurt, rice and beans, eggs, and soy are also good sources. (Meat is expensive!)
  • Veggies like spinach can be added to just about anything (Mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, sandwiches) and sneaking it in to your daily foods will provide extra nutrients.
  • Buy fresh vegetables with a plan for them. Without a plan, they’ll probably sit in the fridge and go bad, which is how you get smelly refrigerators and passive-aggressive sticky notes.
  • When in doubt, stir-fry. It can clean out a lot of vegetables in your fridge and is perhaps the most flexible meal.

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Above: Chorizo, Red Pepper, and Spinach Mashed Potatoes

Have Fun!

  • Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. Find things you enjoy making and, more importantly, enjoy eating.
  • You don’t have to cook alone! Invite some friends over and share a meal, or cook with roommates (added bonus: it’s cheaper!)
  • Nothing has to follow a recipe exactly. Don’t have cumin? That’s okay. Want to see what happens when you cook grits or rice in broth instead of water? Do it. It’s delicious.
  • The internet is your friend. It has instructions and even videos to walk you through a recipe if you have any questions.

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Above: Rice and Beans (reheats very well.)

Meals I’m a Fan of

Mushroom and Spinach Pasta:

http://www.food.com/recipe/spinach-mushroom-pasta-55977

Hash Browns (I mixed in vegetables before putting them in the pan) http://allrecipes.com/recipe/220520/classic-hash-browns/

Shrimp and Grits (You’ll have to buy polenta; they don’t sell grits here.)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/shrimp-and-grits-recipe.html

Rice and Beans

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15559/black-beans-and-rice/

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