So you have finally done it, moved out of home. You have been given the ultimate freedom. No more nagging from Mum or hassle off Dad, you are the master of your own destiny. At the same time and often to your own dismay, you are now your own full-time chef, cleaner, shopper and carer. For many, moving out is liberating, but pretty quickly the freedom to eat Coco Pops for breakfast seven days a week loses its appeal. Unfortunately, cans of Pratzky, instant noodles and pesto pasta can only sustain you for so long. The challenge of cooking and shopping can be a rude awakening for many. Your stocked pantry and fridge from home, which you may have taken for granted, are now replaced by bare presses and bank balances. Like everything you will find in college, there is a certain knack to it, food shopping included. Knowing where to go, what time to go and what to buy is a learning curve. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy skill to have.
“Your stocked pantry and fridge from home, which you may have taken for granted, are now replaced by bare presses and even more bare bank balances.”
When it comes to communal kitchens and student dorms, space is often a premium. A shared shelf in a fridge might not always be sufficient, but you have to work with what you have got. My first piece of advice is to buy little and often. You don’t want to be that culprit whose twenty-day-old lettuce is oozing its lovely juices onto your flatmate’s slightly greying chicken. Long gone are the days of the big shop. This also helps to minimise food waste. There is nothing worse than dumping a load of food you had intended to make a delicious dinner out of. Try to know where to store certain goods. Any veg that’s been cut or peeled is going to go bad quickly, so that avocado you were saving for the next night’s dinner is best to use for breakfast instead. Storing the majority of fruits on the countertop is no problem. Always keep meat in the fridge and don’t forget to put the milk back in the fridge after breakfast. It’s the simple things but if done right they can make all the difference.
“Local greengrocers will be more willing to help a hungry college student come the end of the day when the produce isn’t as fresh but your belly is still as empty as ever.”
If you adopt little and often as your key mantra, shopping local should be the second port of call. Local butchers, fishmongers and grocers might seem intimidating at first but oftentimes cheaper cuts of meat and fish can be more rewarding, flavourful and cheaper than even Tesco’s finest range. Skirt steak, sirloin chop, red mullet and even flash frozen fish are all good places to start. Local green grocers will be more willing to help a hungry college student come the end of the day when the produce isn’t as fresh but your belly is still as empty as ever.
On the topic of frozen, the freezer is going to be your best friend. Frozen fruit from the likes of Lidl and Aldi are a solid investment and are only a fraction of the cost of their fresh counterparts. They are perfect in smoothies, acai bowls or even just as an addition to some porridge to jazz up a dreary morning. My own favourite use for the freezer is for preserving some home-cooked meals or the loot from the latest raid of the family fridge after a weekend at home. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal or discovering a relic from a previous kitchen raid that needs to be defrosted. Dinner for the next two nights sorted. Cheers Mum and Dad.
“If the freezer is your friend then tinned and canned goods should be that odd acquaintance you have. The one you call in times of trouble looking for a dig out or the one who you ask to revolut you that sum of money you let slide after a night out.”
If the freezer is your friend then tinned and canned goods should be that odd acquaintance you have. The one you call in times of need, or the one who you ask to Revolut you that sum of money you let slide after a night out. Pantry essentials such as coconut milk, beans, legumes and soups are all super versatile and last forever. There is more to canned goods than spaghetti hoops and spam. Tinned fish such as tuna, anchovies and sardines are all very tasty and definitely shouldn’t be shied away from. In the likes of Spain and Italy, conservas as they are referred to, are gobbled up as if they were a delicacy. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat and try some tinned goodness. One word of advice however, don’t be the one to leave used tuna tins around where you are living, you are only offering an all-you-can-eat buffet to the flies. With regard to the stench, it’s probably not the best way to make friends with all your new flatmates either.
Finally, the best times to shop, as you can imagine, are late in the evening. Nothing is as good as seeing the applying of fresh stickers and the possibly not-so-fresh goods. But not so fresh definitely doesn’t mean second rate, it means savvy shopping. The Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall on Grafton Street offers great discounts past six in the evening or so. For those lucky to be living in Halls, Big Tesco in Rathmines, as it’s commonly referred to, has their reduced products in the back right hand corner of the store. Too Good To Go also offers some serious steals at retailers such as Fresh, Centra and Shuppa. The Trinity mecca that is KC Peaches also offers some seriously cheap and even more seriously full plates of food between six and seven in the evening. Membership of DU Food and Drink Society has its own perks: discounts in Chimac, Pablo Picante and the Pitt Bros to name but a few.
Don’t be too daunted by the chore of cooking and shopping for yourself. It doesn’t take a master chef or connoisseur to whip up some lovely meals. A well-stocked pantry and somewhat fresh fridge usually does the job. If all else fails and you’re not in the mood to cook, The Buttery’s vegan sausage rolls and chips are always good bang for your buck.