I never thought I would say it, but I do occasionally miss Leo’s.
I’m living in college accommodation here at Trinity, which is great, but college accommodation here is not quite the same as what you would get at Georgetown. Trinity enrolls around 13,000 students (twice the size of GU’s undergrad population), but all these students have to compete for 700 college rooms (all of them singles). The vast majority of students live either in rented accommodation or at home, if they’re from around Dublin.
Since so few students live on campus, Trinity has fewer amenities than you would get at a university where everyone lives there full-time. There’s only one launderette for all of college, and no dining hall.
That’s not completely true—we have a buttery, which is basically a cafeteria, a cheap place to get a decent hot meal. But unlike Leo’s, the student body doesn’t frequent it—it’s mostly tourists and other visitors who eat there. It’s not designed for high-volume traffic, and they don’t offer meal plans.
The 700 students who live at college mostly cook for themselves, since all the rooms have kitchens in close proximity. I share a kitchen with three other people, and have slowly taught myself to cook. It definitely takes more effort than simply swiping into the dining hall and filling up your plate, but it is rewarding to eat the fruits of your labors. Here are my tips.
- Invest in a good everyday cookbook. Cookbooks geared towards people on a budget and students do exist, but unfortunately many of them are pretty bad. Make sure you give each potential cookbook a good look-over before you buy it, thinking about whether or not you would like the food in it, if it’s easy enough to make (or too easy), if it offers good variety, if the recipes require too many ingredients, and if the recipes take a reasonable amount of time.
- Plan your meals. This helps to minimize shopping trips and helps you budget your time and money. You don’t have to cook every night—remember that you’ll probably have leftovers with all your cooked food. And there’s no shame in lazy meals now and then, like grilled cheese or beans on toast (a favorite in Ireland).
- Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. Self-explanatory. Don’t skimp on fruits and vegetables—they’re worth shelling out for. If you really don’t think you can afford them, go canned or frozen. There are tons of online resources on nutrition if you’re feeling undereducated.
- Be sure to bargain hunt. Tesco, the major grocery store here, is good at doing special offers, like 3 for 9 euro meat packs and 3 for 3 euro fruits. They also reduce items right before they go out of date, which is great for ingredients you’ll need on the day. If you have too much food, either freeze some of it until you can use it, or organize a group of friends to take turns cooking for the group.
- Give those dreaded foods a second chance. The best part about being the cook is you don’t have to cook things they way your mother did when you were growing up. If you never liked potatoes because you’d only had them boiled, try roasting them with herbs. You get the idea.
- Figure out what the local items are. Local foods are often cheaper and better. This is especially true in Ireland because it’s an island, and virtually everything that isn’t grown in a space the size of Indiana has to be flown or shipped in. In Ireland, potatoes (obviously), butter, all dairy, beef, pork, and some vegetables are generally cheap because they don’t have to be imported. Things from elsewhere in the EU are the next cheapest group, and things from outside the EU (from America) are generally very expensive.
Obviously these tips also work for shopping and cooking at Georgetown. Like in DC, there is a bag tax here, but it’s much steeper: 31 cents per bag! In American currency, that’s about 43 cents a bag. So bring your reusable bags to the store, and bon appétit!