Cooking On a Budget

Mariana Considine headshot
Mariana Considine
December 21, 2023
A table loaded with noodles, fish, and veggies, ready for hotpot.

Eating well on a budget can be difficult while studying abroad. Not only that, but you’re gonna be exhausted most nights, and not want to cook. My roommates and I succumbed many nights to a dinner of frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets. But it doesn’t have to be like this! Even if you and each of your roommates have one nutritious and delicious dish you can make really well, you can rotate who cooks and split grocery costs for a much happier wallet and stomach. To start you off, I’ve made a short list of some of my favorite meals from the semester that my roommates and I cooked together. On top of this list, take an hour or so before you depart to research and try making one new dish you really enjoy! 

Lentils and rice with chicken

  • Delicious, easy to make, and it reheats really well. Simply cook a pot of red lentils, add every spice you have in your cupboard and cook until the lentils are smooshed together and soft. Personally, I went for a blend of garlic, basil, cayenne, cloves, turmeric, and a teeny bit of cinnamon and sugar. Add chicken or other preferred protein. Also great with cheddar cheese on top. 

Steak sandwiches

  • Easily one of the most mouth watering meals my roommates and I prepped this term. While it’s a lengthier preparation, it was so worth it. We seasoned a nice cut of steak, and made an onion and pepper topping, popped on some cheddar cheese, and I topped it off with some homemade bread rolls. (Recipe for rolls from

Salmon bowls

  • Or, some variation. Kind of like a poké bowl, but a little more nuts. Salmon, avocado, soy sauce, ginger, and your choice of veggies over a bowl of rice. 

Garlic bread/other breads

  • One week, I made the most delectable garlic bread. Essentially, you can use any basic bread roll recipe, then form dough balls and coat them in a layer of garlic, oil, and any other spices. We added some onion, oregano, and cayenne pepper to ours. Layer the balls into a bread pan and let rise for an hour or so before baking. Delicious, easy, and easy to prepare on the weekend to take for quick lunches. (You can find a recipe here at

Rice with Tomato and Goats Cheese

  • Uh oh, more rice! This is a dish my roommate liked to throw together. We’d cook a big pot of rice, then put in fresh tomatoes, spinach, garlic, onion, and goat cheese over the top. Then, toss it in the oven for just a few minutes to melt the cheese. Great for leftovers, and a great dish to use day-old rice as well. 


  • Pretty self explanatory. We like to do it buffet style so everyone can add what they like to their own burrito. Then, leftovers are easy to pack all together and either wrap again the next day, or eat as a burrito bowl. Tip: heat the ingredients but not the tortilla for maximum wrapability. 

Pasta - but add veggies or something!

  • Pasta is a classic go-to for the average college student. But it can be nice to spice it up sometimes. Add some roast veggies with olive oil and salt to spice up a dish. Or, make a cheesy sauce to drench your noodles in. My go to cheesy sauce: melt butter in a saucepan. Add a few pinches of salt, pepper, and basil to the butter. (Or any variation of spices.) stir in a small amount of flour. Once the flour is combined with the butter in a paste, slowly stir in milk until everything is smoothed together. Let cook on low until it thickens. Then, add a metric ton of your favorite cheese until it reaches a flavor and consistency you’re excited to consume. 

Veggie Soup

  • In the base of a large pot, heat oil with garlic, onion, salt and pepper until the onion is soft. Boil water with soup stock, toss in veggies as desired and boil until mushy. You can get soup stock really cheap in most shops, I enjoy buying it as bouillon cubes because they are cheap and won’t go bad. I enjoy a base of potato or butternut squash. Season, once again, with everything in your cupboard. A little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg will accentuate a butternut squash base, but may be questionable with potato. Lots of cayenne pepper. When vegetables are satisfactorily squishy, you can add cream/milk if you wish and mash/blend into a thick soup. You can also leave it unmushed, but personally I think the flavors are best when all together. 

If all else fails, magic can be made with fresh veggies, oil, salt and pepper. Roasted or fried, always delicious. A favorite of my apartment was brussels sprouts, drenched in olive oil and spices and roasted in the oven for about 30 min on high heat, or until crispy. 

Look for student deals near you—bring a physical student ID, many places are strict about identification.

When you’re tight on time or energy, keep an eye out for student deals. Lots of spots in Dublin have affordable and nutritious student deals available. Make sure to bring a physical student ID, because some places are strict about identification. If you can’t, many places in Dublin will accept a photo of a school ID or a young adult Leap travel card.

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