Char’s January Survival Guide: How To Frugally Eat, Drink and Treat Yourself

Words: Sian Conway & Shamim de Brún
Images: George Vornov and Destiny’s Child

Words: Sian Conway & Shamim de Brún
Images: George Vornov and Destiny’s Child

As we drag ourselves through the final stretch of January with our pockets echoing with the sound of loose change, it’s tempting to barricade ourselves at home and survive on plain pasta.

But fear not! Just because we’re all crawling to the finish line of January with three coppers to our names, doesn’t mean we have to sit in the gaff all month and starve. Well, at least not all the time. Rather than spending nothing and splurging inevitably, this guide is about going to places where you can only spend a little. And how to spend that money wisely. Life’s all about balance, after all.

First things first: Delete all the takeaway apps off your phone — you don’t need that kind of temptation. If you delete them all then you have to go through way more steps to make an order and you might think better of it while you’re trying to remember an old password.

Then, replace them with any apps that give you free food on your birthday. Maybe you have a January birthday you forgot to add? If you’re not feeling disingenuous, then download the Bujo Burger App. You get a free burg just for joining. You can thank us later.

Breakfast of Champions

Deli breakfasts can be like that elusive love interest – tempting but pricey these days. SuperValu on Aston Quay, however, is keeping with the Irish tradition of affordable breakfast rolls, swooping in at a purse-friendly €3.50. Deli who?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Lovin Spoon is the best big brekkie under a tenner if you need a full Irish in your life this January. And they do a veggie version!

There’s also Anne’s Bakery breakfasts that come in under a tenner if you need that meaty goodness.

Otherwise, it has to be has to be porridge. If you wanna go out for breakfast and you’ve only got a few pennies then porridge is your best friend. At Lovin Spoon: €4.00, Two Boys Brew €5.50The Shelbourne €7.75; and Brother Hubbard is, in my opinion, the porridge to beat in Dublin, and it’s only €5.50.  

Lunchtime Wisdom

Sumaki has only one whole dish for under a tenner (all their small snacks come comfortably in under nine), and it’s the exceptionally tasty Sesame Tofu Sushi Burrito. It’s a hearty and healthy feed. If you have the self-control of a saint, you can try to build a poke bowl. They start at €8.95 and go up, but I find the temptation hard to avoid when I am budget-conscious and always seem to over-order. 

Take a cue from Char’s Dublin On A Tenner videos for a crash course in frugal feasting while also having a blast. 

Avoid the office lunchtime rut by bringing your homemade sandwich and jazzing it up with a cup of soup from Sprout & Co for a mere €3.

Think soup. It’s the porridge of lunchtime, and there’s always a cheap soup to be had. Soup Dragon is slightly over, with soup starting at €5.30. But it’s exceptionally tasty and does come with bread. 

Oxmantown has soup with homemade bread for bang on a fiver, though if you’re hardline, sticking to lunch for two on a tenner.

Opting for a veggie carvery keeps it under a tenner in most places, and you still get all the best bits – potatoes. Perfect for those weekend lunches. 

Get a Too Good To Go bag from your favourite cafe the day before and then enjoy them at lunch time the next day. Pastry is always better when it’s fresh, but warm it with a little love and maybe some jam on the side and you’re on to a hell of a treat.

A way to save is to do two meals in one. If you visit an All You Can Eat buffet late in the afternoon, it can be a late lunch and keep you full through dinner time. Also, all-you-can-eat is always cheaper at lunchtime than at dinner, so your savings just compound on top of each other. How could ya not? It’s practically free, and much cheaper than a takeaway.

If you really need that takeaway, try a food delivery app you haven’t used yet to get your sweet, sweet 10% discount.

If you have a mate who works in Tech, now is the time to suggest a lunch date. Go visit them at lunchtime and take advantage of their completely free or heavily subsidised lunches, coffees and snacks. They only have a certain amount of ‘bring a mate’ coupons or whatever, but it’s the new year baby! That shit has been refreshed! Get in there first and enjoy.

Dinner on a Dime

Star Pizza: because it was good enough for you as a student, it’s good enough for your adulting self. For the ultimate dining deal, follow Char’s lead with the Il Capo All Day Deal – pizza, chips, dip, and a drink, all for the unbeatable price of €12. 

If you’re dining out, consult CHAR’S Early Birds Under €30 article for savvy eatin’.

And when dining out, explore the Too Good To Go app for iconic restaurant bargains. Let’s not forget the legendary Yellow Sticker Date – Thursday evenings, where you can engage in a thrilling scavenger hunt for discounted goodies.

Umi tout-seul own is a little more than you’d want to spend, but the sharing board is only €22 and fills ya good and proper with little filo rolls and all.

The Woolshed also do a ‘Cheap Tuesday‘ deal of two burgers, two chips and a pitcher of beer for thirty quid. A deal which saves you about a tenner.

There are only two types of deals you will find on Saturday night, the busiest of all nights to go out on. The early dining deal on places like FirstTable and EarlyTable gives up to 50% off if you dine at 17:00.

Groupon is the OG for people who want to go out but are cash-poor. The quality isn’t always top-notch, but you can set dinner for two from €20, and that’s a helluva lot cheaper than a takeaway these days.

And then there are the bottomless brunch deals. While these are all touted as deals, some of them are better value than others. Jackie’s on Francis Street have what I think is one of the cheapest for €30, which includes bottomless mimosas and a main dish.

Eat out on Wednesday’s instead. Chimac has an unlimited wings deal running all of January where you can have as many wings as you can eat for €15. If you can’t get a table, then Wednesday has traditionally been a big one for chicken wings, and these days, it’s no different. You can get 2-for-1 Wings at all Galway Bay Brewing bars in Dublin, including The Brew Dock, Bru House Fairview, The Gasworks, The Black Sheep, Bar Rua, and Against the Grain. Brew Dog have similar, if slightly different, deals that result in a lot of wings for cheap. Further afield in the world of Wednesday wings deals is the two-for-one at Cluck Chicken. They’re a powerhouse, if a little far out of town.

Suggest the occasional potluck to your office or friend group, then make the cheapest thing you can think of.

For more upmarket dining, there is the neighbourhood menu at Orwell Road. They run early on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

If you want something Asian, Hanoi Hanoi on Capel Street does a special menu for €22 per person, which includes spring rolls, curry, chicken wings, prawn crackers, spicy prawn fried noodles and more.

Klaw, Dublin’s darling seafood café have oyster Happy Hour from 17:00 on Fridays (and everyday) where all oysters are €1.50.

Then of course, there’s the old classic of visiting your parents suspiciously close to dinner time. Closely followed by visiting your partner’s or best friend’s parents suspiciously close to dinner time.

Budget-Friendly Activities

Treat yourself to a good cry, you deserve it.

Go foraging! Yup you can still forage in January. Winter berries and nuts a-plenty if you know where to look.

For entertainment on a budget, snag a 2-for-€10 cinema deal at selected theatres or explore free art galleries. 

Board on Clanbrassil Street offers a non-alcoholic haven with board games and jazz nights. Embrace your inner forager, have a good cry (you deserve it), or take advantage of ClassPass free credits for a month of gym and studio workouts. 

Wrap up warm and go to any of the Astronomy Ireland nights at the Phoenix Park with a picnic and a flaskeen of something hot.

Groupon – back again – is your new BFF. Get looking for fun, cheap or free things to do.

Snack Attack

Satisfy your cravings without emptying your pockets with €1 Chinese Char Siu buns at the Asian Market by the Jervis Luas stop.

Aobaba‘s pork buns are only €2, but remember cash only.

For something sweeter there’s the wee mochi for a euro at the Asian Market on Drury Street.

Hanley’s Cornish Pasties in Merchant’s Arch serve up filling pasties at a steal.

Never forget the hero of our collective misbegotten youth, The Rolling Donut on O’Connell Street, caters to your sweet tooth with €1 warm fresh sugary doughnuts.

Cheaper Luxury

If you want real luxury for an affordable price in January, take a Wednesday off work and go stay in a hotel. Most hotels are gagging for weekday customers and will often have a 50% off offer for Wednesday stays

If you really need an escape from this island, get the ferry to Holyhead. You’ll never love Dublin more than after a stint in that purgatory.

So there you have it, Char’s guide to navigating the January slump with style, flavour, and a healthy dose of frugality. Life might be a balancing act, but who said you can’t balance on a budget?

Elsewhere on Char: The Dublin 100

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