Olivia Hanna, our NUI Galway Ambassador, discusses shopping for groceries in Ireland and how the experience differs from back home in the US. From bringing your own bags to finding the eggs, she’s got you covered…
BYOB: bring your own bags
Taking your own bags with you might seem like a drag, but you’ll be better off because of it. Stores in Ireland charge a fee for plastic bags and over a semester each little bag will add up, the money you can save is better spent on a trip to Barcelona or a night out! You will also be expected to pack up your own groceries so be prepared to get bagging!
Canvas bags usually work best since you can fold them up and fit them in a backpack or handbag for any impromptu shopping. Buy one before you arrive in Ireland to have a little piece of home with you, or get one with a fun quote or saying. Penneys and many smaller shops sell bags as well, and if you’re in a pinch most of the grocery stores sell reusable bags of their own.
Pick a store
If you’re living in Galway than no shop is too far away. Depending where you are and what you’re used to a 20-minute walk to the shops might seem like forever, but it becomes the norm.
Budget supermarkets Aldi and Lidl have the best deals and a good selection for staple items and produce, and in Galway they’re right across the street from each other! Mid-market stores like Tesco and Supervalu are a little pricier, but have a better selection for health foods, condiments, and snacking foods. Shop around and spend a little time getting to know your local stores and markets to make sure you get the best deals.
Daybreak, Spar, Londis – just a few of the main corner shops that you’ll find in every town and city in Ireland. These mini-markets and convenience stores stock essentials and are dotted around the country. They can come in quite handy, the only downside being that it might cost a little extra for frozen pizzas and milk (due to the smaller selection), but buying bulky or heavy items closer to home will save your arms and shoulders the pain of carrying them around.
Keep an eye out
You say tomato, I say tomato… If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for in a supermarket, keep in mind that it might look different to what you’re used to, have a different name, be in a different location, or it might only exist back home! Don’t be afraid to ask staff for advice and do try new things (see my next tip!)
Here’s a list of just some of the difference I’ve come across during my time here…
Eggplant = Aubergine
Bacon = Bacon Rashers (Oval shaped, ham-like, bacon patties, unlike the typical strips which are called ‘streaky bacon’ in Ireland)
Zucchini = Courgette
Chips = Crisps
French fries = chips
Pancakes = Crepes
Flapjacks = Oat/Granola bars
Eggs can be hard to find in the store as they are not usually refrigerated here!
Try new things
You’ll see all kinds of new foods while living in a new country and I’ve found from experience it’s always best to try them!
This might seem risky, but what’s the point of travelling across the world if you’e not going to jump right in! My favourite discovery here has been Tayto crisps (cheese and onion flavour is really just sour cream and onion), and rocket salad. Avoid the ramen noodle burnout as well by getting unique ready made dishes in the refrigerated sections, pre-prepared curry is never too far away!
It might seem obvious, but make sure you’ve made of list of groceries. Planning in advance can make a big difference to your wallet. Plan to shop for a few meals and snacks for the week so nothing goes bad, and buy as many non-perishables as possible.
Try to stick to your list and buy only what will fit in your bags and not be too hard to carry home. Worst-case scenario is that you have to take a cab back home, but my advice would be to save your euros and go back for a second trip instead