- a blog about food and value

Student “food” – the best and worst memories

An epic battle between cheap and nasty for ultimate victory in your awful dinner

Rice, peas, and ketchup is the “dinner of champions”. It’s okay to eat pizza that’s been under a pile of unwashed clothes for five days, as long as you pick off the mould. And  Rancheros sandwiches represent a nutritious meal taking in at least two of the major food groups.

Ah yes, student food. I’m putting together a short piece for The Irish Times on some of the best and worst memories of the things we do to our bodies during the college years, and was hoping to include some of your reflections and experiences in the piece.

Does beer constitute food? Is margarine a sauce? What got you through your student days?


  1. 12 cent tesco value noodles.

  2. Mayo on toast was a meal. Pack of sausages was the protein for the week. And once a week either lasagne/spaghetti and garlic bread!

  3. We lived on pasta stir in sauces

  4. Peanut butter sandwiches and rice pudding when we had too much milk

  5. When I was in university in England in the early 90’s I was too intimated to order a curry in an Indian restaurant because I’d never had one before – so I ended up ordering egg and chips off the English menu. Terrible stuff- but one day I bought my first cookbook – Nigel Slaters ‘Real Fast Food’ and that demystified cooking and recipes for me, giving me confidence and a roadmap to start buying ingredients and trying new things.

  6. The cheapest Dunnes Stores pasta with a can of baked beans dumped on top. It wasn’t pleasant.

  7. I was the lucky one: I lived in Paris near the Chinese quarter, and had on my doorstep 2 large Asian supermarkets that sold meat, vegs, noodles and rice for very cheap. If you weren’t picky, there was loads to buy for little money. My favourite meal was fried onions (you could buy a kilo for a few cents) on rice. Throw in a few chicken wings that I would buy for about a euro the kilo. We also had a Lidl and a food market where you could buy 3 kilos of carrots for a euro, or a kilo of mackerel. The only thing is that you had to buy in large quantities to get the discounted price, so it meant eating mackerel with potatoes for every meal of a week

  8. spaghetti and ketchup – that was my all time low!

  9. “Treating” myself to garlic/cheese chips on a night out, and eating the leftovers for breakfast the morning after…

  10. Tesco Value Pizza (tomato and cheese) Sandwich Dinner – Cooked two TV pizzas, turned one upside down, put it on top of the other and ate as a sambo. A sliced up pepper was used as a filling on special occasions. Eating it off of the pizza wrapping meant there was no wash up, bonus points!And accompanied by a flagon of Tesco V cider, it was sustenance and drunkenance for peanuts.
    I’m quite sure the root causes of my current dependence on antacids can be traced to this era.

  11. ALSO, Tesco Value cartons of wine… (Well, Tesco Value anything!) Bonus points for the packaging- it allowed ‘one’ to sneak them into places too. An ingenius invention!

  12. Tuna! Tuna with everything. A very creative tuna option was onion chopped up and fried with (you guessed it) tinned tuna, then – the piece de resistance – salad cream mixed in. Tons of it. And then the whole lot put on top of lots of soggy pasta. Strangely tasty.

    Also, quarter-pound bags of cheap mince from Tesco. Those could be turned into ANYTHING.

    There was also a Spiceburger phase.

  13. Spaghetti with a tin of mushroom soup stirred in.

  14. It’s all very much in the dim and distant past (i.e. in the 60’s) – but I seem to remember a lot of pork chops ( one apiece – small and fried) + boiled potatoes + tinned peas. That was on the good days. One of the staples on the other days was tinned ravioli – which I thought was very daring and sophisticated. Another “sophisticated” favourite was a Vesta curry. You bought a packet (which held enough for two) – you boiled the rice, boiled the dried curry mix with water for a while – and you had a meal to impress anyone. Of course, a real favourite was a Dennys’ steak and kidney pie – in a tin. Delicious!!

  15. A girl I knew in college used to mix up what I think was Dolmio sauce with tuna and then stick it on top of some pasta. To this day, I retch a little at the thought of it.

  16. Tuna salad, topped with chicken flavoured koka noodles, topped with grated cheese and grilled til just melted. Thought I was a real Gordon Ramsay with that one!

  17. Surprised that nobody has mentioned the unspeakable luncheon meat, white sliced bread sandwiches. I still can’t look at the stuff in butchers and am appallled that they have faces on it now to entice children!

  18. I worked out I could feed myself entirely on frozen Tesco Value burgers and oven chips for £7 a week, leaving £43 to spend on drink. Tipples of choice included out of date beer and Chinese red wine for £2 from Deveneys’ in Rathmines…

  19. I used to buy packets of vegetable rice for about 40p and sprinkle some cheese on them. As a treat at the weekends I would go to Greggs and buy a chelsea bun which was almost a quid! Broke the bank!

  20. I used to put a small tin of peas in with fried/scrambled eggs – thought I was very European!?! Beans al la mode, beans with peanut butter and toast, beans with curry powder added to them, beans with fried onions added to them. Beans, noodles and eggs was a full meal. My take on a Mammys sunday dinner was a tin of peas, instant gravy and smash (shudder) and whatever meat was around, usually rashers/sausages. My friend made a mean black pudding spal bol.