Ready to go dinners and tips for dining out on a budget

Goya’s in Kirwan’s Lane has expanded its range of foods to include dinners to go. All the meals are cooked on site with the same attention to raw ingredients as if cooking at home. There is also an interesting range of salads that you can purchase by weight and when I asked Emer, the proprietor, why they are any different from their competitors, she said that it is the attention to small details like boiling the potatoes with their skins on before chopping into potato salad, or shredding all the cabbage by hand. Some of the dishes are: chicken in coconut, chilli, and lime, buttered squash and chorizo risotto, pork in cider sauce with roast vegetables, and Moroccan spiced lamb. The dinners are €8.50 each and if you are fairly local they will also deliver. As the selection varies it is a good idea to phone first on (091 ) 567010. They have a special offer of two free desserts if you purchase two dinners, which means you have dinner for two for €17 — not bad. The dinners are also available in Alan and Susan’s pantry in Oranmore and McCambridge’s in Shop Street.

If you have a busy life or are a lousy cook the availability of home cooked high quality dinners to go are a godsend. Needless to say Goya’s other business is still focused on the sweeter side of things and the delicious chocolate covered cup cake in the photo costs €2.50.

Eating out is more than just an easy way of filling up with food; it can be a necessary part of keeping your sanity — especially in these frenetic times where everyone seems to have to work harder just to stay in one place (assuming you are lucky enough to have a job ). If your disposable income is less than it was 12 months ago, don’t stop eating out completely. Just eat out carefully.

My 10 tips for eating out on a budget are:

1. Go out for lunch rather than an evening meal, the portions are similar and the prices much lower.

2. Forget the drinks, fizzy drinks and bottled water are particularly expensive and a jug of water with a slice of lemon will suffice.

3. If you feel like the need for some wine, have one glass with your meal.

4. Skip the starter and/or skip the dessert.

5. Never be shy about asking for a ‘doggy bag’. I have enjoyed the remnants of a good dinner the next day, many times.

6. If you have some children with you, consider ordering a single adult’s main course to be split between them.

7. Look for early bird specials; this is getting much more popular in Galway and can be great value.

8. Give the restaurant your e-mail address and ask them to e-mail you whenever they are doing any special promotions.

9. If going out with friends, meet in one of your houses first, and have a drink or two, and perhaps even share a small starter. You can also share the same babysitter and agree to split the cost of this 50/50.

10. Quality is better than quantity, so consider eating out less often but at the better restaurants. One good memory is better than five average memories.

Some more special offers: Druid Lane Restaurant is offering an early bird menu costing €20 for two courses, eg, Italian meatballs on tagliatelle with sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The Claregalway Hotel also has an early bird menu from 5pm until 6.30pm offering two courses for €13.50, eg, herb crusted cod main course and a starter of deep fried mushrooms with garlic dip.

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