10 frugal but fun ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day

Marking our national holiday doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can eat Irish, speak Irish, watch Irish, get creative – or just get out and about

Today is the day we traditionally celebrate our Irishness by spending hours standing in the freezing cold and driving rain (alright, maybe not this year) behind rows of tall, puzzled foreigners waiting for floats and frozen-looking girls twirling batons and papier-mâché monsters to pass before drinking ourselves into comas by teatime. But it doesn't have to be like that and there are all manner of fun – and frugal – ways to have fun and celebrate your heritage on this most Irish of bank holiday Mondays. Here are just 10 of them.

1 Eat Irish
For more than a decade Bord Bia has been exploring our attitudes towards the food we eat. Its most recent research found that 70 per cent of us think it's important to "buy local" – up from 50 per cent in 2005. Only France rated higher, at 73 per cent. And we are doing our best. More than three quarters of us check products for a Country of Origin label before we purchase compared to just 58 per cent in Britain.

So we like buying Irish, then. But maybe we should be doing even more of it. So put your mouth where your money is this week and make it an Eat Irish week. Make sure all the breads, vegetables, meat, breakfast cereals and biscuits come from round these parts. Take care though, food labelling laws are not as strict as they should be and retailers are all too often allowed to label foods from thousands of miles away as Irish – or at least imply they are Irish by giving them Irish names.

2 Food colouring
This is the one exception we'll allow to the Irish-only food rule. This should be your best friend today. If you have small hands to entertain when you get back from the parade – and you have to go to a parade – bake a tricolour. Small children will be wildly impressed if you add green and orange to separate batches of whipped cream and stick them onto biscuits. And make your own green milkshakes with a few scoops of ice-cream some milk and a splash of food colouring. It costs virtually nothing and the kudos will be immense. Your local Tesco is open all day and sells the bottles for less than €2.


3 Speak Irish
Pricewatch is ashamed to admit that it got a D in pass Irish in the Leaving Cert and we have disimproved since then. But we're still going to give Irish a whirl today and we'll even up the stakes by adding a "swear box" into the mix. Try it – it's fun (and potentially ruinous). Set aside an hour today and each time you or anyone in your house speaks English, drop 50 cent in the Béal Box. If you have kids they will probably be a lot better at this than you so they'll love catching you out.

4 Watch it
Dig out the old DVDs and settle down with The Quiet Man , In the Name of the Father or Intermission . If you don't have any Irish videos your local Xtravision might be able to help. And it's currently running an amnesty so even if you ran up massive late fees in the past you can rejoin without being hit with big penalties. You might want to give PS, I Love You a skip – Gerard Butler's wojus accent will ruin your day. To be sure.

5 Get creative
Gather all that is green in your home and do some old-fashioned arts and crafts with the kids. Print off pictures of St Patrick from the internet and use baking paper as tracing paper and Bob's your uncle, it's colouring-in time. Make your own streamers and decorate the house – why not, it's time to celebrate. Make your own flags with some paint and straws. It's cheap as chips and kids love it.

6 Get dressed up!
Nearly every child loves getting their face painted but there will be long queues at parades and festivals all over the country today. So get creative at home – you don't have to be Da Vinci to paint an Irish flag or a shamrock on someone's face. Many shops sell those temporary tattoos that do the job too.

7 Parks and

Can't face the parade? Then maybe you should leave it out and take advantage of the fact that it is not lashing rain (note: this was written before today, so if it is lashing rain where you are right now, we're awful sorry). Pack a picnic and take it to the park. A flask of soup, some sandwiches and crisps are all you need. And maybe a coat. If you want to keep the small and the gullible amused while in the park – and keep the Irish theme going – promise a substantial cash sum to the person who finds the first four-leaf clover. You could get hours of (possibly mean) amusement from their fruitless searching.

8 Galleries
We complain about a great many things in Ireland but we are blessed with our galleries. They are all free and a great way to pass a few hours. The grounds at IMMA are stunning and a fab spot for budding photographers and/or instagrammers.

9 Look around you
There's sure to be some local history sites or castle or walk that visitors to your area always go to but you haven't seen since your school tour when you were 11. Act like a tourist. It will bring you to places you would never normally go. Check out local walking routes online and plan your trip so you won't be walking for miles and then just turning around and walking back.

10 Potato heads
Forget the drinking and the shamrocks, there is a tradition that potatoes should be planted on March 17th. This is because when the humble spuds first came to Ireland from the New World they were treated with some suspicion by the less than enlightened clergy and it was felt that the only way to dispel any demons was to plant them on the holiest day of the year – or at least one of the holiest days of the springtime. The likes of Woodies will sell you a bag of seeds for around a fiver and if you plant them now you should be well fed come August.