Meeting up with friends, enjoying a meal or movie or a museum needn’t be a hassle with these great tips to save money.
In a city perhaps most famous for its food variety, it’s great to know that there are good quality meals available that are more filling and cheaper than a Happy Meal.
Exhibit A: Bimbo Deluxe, corner Brunswick and Rose Streets, Fitzroy, and
Exhibit B: its brother restaurant Lucky Coq, corner Chapel and High Streets, Windsor
Both restaurants are famed for their gourmet $4 pizzas, which not only offer delectable toppings for the meat and veggie lover, there are also gorgeous dessert pizzas (strawberry, marscapone, white chocolate and strawberry sauce – anyone?) and for a little extra, there are gluten free options as well (which I can tell you, fit better in the belly than the wheat ones).
Open till late every night, these babies offer patrons a variety of themed nights, live music, great vibes and good times.
Do check them out if you haven’t already.
You need a pretty open mind to enjoy Crossways, at 123 Swanston St in the city, but you will be rewarded with bottomless 2-course meals and drinks for your money.
Well-known in some circles of Melbourne, this Hare Krishna lunchroom offers Asian vegetarian delights that are both predictable and deliciously hearty in one. Imagine a dining area akin to those American high school cafeterias you see on tv. Then fill it with a mix of backpackers, hippies, students and Hare Krishnas and that’s your ambience right there. For $5.50 as a student, you are warmly served the curry of the day with rice and pappadums, then a pudding dessert in custard, and self-serve drinks. I find one serving is enough, but if you want refills you can go back and get more. Again, cheaper and more filling than traditional fast food.
Take a book and relax or have a chat with your neighbours at the family sized tables, but be sure to clean up after yourselves and put the dishes in the corner clean up area.
Note it is literally a hole in the wall. Look for the sign dangling from the alcove above near Little Collins St then enter via a stairwell to the first floor. Extra dining room and Indian literature is on the second floor.
Open 11.30-3.30 Monday to Saturday.
My final option for cheap food is: the amazing and good willed Lentil As Anything. Set in three different locations in St Kilda, Fitzroy and in a convent in Abbotsford, Lentil’s community culture rests upon its pay-what-you-can philosophy, where a money box is the cash register and you pay what you think the meal was worth. No one is discriminated here. It’s such a great attitude and with live music, a great vegetarian buffet and a community atmosphere, this place is a top choice for a night out with friends.
Being vegetarian, I love that these places serve that sort of food, but I also take the philosophy that veggie places serve food cheaper because they’re not incorporating meat costs into the meal prices. Plus they are a little bit more relaxed and envelope what Melbourne is about (at least to me). So don’t be scared if there’s not a steak on the menu! If you want to explore more options, can I suggest the Age’s annual Cheap Eats Guide (new one out this month). I picked it up cheap in 2011 as Borders were shutting their doors, and it has been my failsafe tipster for nearly every restaurant meal since. Packed with options across the city, including a bar section at the back, this beauty assesses the best places serving food for under $30. Not only has it helped me highlight great eateries to my visitors, but also made me the go-to person to name a restaurant when locals were stuck finding a decent new place. As a new resident to Melbourne I love that irony just a bit.
My other tip for you all is to consider breakfasts as your cheap meal with friends. There is this great website Breakfast Out that for early risers and even lovers of weekends in general can enjoy. On weekends breakfasts are often served all day or til mid-afternoon. Cafes are divided by locality – north east south or west – and each sounds yummier than the last. What I love about breakfast with friends is that you get a really nice morning, day-ahead-of-you ambience, and tasty food options varying from under $10 for mueslis and fancy toast/pancakes to a full breakfast for $15. And you’ll be so full you will skip lunch and maybe only want a light dinner. And greasy fry up options are perfect hangover cures. Trust me on that one!
For anyone who loves cinema, this one is easy. Go to the post office on campus, to pick up $11 tickets to Village and Hoyts cinemas. Way cheaper than $15 at the cinema itself! Oh and you can get your non-concession friends tickets too for $12. Sweet as!
Other options can be getting a membership. You get a free movie ticket and they often have $5 preview movie deals on Sundays or $10 weekly movie options. And the good old drive-in is an old favourite of mine. Pile your car with friends and home-made popcorn or store-bought lollies/choccies and split the entry among all of you. If you pack rugs and chairs and milo in thermoses, you can even spread out to the lot next to your car and just turn your radio up loud for sound. Fun winter night out I think!
How great are Museum Victoria? Free entry to the following museums with your student card:
- Melbourne Museum
- National Gallery Victoria
- Immigration Museum
Plus concessions for special exhibitions! Yay!
There are plenty of other free options to check out around Melbourne, including:
- Beaches – Port Melbourne, St Kilda
- Gardens – Royal Exhibition, Botanic, Albert Park
- Bike riding – soooo many bike paths through beautiful scenery (not roadside)
- City laneways (go find Banksy’s piece!)
- Yarra River walks – Birrarung Marr, Southgate/Southbank/South Wharf/Alexandra Ave
- The Tan – great track around the Botanic Gardens to go for a walk or jog or bike ride with friends
- ACMI and the other museums in winter
- Markets! Better than window shopping under fluoro lights in the city, head for Queen Vic Market, Preston Market, South Melbourne Market
- Or window shop Chadstone, the largest shopping mall in Australia
- People-watch on the steps of Federation Square
- Parliament House – free tours!
- City architecture appreciation – historic Collins versus the very new funky modern university buildings on Swanston St
- State library – read, play chess in the Chess Room in winter or go next door to the Wheeler Centre for free talks
- Chinatown, Ceres, Lygon St Carlton, Victoria St Richmond, Acland St St Kilda or Carlisle St Balaclava. Tempt yourself with yummy food
- MCG at three quarter time – free football for the best bit!
- Old Treasury Building
- Free art: Until Never, West Space, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Tolarno Galleries, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Muma. Google them
- 1000 steps. If you are feeling fit.
- And for free food, donate blood! Go to any Red Cross donation bank (there’s one at the La Trobe Medical Centre right by the uni tram stop), and save a few lives. The Red Cross gives you free food in return. I hear the ones in the city give hot food, perfect for lunch!!! You can always share the experience with a friend.
Hope this gives you some great ideas to enjoy this great city with friends or alone, on a budget. As an outsider I love my little discoveries around Melbourne, each one adding an extra sparkle to the culture of this awesome town. So whether you grew up here or are new, get adventuring: be the tourist in your own town, and enjoy your Easter break. – Bec