Vegan on a (Serious) Budget in Melbourne

There are definitely ways to eat vegan while spending heaps. Go out to the most bourgeoisie, organic, biodynamic (yuccie-mecca) restaurants. Buy all the vegan cheese and raw chocolate and superfood smoothies.

There are also ways to eat vegan for super cheap. All rice and beans all the time. (Or, ya know, air)**. Maybe some weed tea if you’re feeling fancy.

Or you could strike a balance. Eat well, have a social life, enjoy your food, and save cash. There’s tons of ways to do it if you know where to turn. I’ve only been in Melbourne about 2 months so far, but I’ve already discovered lots of spots to score cheap eats.

Check out my list and feel free to add your own suggestions!

-Hare Krishna restaurants (various locations)


Mantra Lounge (Carlton)

They are everywhere here (especially around the CBD). And they are all SUPER cheap. Especially the lunch specials. Think rice + curry + veggies + bread of some sort (uttapam or dosa or roti) + sometimes dessert for downwards of $10. And most of them do all you can eat. (Did someone say thirds seconds?)

*I believe Mantra Lounge is Hindu-based but not specifically Hare Krishna. However, it follows a very similar structure to the others.


Om Vegetarian (CBD)

Friends of the Earth (Collingwood)


This co-op grocer/cafe is a great place to volunteer if you have the time. And you get a free organic/vegan/gluten-free meal on your shift! What more could you want? (Besides maybe money). If you can’t volunteer, you can still come grab a plate for a decent price (around $10-12).


-Fruit and vegetable markets 

These places make my life. They typically sell produce only and they’re usually SO much cheaper than the big markets (Coles, Woolies, etc.) You can find them in most shopping centres and in random locations around the city- often they specialise in Asian imports. If you hit them up near closing, prices dip even lower than standard. You can get giant bundles of veg reduced for quick sale at a fraction of their original price- just use them quickly before they go bad.

-Lentil as Anything (various locations)


Preston location

Lentils is such a cool concept. You can “pay as you feel” for your meal or trade a volunteer shift for food. I don’t know why there aren’t more spots like this in the States! Although the vibe is slightly bohemian, dining here feels like any other (slightly eclectic) restaurant. You can have the full “eating out” experience (sitting down, being waited on, nice atmosphere, etc.) without breaking the bank.


Thornbury location

Food Not Bombs (Cooks in Brunswick, serves in Fitzroy/Footscray)


This photo is from a FNB group in the States, but you get the idea

If you’re unaware, this initiative started up in the States in the 1980’s by a group of anti-nuclear activists. (Check out the whole story here.) It now manifests as free community meals around the globe made all from donated food. There are three serves in Melbourne on Monday (day), Monday (night) and Tuesday (night). You can drop by for a delicious vegan meal, or to lend a helping hand, or both.

*Bonus: I almost always get to take leftover prepared food and/or produce home with me.

-Dumpster Diving


About 50% of this meal was dumpstered

Ahh yes, good ol’ trash pickin’. Don’t be so quick to run away from the idea (or do- more for me!) One person’s judgment is another person’s 5-course meal. Honestly though, the amount of food waste in the Western world is quite disgusting. More disgusting than eating a bruised apple out of a garbage bin. (I wash it first, okay?)

There are several groups in Melbourne that dive. You may want to check those out if your a newbie so that you have some buddies to go with. And don’t forgot your gloves, plastic bags and headlamp!

I was spending a fortune when I first got to Melbourne (compared to my $15 a week grocery bill last year). Granted, I was living/cooking with 9 other people and eating out way less, but still.

Now that I’ve gotten in the swing of things here, I’ve been able to substantially cut costs. All of the aforementioned resources help me out so much. And I’m sure there’s tons more that I’m not even aware of or haven’t gotten to check out yet.

For instance:

What else am I missing? Have you tried out any of these suggestions? 

**I don’t actually condone breatharianism whatsoever.