There’s something totally unglamorous about university life that makes every student shiver. With the rising of living prices at an all time high and your accumulating student debt just sitting somewhere on your login, expenditures – at least, quick and affordable ones – can save you more than a few dollars. Instead of cutting back on gigs or night outs to ensure you can get a convenient bite, we’ve selected a handful of places that won’t break the bank. Hand-picked by our writers who are currently studying in Melbourne, our choices include vegan-friendly desserts, Vietnamese comfort food and all you can eat options that are delicious and local. Dig in!

Billy Van Creamy

Pop-up Shop 27 Best Street, Fitzroy North
Website | Price: $5 – $10

Monique says: “Since giving up refined sugar, gluten and dairy in my diet, finding a nicecream or organic sorbet was high priority on my to-do list. Luckily for me, I struck lucky in Fitzroy’s minimalist pop-up store of Billy Van Creamy, a few tram stops away from the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Made by hand to curate the freshest flavours, Billy Van Creamy refuse to use the hidden nasties of synthetic emulsifiers, stabilisers, colours and preservatives often found in a not-so-friendly scoop. Using natural ingredients like organic milk, fresh nuts and perfectly picked vanilla beans, each flavour is mixed to excellence and served on your choice of cone or cup. With vegan-friendly sorbet, rich chocolates and a selection of iced drinks available, it makes for a perfect study break right near Edinburgh Gardens. I recommend trying Billy Van Creamy’s coconut sorbet; I almost cried from joy upon first taste.”


Coconut sorbet in a little slice of heaven.

A photo posted by Monique Myintoo (@aumonique) on



Level 1, 123 Swanston Street, CBD
Website | Price: $5.95 All You Can Eat

Elle says: “A full meal, dessert and a drink all for $5.95? That’s not possible right? Wrong. Tucked up a small flight of stairs on Swanston Street in Melbourne’s CBD lies Crossways, a vegetarian student dream. With a menu that alters depending on the day of the week, Crossways is always interesting and reliably scrumptious. The Hari Krishna restaurant is all you need to survive uni lunches and still have enough money to have a social life as well; because let’s face it, who can afford to eat a burrito every day and still have money for beer? The food ranges from yummy rice dishes heaped with tofu and vegies, to pasta with delicious tomato based sauces to couscous and more. The dessert is always a different flavour of Halava with a side of custard. And the cherry on top? All the tables are communal so you can make yourself a new buddy while you dine too.”


Lentil As Anything

13 Heliers Street, Abbotsford
Website | Price: Pay As You Feel

Sophie says: “If your wallet’s looking a little empty and your stomach is in the same state, Lentil As Anything is the place to go. With eight buffet trays of organic vegetarian food, a-la-carte and table service, this bohemian not-for-profit restaurant is anything but conventional. It’s based on the unique financial model of ‘pay-what-you-can-afford’ as to give everyone the opportunity to eat, regardless of their financial situation. It’s the perfect place to chat with people from all walks of life, listen to live music, swing past The Shadow Electric and enjoy the multicultural food prepared by their volunteer staff. They’re open for breakfast (9am – 11:30am), lunch (12pm – 4pm) and dinner (6pm – 9pm) seven days a week. There’s also a ‘Taste What Refugees Bring To Our Country’ food van every evening from 5pm. While there are no set prices and donation runs off a trust policy, please do pay what you can to keep this unique restaurant experience alive.”


Mantra Lounge

167 Grattan St, Carlton
Website | Price: $9-$15

Kristina says: “The art of finding good, wallet-friendly food is hard enough on a student budget; it gets more complicated if you’re vegan. Fear not, you’re not doomed to lunches of boring salads and fries because the folks at Mantra Lounge offer a range of delicious vegan meals at low prices. Located on Grattan Street in Carlton, Mantra Lounge is only a short walk away from Melbourne University. From mains to salads, light meals and desserts Mantra has you covered whether you’re looking for a hearty meal or a light snack. Even if you’re not vegan, Mantra’s meal deals are great – you can grab their curry of the day on a bed of basmati rice and salad for under $10. With a rotating menu there’s something new to try at Mantra everyday. Anyone who disses vegan desserts should check out Mantra’s cake selection. I recommend the mango slice or tiramisu to satisfy your sweet craving. As well as their yummy vegan food, Mantra hold cooking classes and ‘Think Out Loud’ sessions where you can voice your opinion on contemporary issues. So treat yourself to something fresh and wholesome food at Mantra lounge that won’t make a huge dent in your dwindling savings.”


Rice Paper

245 Swanston Street, CBD
Website | Price: $10 – $16

Monique says: “Nestled between 8Bit and China Bar on the Swanston Street strip, Rice Paper is a hidden Vietnamese gem just a few blocks away from RMIT. With a communal and modern ambience, it’s one of the many cheap Asian restaurants that hallmarks itself better than a few of it’s neighbours. Serving up fresh rice paper rolls, flavoursome pho and a selection of vermicelli, stir-fry or rice dishes; Rice Paper is a quick and cheap option to satisfy your comfort food fix that won’t have you waiting. On another note, if you’re gluten free or vegan selection is clear, with each item on the menu labelled conveniently for your pleasure. With freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, herbal teas and alcoholic beverages also to pick from on the menu, it makes for a perfect meal before a long nap on the commute home.”


A photo posted by WONDERBAO (@wonderbao_) on



Shop 4/19-37 A’Beckett St, CBD
Website | Price: $2 – $15

James says:“Whether you’re after a casual laneway lunch with a few friends, or rushing to grab a quick bite in order to remain conscious between classes, Melbourne’s Wonderbao is the perfect solution for the typical ravenous Uni student on a shoestring budget. This humble street kitchen features authentic Chinese steamed buns and Taiwanese Gua Baos, and far exceeds any expectations with their fiercely flavoursome, stomach satisfying menu. Nestled away down Literature Lane, (off Little La Trobe Street near RMIT) once found, this hidden gem will keep you coming back for more. In fact, you too can become the decisive, popular leader of your squad your friends flock to for food advice like hungry sparrows to their mother. With friendly staff, a cozy industrial décor and wait times quicker than your first Tinder date, Wonderbao undoubtedly provide the best buns you’re likely to get your hands on throughout your time studying.”


Honorable Mentions

8Bit Burgers:
Fukuryu Ramen:
Allday Donuts:
1000 Pound Bend: