HOW TO EAT FOR FREE IN MELBOURNE
By Bessie Byrne
These days everybody is feeling the effects of rising food prices. The Supermarket duopoly continues to push up prices while reducing product options and squeezing the smaller brands of the shelves. On top of this increasing climate extremes have led to food shortages, (we all remember when bananas were $14 a kilo) and trade relationships are always changing.
This week I set out to see how much I could eat for free.
On Monday nights during semester the Environment Collective at Melbourne Uni hosts a free meal for whoever wants to come along. It’s held in North Court and people turn up and help cook at 6 if they feel like it, otherwise, you turn up around 7 and serve yourself up an amazing healthy meal. Some weeks people bring wine and it’s always a great place to make friends or just sit and watch the Tai Chi group do their thing.
This week just so happened to be Environment Week and so I was invited to a free breakie on Tuesday morning, hosted by the same group. The breakfast coincided with a ‘learn to fix your own bike’ workshop, where I learned some tips.
On Tuesday afternoon I knew a few friends were going to free dinner supplied by ‘Food Not Bombs’ organization, so I invited myself along to check it out. We turned up on the corner of Brunswick Street and Gertrude Street around 7:30, and waited for the pots of hot delicious food to arrive. There were 6 dishes plus fruit salad. Food Not Bombs hosts this feast every Tuesday night and everybody is welcome.
On Wednesday morning I had to work and skipped in early to make myself a coffee and eat some leftovers while I opened up the venue. Over my time working in hospitality I’ve learned to tuck down as much free food as I can to counterbalance the pathetic wage I usually receive. Lunch was a sufficiently burnt pizza that was not fit for a customer.
Later on a friend invited me to eat a free mean with her on Smith Street, Collingwood, at the courtesy of a group called ‘Free Food’. We turned up at 7.30 and feasted on delicious curry, bread and salad. We stayed around chatting to the volunteers, who gave me a huge bag of delicious bread to take home.
On Thursday morning I opened my freezer full bread and pulled out a dense fruit bun which I ate ravenously for breakfast. While realizing that my run of free meals might be ending I decided to make some calls and see if any of my environmentally proactive friends would take me dumpster diving.
This turned out easier than I had expected, and when it got dark, my two friends took me round our local bins, teaching me the tricks and trades of finding food that shops had thrown out at the end of the day. We ran home with cheese, fresh fruit and veggies (and even flowers) and cooked up a late night pasta.
Friday morning was started with a bread roll full of fresh veggies. I then conveniently had a lunch date at a friends house, where I was supplied with quiche and a fresh bean salad. That night I dragged my housemate along to the Hare Krishna Temple in Albert park for a free Indian three course meal.
On Saturday a friend and I went to ‘Lentil As Anything’ at Abbotsford Convent where we ate a late lunch. The spread was comprehensive and we were even offered coffee and tea before stuffing our bellies with desert. On the way out we put a secret amount in the donations box and were on out way.
There are heaps of bars and restaurants in Melbourne that offer free snacks but the best one I’ve come across is the free BBQ at The Workshop Bar, on the corner of Elizabeth and A’Beckett streets in the CBD. Sausages, salad and other delights are offered to anybody who lines up. Starting from 6 on Sunday. It was delicious.
The growing subculture of sharing free food is one that is very welcoming of increased demand. You don’t have to be poor, just open to challenging the current food regime in Victoria. The general opinion seems to be the more the merrier, and I wasn’t asked any questions at any of the free meals I attended. The more people we get involved in these events the bigger the groups with grow and the more food we can share.
All the organizations welcome volunteers and food donations.
Please comment below if you have any more advice for grabbing free feeds.