Recovery in Melbourne on a budget

‘You’re not coming home until after your follow up appointment next week.’ – My lovely wife, dictating in no uncertain terms how things were going to go for me post nasal surgery. And in her mind she probably thought I’d be sleeping through the days and couching the whole week and a bit off at mum’s place while pain killers took over the majority of the heavy lifting.

I pretty much decided to do anything but. So welcome to Al’s ‘Melbourne on a budget’ recovery edition!

Al’s Melbourne on a budget recovery edition – a quick note

While I’ve been doing the following to a) keep my mind amused b) keep some level of fitness up (since I’m not allowed to do various things as I recover from recent nasal surgery) and c) Count down the days until my follow up appointment, there’s certainly nothing to say you too have to be recovering from anything (surgery, covid, heart ache, a hangover etc) to appreciate all these fairly inexpensive minor amusements. If fact you’ll probably enjoy and experience more when injury free really.

I’ve also included links and apps to various places where appropriate – hope these helps!

Now speaking of apps and websites:


Ozbargain – Bargain hunters galore flock to share discounts they’ve found and save even more across practically everything from food to clothes, computers to components and just perfect for today’s ramble, tickets to places like the Melbourne Museum. Before you pay full price for anything, check if there’s a discount first via Ozbargain. In fact it was Ozbargain app (Android/Ios) that reminded me of the next one:

Mymaccas app (Android) – Oh god how I’d love to have the beef brisket ramen I’ve going to rave over later in this post every day this week. Unfortunately the hectic bill paying life of 2024 doesn’t stop with me on sick leave, there’s still mouths to feed and so and so on. And so while I’m a once a month McDonalds consumer, the loose change offers/ monthly deals can save you a heap and keep you full while you run off on your next Melbourne on a budget recovery adventure. Today a McChicken, double cheese burger, small coke and a small fries all for $8 was far better than the usual $14 upwards. The rewards add up to which means if you need a quick coffee while hunting around, you can cash out the occasional free one or snack with this app too.

Samsung Health/Fitbit tracker/Strava/some kind of walking step keeping app – Purely


If you travel down to Melbourne using the VLine system, then you can use that same VLine ticket to access public transport for the rest of the day. Which is a great bonus for my Albury to Southern Cross ticket ($10.40) which gets me into Melbourne easily enough but also to wherever I need to be at no extra cost when I take one of the many train lines from Southern Cross Station.
Unfortunately it doesn’t prevent the occasional delayed train, nothing can do that.

Melbourne on a budget
I think you know how much by now I’m thrilled about train rides..

So importantly, don’t throw that ticket out until it really expires!

Also just a quick word on a spare pair of pants (because like me you may have forgotten to pack a spare), at Kmart the cheapest pair of Anko jeans is currently $10. However be aware that they may just be the most uncomfortable pair of jeans you’ll ever wear (as I’m experiencing right now.) Size around the waist was right, sitting down isn’t comfortable, a belt was needed after a couple of days because otherwise you’ll be pulling them up all the time.
Maybe hit the op shops and go through a few options to find a more comfortable pair for travelling? When I wash this pair next, they’re headed straight for the salvos.

Okay so Melbourne on a budget, what did I do?


Mum’s been living out this way for 15 years now but this is the first time I’ve been staying here and out an about exploring the general neighbourhood. And while I’ve met some interesting people (such as the guy on the bus stop having a snooze in such a position that suggesting the way he was going to wake up was when he tripped over and drove his head into the pavement. Then there was guy who kept yelling ‘Rolling Stones? Sugar Samph! Over and over after I got off the bus) it’s always nice to check out the things in your own (family’s) backyard.

There’s nothing like checking out an official Australian Football League oval on game day. And when I rolled up for a look at Whitten Oval, home of the mighty Western Bulldogs well let me tell you…nothing was happening. Because it wasn’t game day, the season hasn’t even started and apart from a passing car, I was the only one there. Timing really is everything.

But at least in this ongoing Melbourne on a budget series, I can tick off that I’ve now been to Whitten Oval and having interviewed and met the footy legend that is Doug Hawkins more than twice, it’s nice to visit his home club. Even if the gates were locked at the time.

Now if you’re a Melbourne kid/resident of the late 80s, early 90s and beyond then you’ve either done a terrible impersonation of Franco at one stage or at least known someone who can thanks to his myriad of self hosted TV commercials. And because of that all these years later, I can’t help but say the words ‘Brunswick and a Footascray’ in my mind every time I pass his building her in Footscray.

And if you’re not aware of his ad and how much of a Melbourne institution Franco really is, well god bless YouTube once again for this gem:

(I still haven’t gone in there yet though. Given the quality and price, it’s doubtful anything in there is remotely close to Melbourne on a budget.)

Edit: I’ve been told after posting about it on Facebook that the site will be a Moon Dog brewery eventually. Okay, that’s how you get me in the doors then!

Now while it’s no Queen Victoria Market which get’s it’s own writeup in a sec (in all my market experience the closest to Vic Market might just be Carrara Market on the Gold Coast but it certainly can’t match the sheer size of the Vic), The Footscray Market has plenty going on when it’s in full swing. Just across the road from Footscray train station the market has plenty of the usuals (chicken, fruit, veg, fish, beef, pork) but then plenty more if you want to go less Melbourne on a budget and dip into the fancy like duck, turkey, oysters etc

A great place to pick up some meal ideas and ingredients, thanks to Mum I’ve been spoiled with both salmon and some duck fillet from here. Both sensational and fresh. There’s also other non food related stalls when you get bored of looking at meat or listening to meat yell about meat specials.

When the shopping bags get heavy and the feet get tired, it’s time to retreat to your nearest library for a couple of hours of Melbourne on a budget recovery with a book, magazine, newspaper or whatever you like to consume when you take a load off for a couple of hours. My closest on one such day was Footscray Library in Paisley Street where I found plenty to read while the sun got less hot and my energy levels slowly returned.

Stuff such as:

I make no bones about it, I’m 43 years old and I still love comics to this day. Although if you asked me directly to name the current line up of the XMen in the marvel universe, all you’d get is a blank stare in return because I reckon the line up changes roughly every 45 seconds. No seriously, I read another comic about Conan the Barbarian having dinner with Dr Doom and if those two haven’t become XMen yet somewhere down the line, well I’ll be well and truly surprised.

I loved libraries as a kid and thanks to the libraries of the Gold Coast and discovering their sizeable graphic novel collections, I’ve loved them even more. Especially when times are tough, money is tight and you need an escape, you don’t even have to be a member of that library to sit there and enjoy them. And I don’t think you can get more Melbourne on a budget than free reads when you need to take a breather. Hilariously I also uncovered while there:

I didn’t really have too much time to investigate the wonderfully dark world of Lovecraftian Eldritch Horror but at least I know I can the next time the next time I visit Footscray Library. I’m also good if the car I’m in (I’ve taken the train this time mostly but maybe the car next time) breaks down, because I found a repair guide on the shelves too. Obviously it’s slightly different than my Mazda 6 but how hard can it be to get either up and running again?

Additionally a quick mention of the lovely café directly across from Footscray Library, Café Hahn. While shopping up a (budget) storm I had a hankering for a a dirty great slice of a cake of the day and a brew to match, just like the days of old I reminisced about recently.
And sadly, this doesn’t seem to be a thing so much anymore.

I’m not talking about the price per se (nothing’s priced like the 90’s anymore I think we can all agree) I’m talking that the slices of cakes have become separate blocks or cupcakes or muffins. No (from the places I looked into) multi tier cake stands with slices already bought, just individual blocks and muffins ready to go. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the apple turnover I had at Cafe Hahn as well as the coffee and when the lovely woman behind the counter saw I was about to take some panadol, she asked if I needed any water.

I arrived between lunch and school pick up which was the perfect quiet time but kicked myself after ordering because I saw they do kranksys there and boy do I love a kransky (or two.) Still, I recommend the coffee and danish for sure!

Cafe hahn - Melbourne on a budget

And speaking of great Cafe’s in Footscray, it would be remiss of me not to mention the one down the road from when I’m recovering, Brother Nancy. Who is Nancy and who is Nancy’s brother? No idea, I only pop in here on occasion. Also I’ve only tried the coffee here but it’s tasty and affordable but if my wife sees the sweets offerings the next time she’s down here, well goodbye credit card..

Additionally speaking of cafe’s in Melbourne, I need to also mention Elephant Cafe Newport as a great place for coffee, muffin and finishing a crossword after taking the dog for a walk.


And purely because I’ve only ever seen these at two Coles supermarkets, namely Coles Footscray and the Coles Express near Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.
Have you tried the Coles mochi?

Now both times I’ve seen these offerings in action, not a single person bought from them. So either a) No one’s game to try or b) it’s old hat by now, everybody is used to them already and as usual, I’m way behind things. But looking for some random entertainment, I paid my $6 for 5 self served hand picked mochis and then found a space to sit down and try out these Japanese Rice Cakes.

Now the good news is that if your local Coles doesn’t have it’s own self serve Mochi setup, then they’re still available in the frozen section – apparently these are actually Buono Mochi’s, just in individual serves. Since it’s been a couple of days since I first tried them my notes are hazy but the pink and white ones were the best. Also I recommended if trying these out by yourself, got the 5 for 6 deal. 10 for $10 if all for yourself in one hit, well you’re going to feel it for sure..

Now from Footscray to Melbourne on a budget

To paint the picture, all of my travel across Melbs has been on train, busses or on foot. No trams as such apart from the ones I’ve passed in my travel although my Myki card has seen a lot of action. (I say card but technically it’s a digital card in the digital wallet in my digital smartphone so as long as I don’t lose that.. the more I use it, the more I like the Google Wallet app for cutting down on card space.)

To those used to them, Melbourne trains are just as excited as you remembered. But depending on where you want to go they are at least semi regular on time and departure so that’s handy!

Samsung Health has been keeping tabs of why my feet have been so tired over the last few days:

And I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve walked this much in a single day since Baz the father in law and I visited the Ballarat swap meet so he could find some HR Holden parts many years back. But hey, Melbourne’s a big place and I need to get my exercise levels back up after surgery so let’s do this!

First stop, a swing by Parliament house, courtesy of the ludicrously long escalators at Parliament station nearby. I once went down them full of woodfired pizza and Hazy IPA (Thanks Guy!) and that long descending look down didn’t do my stomach any favours. Still, unlike Whitten oval above, at least there was something happening here when I rolled past.

From there I descended down Collins street got to rambling all over town, marveling at all the shops I remembered…that are no longer there. Yes a lot of the places I grew up with are either relocated or no longer a thing but a couple of special mentions:

Minotaur – the famous comic shop is still in Melbourne, it’s just moved a few places over the years and become Minotaur: The Pop Culture Megastore! Luckily I managed to pin it down again recently in Little Collins Street. If you love books, comics, pop culture, Japanese animation, you name it, it’s here and you’re going to have to give yourself hours to get through it all.

Dungeon of Magic (gaming store) – The last time I set foot in here? Er…circa 1993 ish I think? Back then it was a store for all your Role Playing Game Gear and the like, now it’s CCG’s, dice and resin miniatures.

Comics R Us – Was at the top of Collins street, now just the store in Windsor.

I have no idea where that Magic shop on Elizabeth Street has vanished too. God that was a fun place.
Also that huge news agency with all the imported magazines, does anyone remember what that was called? (Mc something).

Myer on the other hand is exactly where you left it and were this a Christmas post, I’d suggest the Myer Christmas Windows were a great feature for your Melbourne on a budget list, provided you had a) small kids and b) hours to kill waiting in line to see them all..
I was also around when they built Melbourne Central around the shot tower and definitely recommend that as a cost free visit (before you get distracted by the millions of shops and eateries around.)

Speaking of my child hood though..

Footscray has it’s electric buses, Melbourne has these trams from my childhood.

I don’t need my sense of smell back fully yet to remember the tones of ancient wood, leather hand holds, sand and the occasional passenger desperately in need of a bath. Wow, what memories. It’s great to see this old one going but rest assured weary tourist, the public transport system has come a long way here (I don’t think they use these old models anywhere other than the CBD now but please correct me with a comment below if I’m wrong.)

Now once upon a time in Melbourne the flavour was foccias and lattes. Nowadays it’s bowls of noodles, couple with some kind of flavoured bubble tea. I’ll pass on the tea thanks but the noodles? Sign me up baby! And so even with limited funds, I wasn’t going to miss out oh a bowl of the good stuff like so:

Look, there was some umming and erring here and that was all based on should I get the Bento Box or the Karage chicken and beer combo? And then the Ramen bowl options started tempting me, so it took me a while to decide.
In the end my gut went with this beef brisket ramen cooked to absolute perfection courtesy of Isshin Ramen Bar on Elizabeth street. Beef was tender, broth was divine, I didn’t realise it came with a decent dose of chilli but the kick is perfect.
Glad I ordered the bottle of water with it (and I could imagine my nose surgeon probably shaking his head over this choice just a couple of days post surgery thanks to the big chilli hit but it’s okay Dr JJ, I happily survived.)

Time to visit the Queen Victoria Markets! (On a day when they’re open.)

No trip to Melbourne (on a budget or not) would be complete without a visit to the biggest market in the state of Victoria, namely the Queen Victoria market. Here you can buy plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables along with dubious quality t-shirts, shoes and tech from brands you’ve never heard of (or will again) and lots of things with touristy kangaroos and koalas on them.
Yes there’s pretty much everything in here except unless you’re looking for something incredibly niche, in which case sorry, they’re fresh out.

(Talk about niche – I reckon I’ve read every Tin Tin book out there since I was a kid, but I certainly don’t remember him in the Matrix. Or Snowy. Or anyone from that universe. But hey, welcome to the Queen Victoria Markets though where if you want a tin sign of Tin Tin in the Matrix, one is right here ready to go!)

Before you set foot in the place though (and the many market aisles) don’t forget the Queen Vic Market Tradition!

Now what do American Doughnuts have in common with Queen Victoria? Absolutely no idea whatsoever (answers on a postcard or even better a comment below welcome!). But the tradition of loading up on a couple of hot jam doughnuts before you descend on the market bargains has been around a lot longer than I have, so why stop now? 2 bucks each, 5 for 10, brilliantly warm on a cold day!

Now if you go on a Monday here, that’s a terrible idea because it’s not open.

If you arrive on a Tuesday, the place is open but nowhere near full to capacity as it is on a Saturday. Still on a Tuesday you have room to move plus I found an awesome coffee cart setup that impressed the barista wife immensely!

Top speed = not much. But at least you could drink fine coffee along the way!
Artisan made coffee too!

Once you get bored of the boomerangs, hats and various moccasins (in both the stalls and on the foot traffic) then one of the true highlights is walking through the food section, namely the cheese and coffee areas with a sprinkling of the chocolate stuff and plenty of fermented meats. They call it a deli, I call it nirvana.
Oh god, where do I start here?

As a kid I came for the free chocolate sticks the lovely lady at the coffee counter gave us while she ground up a couple of kilos (of coffee of course, what else were you thinking?) for the daily brew.
As a young adult I was sold on the amazing Chorizo sausages thanks to a chef girlfriend at the time.
Now? It’s everything. And I can’t wait to smell again just to take in the aromas in this section alone (plus I also want to try La Rue cheese again sometime which was amazing.

Oh and I want to appreciate the beers available at the Queen Victoria Market. ALL of the beers.

Finally, from one busy place to another, it’s time to revisit Highpoint Shopping Centre.

‘Turn right, walk down three blocks, cross the road and take the 408 bus line out to Highpoint.’ Mum’s instructions were pretty clear but this is me, the guy who once ignored all advice and drunk walked across Sydney turning a 20 minute trip into a 3 hour adventure. And so I set off in the wrong direction and then consulted Google…which also sent me off in the wrong direction. Luckily I looked at the maps again and spotting an oval I recognised, I found the right bus and the right bus took me to the right place – Highpoint shopping centre.

Look, it pretty much does what it says on the tin here, it’s a shopping centre packed with shops and a couple of food courts to rest and recharge in after you’ve shopped too hard. Or in my case, fuel up with coffee first before I pop in and visit all the places I wanted to see (this time without any kids in tow complaining they’re bored of my shop choices after 2.1 seconds.)

Again the MyMaccas app did the heavy lifting, netting me a free one before I took on the many shopping options.

Melbourne on a budget

Quick tip: Don’t order coffee from Highpoint McDonalds if you’re in a bit of a hurry. While the coffee is good, depending on the time you order, they may just have one person making it – the same person also taking additional orders and fetching everything else. Still, it was hot and free so who I am to complain?

Right, on with the shopping. Or in my case, window shopping and pretending I’m wealthy. (Note: Outfit at the time suggested anything but)

While not as big as Chadstone Shopping Centre (which is an absolute monster), there’s plenty for all walks of shopping folk here at Highpoint. Personal favourites of mine include Connor (clothing), Jay Jays (more clothing), Games World (no explanation there) and of course the most interesting store in the entire collection and always full of weird and wacky bargains, Daiso.

Which of course was smack bang in the middle of being renovated when I got there. Boo hiss, I needed my Daiso fix!

It’s behind there I believe.

Luckily the Lego store wasn’t being renovated. Although I feel I’m quite some years away (unless this blogging thing really takes off) to being able to splash some cash on something trivial. Like this $699 model Ferrari for example. Possibly the furthest from Melbourne on a budget you can get unless your budget happens to be in the hundreds of thousands. Still, how good does it look!

After I build it, I can drive this home yes?

And once again after a tiring day on your feet, I’d like to give a special mention to Marybynong Library which is conveniently located right outside the front of Highpoint shopping centre. Yes there’s nothing like a nice quiet place* to put your feet up with a good book (or graphic novel) after a long hard day of amusing yourself walking aimlessly around a shopping centre, coffee in hand.

*The place was quiet right up until one particular woman decided to use one of the computers to surf the net and then announced to no one in particular what she was printing and what she had planned for the rest of the afternoon. Glorious.

And that’s all he wrote folks

A lot of walking, coffee drinking, reminiscing and public transport. If you find yourself in Melbourne soon with just a pocket full of coins, hopefully this Melbourne on a budget guide can be semi helpful! Till next time, it’s time for me to take another train home..

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