There is such a thing as a pwyc lunch.
You’re down to your last loonie with only a crusty bottle of sriracha in the fridge. You’ve got two weeks ahead of nothing but kraft breakfast-lunch-n-dinner and no butter or milk for the sauce. You need to make $12.80 last two weeks. You’re just saving diligently for a holiday somewhere without snow.
Whatever brings you to a state of needing a free or nearly-free lunch, here are a few places to eat the midday meal on the cheap.
Student Places to Eat Cheaply or For Free
The People’s Potato. Vegans of the word untie or unite or whatever it is you like to do. Wait in line for 45 minutes and get served a stewy mess of vitamins, nutrients and fibre. The People’s Potato has been a staple at Concordia for a long time and it has a devoted following (admittedly, I was part of that following when I had free time during the day). Each meal usually consists of a whack of grains and some kind of vegan stew. Sometimes there are bonus items, like a muffin or a fresh apple. However, these run out long before the rest of the food. Bring your own tupperware, silverware, or even step in the kitchen to volunteer. People’s Potato also hosts twice-monthly food banks.
People’s Potato is located at 1455 de Maisonneuve W on the 7th floor of Concordia University’s Hall building. Meals are served Monday-Friday 12:30-2 p.m. during the fall and winter semester. pwyc.
The Hive Cafe. I was pretty stoked to discover that the long disputed space on the mezzanine of the H-building of Concordia’s downtown campus finally became a solidarity cooperative. Now in its second year, the non-profit socially aware cafe is serving up tasty and cheap vegan and vegetarian food as well as baked goods. For less than the cost of a roundtrip ticket on the metro, enjoy vegan chili. For just $.75 extra, they’ll throw on either cheese or cilantro-flavoured sour cream. Other good things at low prices include smoothies and a build-your-own sandwich. Members (and membership is $5 for life) get their food slightly cheaper. The Hive on Concordia’s Loyola Campus offers free lunch from 12:30-1:30 p.m. during the semester.
Hive Cafe at the downtown campus is at 1455 Maisonneuve W, Mezzanine of Concordia University’s Hall Building. Open Monday to Friday 8:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. The Loyola location is at 7141 Sherbrooke St W SC-200 and is open from Monday to Friday 8:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Frigo Vert is a co-op grocery store and its shelves burst with dried beans, grains, and bulk products that vary by the shipment. However, the front fridge gets a near daily delivery of some amazing sandwiches and its easy to put a lunch together for under $5. $3 ethiopian enjera bread with lentils, $2 falafel wraps, veggie wraps. They also have a solid selection of baked goods and super cheap coffee if you bring your own mug. I’ve been eating here for years. Membership for the year is well worth $20 (non-members pay 20% more on their purchases), especially if you’re fond of health-food stores that looks less like Whole Foods Market and more like communes for draft dodgers from 1968.
Frigo Vert is located at 2130 Rue MacKay on Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
The Nest. Concordia isn’t the only university to provide affordable food. McGill’s SSMU has a student run cafe. As a non-vegan, non-vegetarian, I appreciate the offerings of meat. Chili, soup, sandwiches, as well as pastas are offered.
The Nest is in the SSMU Building (3480 McTavish, 2nd Floor).
Midnight Kitchen‘s founders wanted to make affordable and healthy food accessible. The anti-capitalist stance is evident in their mandate “We aim to empower individuals and communities by providing a working alternative to current market-based systems of food collection an[d] distribution.” Much like the People’s Potato, it’s a vegan lunch so expect it to be stewy, tasty, and nutritious. For example: bean stew, brown rice, roasted beans and carrots, toasted pita, and cake with apple compote. Bring your own tupperware. For their menu, check their twitter feed.
Midnight Kitchen serves in either room 302 or the 4th floor Clubs Lounge in the William Shatner University Centre (3480 McTavish) from Monday-Friday at 12:30. pwyc.
Rabbit Hole Cafe is under the auspices of the Yellow Door building. It serves vegan, and generally gluten-free lunch every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. Rabbit Hole also has a food bank for students in need.
Rabbit Hole Cafe is in the Yellow Door building (3625 Alymer) and serves food every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. $2 minimum donation.
Community Places to Eat on the Cheap or For Free
Resto Plateau is an eatery in the heart of the Plateau with the intent of fighting poverty and helping the unemployed. In a cafeteria style lunch line, inexpensive meals ($4 or $6 if you want to give an extra donation) are served that include a vegetable soup, a salad, a fish/meat/vegetarian plate, a desert, a piece of bread, and a drink. The meals rotate in a five week cycle each day. You can also purchase individual sandwiches and other food at very low prices (around the $1-2.50). One other goal is to provide a 33-week chef’s training.
Resto Plateau is open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.at 4450 ST Hubert.
Chic Resto Pop is similar to Resto Plateau but in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. For over 30 years, its goal is to offers complete, inexpensive meals for individuals and families, as well as training for the unemployed. Get soup, salad, choice of two different meals, bread, dessert, and a beverage. Food can be bought as a meal or individually.
Resto Plateau serves meals Monday to Friday from 11:45-13:30, and 16:45-18:30 p.m. Meals are $2 for children and pregnant women, and $4 for those 13 and up. It is located at 1500 ave d’Orleans.
Multi Caf/The Community Cafeteria is the Cote-des-Neiges/Snowdon community cafeteria. It serves a free breakfast as well as lunch each day. In addition to providing food, Multi-Caf also has a food bank.
Multi Caf offers breakfast Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m-10:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:45-1 p.m. Monday to Friday. Meals are $1.50 adults, $.75 for children. It is located at 3591 Appleton Ave.
Other Cheap Eats
I’m addicted to these — burritos by the Burrito Project. I go out of my way to track them down. Each burrito weighs about a pound and spills over with a fresh mix of vegetables and beans (also vegan… do you sense a theme?). Sadly, they’re not free. They hover around the $5 mark and are distributed at different places around the city like the NDG Food Co-Op and the St. Henri Café. The burritos sold in these stores are used to pay for burritos that are given away to homeless people. So while I don’t get a free lunch, someone who needs one far more than I do does.
If you prefer to cook your own, the Good Food Box (Box Bonne Bouffe) is a very affordable option for getting some fresh produce, especially locally grown produce. A small box, ideal for 1 person is $7; a medium box, ideal for a couple, is $11; and a large box, ideal for a family is $17. Boxes are delivered every two weeks to the 115 drop points in Montreal, Laval, and the South Shore.
The Green Panther often ends up with leftovers of salad, soup, and its meals. They sells jars containing the leftovers at prices that start at $5 and eventually get to $4 and $3 a jar. It’s a full meal or two. Take note that the jars require a $1 deposit, but so long as you return the jar, you get it back. There are time when I show up with so many jars to return that I end up “making” money even when I buy food.
The Green Panther can be found at Mile End (160 St Viateur), Downtown (2153 McKay), Quartier Latin (1735 ST Denis), Plateau (145 Mt Royal E), and Cote de Neiges (5265 Queen Mary).
Got a cheap eat place that saves your butt when you’re broke. Let us know and we’ll add it to the list!