Thursday, June 4, 2009


In tough economic times like these, we start thinking about how we can cut back on the cost of living. We're ever on the lookout for good deals and trying to see if we can get anything for free. Every little bit helps. And this includes food.

With a little legwork and a little research, it should be possible to find a free meal. With that goal in mind, here are 25 Ways You Can Eat For Free.

Forage. Look for wild growing foods. Nuts, fruits, and other plants can provide sustenance for free. Martha Stewart had one of her cooks on the show demonstrating an Asian recipe and told the audience that the cook goes through her gardens and pulls out what Martha considered weeds and cooks them up into delicious dishes. If Martha will eat it, then so can you. Take dandelions as an example.....dandelion salad anyone?? Foraging can also be a fun family activity. Just make sure you understand what is safe to eat, and what is not. Check locally to find out if wild food tours are offered, or try to locate a master gardener, agricultural extension or horticulturist to help you identify edible plants. If foraging seems too risky, spend a few dollars for a range of seeds or flats and plant a garden. If it's good enough for the First Lady...

Fish. Learn how to fish. Learn how to clean and prepare fish, and you can prepare a free meal easily. You might even consider Hunting. Acquiring appropriate gear and the license fees cost more, and many people are not comfortable with this option. Thank you, Bambi.

Go to church or synagogue. Many other religious denominations offer free food at activities ranging from scripture study to fellowshipping events to holiday programs.

Mystery shopping. Sign up to be a 'mystery shopper' and sometimes it's to try a restaurant. Watch out for scams, however. Not all mystery shopping opportunities are legitimate.

Barter. As the recession deepens,
Bartering is actually making a bit of a comeback. If you have skills and knowledge that others can use, trade them for a free meal or for some kind of foodstuffs.

Free grocery samples. Have you ever been to a Sam’s Club or Costco on a Saturday afternoon? You can eat an entire meal for free by moving around the samples stations. Many stores offer free samples, and many of them do it on a predictable schedule. Get a feel for when stores are offering freebies, and get in line.

Go home. Nothing beats a home-cooked, free meal from Mom. And you’ll get in some quality bonding time.

Continental breakfast. When you travel, check to see whether your hotel/motel offers a free continental breakfast. This usually includes cold cereal, bread products and juice.

Special promotions. Keep an eye out for special promotions. Many restaurants offer them, especially fast food restaurants. Recent promotions we've spotted include: Senior promotions for those 55 and older, college student promotions and discounts with school ID, and promotions recently run by chains like Quizno’s (first 1 million people get a free sub) and Denny’s (free Grand Slam breakfast).
Coupons. Careful couponing can lead to free food. Buy food on sale with coupons. We're not coupon experts, but when you know how to properly use your coupons, you can get your groceries for very, very little — and many items for free. And, of course, there are those coupons that allow you a buy one, get one free on some items, as well as restaurant coupons that help you get a free entree or drink.

Become a freegan. Perhaps you’ve heard about freeganism. It’s all about foraging for used, still in good condition items, from urban dumping grounds. It’s extreme, and many people are uncomfortable with it. Perfectly good — or nearly perfectly good — food is often tossed out from grocery stores and restaurants. I think you know where this is going.
Eating free in COLLEGE.

College students are notoriously hungry — and poor. Here are some places you can go if you are looking for a free meal in college:
Campus food services. We worked at the campus cafeteria for two years while in college. At the end of every shift, workers were allowed to have a free meal. If there were enough leftovers, we could even box up some of the food and take it home. Many campuses also have grills, cafes and catering services. Even working in a restaurant off-campus can lead to free food. (This trick works even if you aren’t in college.)

Clubs. Join a club, get free food. Many clubs include some money for food at events in their budgets. Attend an “information” meeting, and you’ll most likely see some form of free food.
Art openings and films. Student art shows and film festivals are great places to score free food. Most of the time, a “reception” is held with food and beverage. You can go nosh a little and enjoy the arts.

Get to know your professors. Lots of professors like to be buddies with their students. If you show initiative in class, and an interest in the subject matter, you might find yourself invited over for dinner.

Conferences and seminars. Many campuses host professional and academic conferences and seminars. In many cases, students are allowed to some of the sessions. It is often possible to get free food at a reception or meeting during the course of the conference or meeting.

Open houses and orientations. Many organizations on campus offer open houses. Greek societies, honor societies, new buildings recently constructed and new programs offer open houses so that you can visit the premises. And one of the draws is free food. Orientations offer similar opportunities. Even as a senior, it is possible to score free food when you attend freshman orientation.

Web sites to help you find free food

Thanks to the Internet, it is possible to find even more free food. Go online to find good deals and places where you can eat free. Here are some Web sites that can help you enjoy food at little to no cost.

My Kids Eat Free provides a list of more than 2,500 locations in all 50 states that allow your kids to eat free. You can get free kids meals and more when you look for the right deals. (Locally, check for “kid’s night” at buffets, pancakes houses and other restaurants.) includes a list of freebie Web sites that can point you to special offers on food. And there’s more than just food here — there are freebies on a number of other products and services. Can help you find great deals and get you restaurant gift certificates on discount. You can get $25 certificates by paying $10. That’s $15 of free food!
FreeMania can help you find free food from grocery stores, restaurants and other sources. Plus, there are free recipes (to help you cook your free food) and other savings. FreeMania also offers directories to other free items.
Grocery Coupon Guide helps you develop strategies to maximize your grocery (and other) coupons to help you get the most bang for buck — and even get items for free. provides access to free food samples. A great list of food manufacturers and restaurants from Quaker, Betty Crocker, Splenda, Red Bull, Starbucks, Chili’s, Arby’s and much, much more. provides coupons and other savings from a number of stores — including grocery stores and health food stores and co-ops. Sign up for emails for free coupons and other savings. is an interesting and fun site for wordsmiths who want to help provide free food for others. Answer a series of questions about word meanings, and every time you get one right, ten grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program. A free way to help others get free food.

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