If you’ve ever been late on rent, foraged your apartment for a dollar in change, or washed your underwear in the bathtub, you know to appreciate tokens of realistic financial advice. Not the kind that insists you invest your savings in the stock market (ummm, savings? You mean the $20 I was saving for groceries?) or to start saving for your retirement. But those everyday passing-by comments from neighbors, friends, and roommates who speak truth. The ones who give you the number to the guy who set them up with free cable, who burned you that bootleg copy of the last Harry Potter movie, who pointed you in the direction of the local food co-op. Now that’s some sane, practical and timely financial advice. So, in attempt to be that friend, I’ve compiled a list of nuggets that will be sure to hold you over till that next paycheck. You can thank me in baked goods from your corner Family Dollar.
How to get FREE Food:
- Call up the nearest fast food restaurant, preferably one that alllllways gets your order wrong like Wendy’s, and complain (not angry- clearly frustrated but willing to forgive) that you went to get your favorite meal (something specific like a Chicken Salad- not too cheap but not the most expensive) and they left out a key ingredient that basically makes the entire meal (guacamole). They might ask you if you have your receipt in which case you huff and puff that in your rush to get back to work you tossed it with the bag. There is a good chance that they will offer to replace your order if you come back in. Win. Be sure to take down the name of who you talked to and leave your name with them. If they can’t accommodate you without a receipt , ask for their manager. Threaten to write a letter because this is the 3rd time in 2 weeks! You were just patient before. Don’t make a scene at the store. Over the phone is way more effective. Try to remain calm and don’t yell. You are more likely to get your way if you seem like a genuinely upset customer and not just the freeloader (that you are actually being). If one doesn’t give in, try another. Someone is bound to.
- Church events. OK, before you condemn me to hell for trying to take advantage of good ol Christian charity, just remember that they started it. Most of the time they assume that if you are getting free food out of them you will repay by becoming a sheep of the holy fold. You can always actually follow through on this if you feel bad. I never do. Anyway, keep an eye on local churches and various functions- they will usually announce them publicly. I have a church right across the street from me. When they hold a fundraising event like a picnic or BBQ be sure to stray by, smile, look a little pathetic. Wait till the end of it if you can. Go over and ask how much everything is (even if it’s posted). When they answer, sigh, count your change slowly. Ask if they might have leftovers and say that you can pay them back next week. Most times they will feel sorry for you and make you a free plate and give you a bible. Be sure to show how grateful you are and how much god has blessed you, etc. Win.
- This one is a 50/50 shot. Go to a drive thru with a long line during a busy hour. When you get to the ordering machine thing go ahead and order whatever (don’t count of getting what you order), they tell you the price and you move up to the payment window. When you get there tell them to cancel that, you left your wallet at home. Move up to the next window (you can’t drive away because you are blocked in from so much traffic) and whoever opens that window will *fingers crossed* hand you the order from the person behind you and move on. Win. Last time I got something gross and some diet soda but hey, I ate that day. Don’t feel bad about the person behind you, if they look in the bag (eventually someone will) and notice the wrong order they will correct it. It might mess up the folks making the food but only for a second- trust me, we bounce back quickly.
- Table Diving…..Dumpster Divings cleaner cousin. I’ve done both and try to avoid these options when I can. These are for the desperate of the desperate. Wait till people at the outdoor (preferably) patio are gone and done eating and snatch up their leftovers before the waitress can. Try getting foods that haven’t touched their mouths like fries, garnishes even, etc.
- Free Samples. This is one to try on a rainy day. Go to the library or use your home computer and sign up for as many free samples as you can find. There are tons out there. freesamples4all.com is a good place to start. Make sure to set up a fake email address because you will get tons of spam from this. You will get your samples like a month from when you sign up but they might just come on that one day you need them most. Also sign up for birthday freebies (just google “Birthday freebies in [insert city, state] “and restaurant promotions.
- Join a club. Many grocery stores, and places like Walgreens and CVS have memberships you can sign up for free and you save money every time you buy shit there. Keep track of how many points you rack up. Just today I got a $5 gift certificate for racking up points at Walgreens and I don’t even shop there that much. I bought myself some tomato soup, pork and beans and some ground turkey for the leftover spaghetti I have.
Those are some of my tried and true favorite ways to get free food without selling your prized possessions, blood/plasma or body to scientific research. Please feel free to share your own!