Getting enough food can be a challenge in today’s economy. They say the average American makes nearly $40,000 per year but for it to be an average means that people need to make more than that and a bunch of people make less than that. Most of us aren’t so broke as to starve but getting enough to eat is important when you want to be healthy. Here are some ways you can score some free grub.
1. Accept invitations to eat with friends
People are always throwing dinner parties or asking if anyone wants to accompany them to go out to eat. You should start saying yes to these invitations. Even if they don’t pay for a full meal like they do for themselves, you can still gorge on free stuff like salad and bread sticks or enjoy an appetizer at their expensive. Dinner parties rock because you can not only eat your fill but they’ll usually be cool with you taking home some leftovers.
2. Accept invitations to eat with your boss.
It can seem like a bad idea but your boss doesn’t pay for their lunch, the company does. If you don’t mind the awkwardness of talking to the person who bosses you around all day long, you can end up with some pretty good food. Some of your coworkers may call you a brown-nose employee but free food is free food.
3. Work in the food industry.
This is by far the easiest way to score some free food. Restaurants don’t have to feed their employees but it’s always easy to score free food pretty much all day long. In many cases if you close, your restaurant may throw away a lot of perfectly good food at night. While it’s typically against regulations, you can sneak that food home and eat it later. I used to do this all the time with the 3 am doughnut throwaway at Tim Horton’s when I worked there. In sit-down restaurants, things like send-backs can be a free meal for you.
4. Take home leftovers
In those cases when you do buy food, make sure you bring your leftovers home. A good strategy (especially for places like Red Lobster and Olive Garden with their unlimited bread items) is to ask for the free menu items before asking for a doggy bag. There’s nothing wrong with taking home a cup of pasta, six breadsticks, and a mound of free salad.
5. Ask others for their leftovers
When eating out you may notice people leaving their food when they get up to leave. It’s a little humiliating at first but eventually you’ll get the hang of asking people for their leftovers. Most are pretty understanding because these are tough times. Some may be offended but you can’t let them get you down. If you snipe a couple of good tables, you can get two or three days worth of food for free that would’ve been otherwise thrown away.
6. Find free samples
Large stores like CostCo, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and more regional stores like Publix often have free samples available for you to try. We’re not saying you should raid the plate because that’s a horrible idea and you’ll likely get thrown out. A better strategy is to browse and eat everything. If you do it right you can usually find a few hundred calories worth of food which can make a good snack or a decent light lunch.
7. Carefully browse your local restaurant dumpsters
This one can also seem humiliating but there are actually groups of people who do this on a daily basis. They eat very well and pay nothing for it. Remember earlier when we talked about how people leave their food on the table and it just gets thrown away? Well you can still get to it via the dumpster. Many stores also toss a bunch of perfectly good food at the end of every night. It can seem a little gross and you should absolutely and thoroughly cook anything you find, but you wouldn’t believe how much perfectly good food you can find in the garbage on a fresh run.
8. Go hunting or fishing
Our ancestors were eating free long before grocery stores by killing animals and eating them. You can eat almost anything as long as it is properly cooked. If you can go knock off a good sized deer then you can end up with pounds upon pounds of lean, protein rich meat. You can then dry it out, turn it into jerky, and that can last you for months. Fishing is equally effective and it’s relatively easy to do. Filleting a fish isn’t difficult and cooking them can be fun. In most states, you can get a hunting and fishing license for cheap.
9. Barter services for food
This is one I do on occasion that can be a lot of fun. Offer to do the dishes for a sandwich at a friend’s house. Offer to mow the lawn for a little bit of groceries. People always have jobs to do but maybe not the cash to pay you for the work. However, almost everyone has food that they’re willing to trade. I’ve done laundry, cleaned houses, mowed lawns, and even shoveled driveways in the winter for food. It seems like it’s humiliating and it may be hard to ask but remember that you’re earning your food so it’s not begging.
10. Find public events that offer free food
Many communities toss events that have free food. In my community, we have a little park that has a forest trail and some baseball fields. A couple of times a year, people get together, have a BBQ, and we walk through and clean the place up. With so many people tossing burgers, ribs, chicken, and hot dogs on the grill, it’s very easy to get someone to give you a little bit. Find similar events in your area and attend. You can not only eat like a champ but take your Tupperware set because people always bring too many chips or make too much pasta salad. That can be yours for the low, low price of free.
11. Find soup kitchens
Finding a soup kitchen can net you a free meal immediately if you need it that badly. It’s free calories and you’re around people who understand the idea of needing a hot meal. If you’re feeling good, you can also offer to help out and volunteer at the soup kitchen so you can help feed the homeless and yourself simultaneously. These places usually use their food until it is gone so it’s unlikely that you’ll take any home with you. Plus, this food is going to help people eat. It’s probably not a good idea to take it anyway.
12. Use social media
Social media sites like Foursquare are awash in free food deals. It’s an amazing place for restaurants to advertise and many will pop up a Foursquare deal that gives people who check in for their first time a free dish. It gets people in the door and gives them a chance to sample the wares to see if they’ll be repeat customers. This is a great opportunity to not only score some free food, but scope out some of the lesser-known restaurants in your area for those times when you do pay for food.
13. There’s a reason people love continental breakfasts.
When you travel, always book a place with a continental breakfast. You can get some free bagels, cereal, waffles, and other breakfast items. With stuff like bagels, bread, and cereal, you can always grab a bit to take with you for a snack later. If you’re really down on your luck, you can always try to crash a continental breakfast and grab something small.
14. Grow some food
Another great way to get free food is to grow it yourself! You can obtain seeds from other vegetables or from seed stores for relatively cheap. Then you grow it, harvest it, and save the seeds for another round of growing. Once you get that original garden going, it’s easy to get materials to grow more later. Depending on the size of your yard or your plot of land, you can get a fairly decent amount of vegetables.
15. Gather naturally growing food
If growing things aren’t your thing, you can always find the plants that nature has grown for you. There are a metric ton of fruit trees and bushes practically everywhere. Make sure you do your research to make sure you’re not picking something that’s poisonous. When I was a kid, my grandmother’s house had a bunch of blackberry bushes in the woods behind the house. We would go and pick them by the basket and use them to adorn pancakes, make pies, or just rinse and eat. It’s nature and it’s free.
Never should you break the law to obtain food. Using these tips you can take a sizable chunk out of your food budget and still eat.
Featured photo credit: Flirt Pattaya via flirt-pattaya.com